Anne Arundel unexpectedly gained 30 acres of open land Monday night when the County Council let environmentalists work out a back-room deal with a company that wants to build a West County ice rink.
In the last meeting of its four-year term, the council voted to spend $1.3 million in state and county money to buy the land for the ice rink -- but only after environmentalists, led by North County activist Mary Rosso, negotiated a deal with the KMS Group Inc. to give the county an additional 30 acres adjoining Patuxent River Park.
During a public hearing, environmentalists objected that $800,000 of the $1.3 million would come from state Program Open Space funds. POS funds, they argued, were meant to buy land that would remain undeveloped.
Theodore J. Sophocleus, the Linthicum councilman and Democratic nominee for county executive, then suggested the environmentalists work out an arrangement with KMS before the council voted on the allocation.
Rosso and several other environmentalists, including one from Potomac, Md., in Montgomery County, retired to a back room with Councilman Edward C.
"Buddy" Ahern, D-Pasadena, and KMS Senior Vice President Robert Strott.
When they emerged two hours later, Rosso told the council a deal had been struck whereby KMS would donate an extra 30 acres, and in exchange environmentalists would not oppose the bill to buy the ice rink property.
The council then unanimously passed the bill, authorizing the use of the POS money and temporarily transferring $500,000 in county money from the Bates Middle School field renovations project in Annapolis to help buy the ice rink property. The 9.5 acre site is located within the Piney Orchard development in Odenton, also being built by KMS.
Afterward, outgoing Councilwoman Carole B. Baker, D-Severna Park, expressed disgust with the way the bill was handled. "I'm real amazed right now," she said.
Ahern said he saw nothing wrong with letting KMS and the environmentalists negotiate a deal. "We got an extra 30 acres, didn't we?"
Though the 42,000-square-foot ice rink will be open to the public, it is being built as a practice facility for the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals.
The county will lease the land to KMS for $1 per year, said Joseph J.
McCann, county director of parks and recreation. KMS will build the facility at an estimated cost of $2.4 million.
The council's final meeting was a 4 -hour session, ending at midnight.
They enacted a number of other measures, including: * A bill allowing elderly or disabled homeowners with an income of less than $30,000 to defer their property taxes for up to 50 years, until the time of their death or until the property is sold.
* Authorization of the sale of 10 acres of county land in Severna Park to Woodswise, The Severna Park Housing Corp., for a senior citizens' housing complex.
* Approval of a 15-year renewal of North Arundel CATV Inc.'s cable television franchise.
This was the last meeting for at least three council members -- Baker, who is leaving to accept a promotion in her job with the United Way; Councilman Michael F. Gilligan, D-Glen Burnie, who lost a bid for county executive; and Sophocleus, who faces Republican Robert Neall in the county executive contest.
Council members Ahern, Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, and Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, are seeking re-election on Nov. 6. Councilman David G.
Boschert, D-Crownsville, is unopposed in the general election.
The new council will meet for the first time Dec. 3.