With no discussion tonight, the City Council passed three bills granting Sagamore Development the $660 million tax increment financing package it seeks to build a new headquarters for Under Armour plus a huge mixed-use development. While homeless advocates protested outside by shaking a can for quarters to underscore the very small provision for affordable housing in the company's agreement with the city, council members passed the bills on a voice vote, with Councilman Bill Henry (4th District) abstaining on all three bills.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th District) also abstained on the first bill, designating the Port Covington Development District. But she joined Councilman Warren Branch (13th District) in voting against the next two bills, which authorize the TIF bonds and create a special taxing district at Port Covington to pay those bonds back.
Outside, after the meeting, Baltimore Development Corporation Executive Director William Cole said it's a lock the bonds will be repaid, regardless of whether the development—or Under Armour—is successful in the coming decades.
"Remember, they have to come back for every tranche," Cole says, speaking of the several rounds of bond financing contemplated under the agreement. "The first two will be for the Under Armour campus, but third, fourth, and fifth they need to come back for. It's not as if the council signed a blank check for $660 million."
The improvements will make the land more valuable, and the city is in a first lien position, Cole says. That means that if Under Armour doesn't repay, chances are almost guaranteed that other creditors will, when faced with the prospect of losing the huge parcel to the city.
"There's no way they'd let the city take that land back," Cole says.