County Councilman David G. Boschert is backing down on plans to sponsor legislation prohibiting state Program Open Space money from being used to build ball fields and other recreational projects.
Instead, he will introduce a resolution encouraging County Executive Robert R. Neall to place more emphasis on the acquisition of open land.
"This puts the county executive on notice that we're interested in land acquisition over development, but it does not tie his hands to the point where he's obligated to acquire land and not develop. I don't think that would be fair in these economic times," Boschert, D-Crownsville, said Thursday.
Also, "a resolution is a lot easier" to push through the council than a bill, Boschert said.
The issue surfaced in Anne Arundel earlier this fall, when the County Council unanimously approved the use of $800,000 in POS money for a large ice rink in Odenton. Boschert expressed reservations about the project at the time, although earlier he had said, "The funding is justified. We have no major recreational uses over there for the public. This is one investment we will get a good return on."
Existing state law allows counties to spend half of their POS money on development projects. Last month, Boschert said he wanted a new county law placing additional restrictions on the state law, prohibiting the county from using POS money for ball fields, golf courses and other recreational projects.
But Boschert said Thursday that the Maryland General Assembly probably would have to pass enabling legislation allowing the tighter local restrictions before he could submit such a bill.
"It would be a long, drawn-out process," he said.
The resolution will probably be introduced at Monday's County Council meeting, he said.
"The inference is that we're moving toward more of an emphasis on acquisition and less on development. But it would not curtail any development right now," he said.
Joseph McCann, the county's Director of Recreation and Parks, had pledged to oppose any move to stop the county from using POS money to pay for recreation projects. He said Thursday he has no objections to the resolution, which expresses the council's intent but, unlike a law, is non-binding.
"I no longer am concerned that this will restrict my ability to take the kind of (action) I would like regarding the way we spend our money," McCann said.
POS funds come from real estate transfer taxes. Environmentalists and parks and recreation officials have been arguing for years about whether the funds should be used to preserve open land or develop parks and recreation facilities.
In the future, Boschert said he'll encourage the executive to depart from the state-allowed 50-50 split between development and land acquisition in favor of a 60-40 formula, with the bulk of the money being used to buy land.
The councilman is particularly concerned that the county purchase 1,400 acres of surplus land at Fort Meade and property surrounding the Jabez Branch in Gambrills, the last remaining trout stream in the coastal plain.