Army details Fort Meade parcel for sale

April 03, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army has targeted for possible development a 1,400-acre parcel at Fort Meade that begins at the Baltimore-Washington Parkway across from Maryland City and stretches east below Route 198, according to officials and an Army report released this week.

But as much as 400 acres will be shaved off the parcel to compensate for a landfill and pump station the Army needs at the fort that lie outside its chosen parcel, said Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th.

"I'm pleased that we've been able to whittle down the Army's potential sellable land with the way the lines have been drawn," the congressman said yesterday. "It is clearly in the best interests of Maryland and the

local communities to reduce the chances of any of this land being developed."

Local officials, environmentalists and residents have opposed development of the surplus acreage at Fort Meade, saying the area already is too congested. The partial closure of the 13,670-acre fort is part of the Defense Department plan to close or realign 91 military bases.

Under legislation approved last year, the Army is to transfer 7,600 acres of 9,000 surplus acres at Fort Meade to the Department of the Interior this year for expansion of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and set aside the remaining 1,400 acres for possible sale.

Still, environmentalists were concerned about the parcel slated for possible development, saying that it contained forests and wildlife habitats.

Clifford J. Andrew, a member of the Fort Meade Coordinating Council, said the parcel had been drawn too close to the current Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The eastern portion of the fort that borders the more developed area of Odenton should have been set aside for possible sale, he said.

The council, a committee of government and civic leaders appointed to advise the Army on the disposition of the land, has recommended that the entire 9,000 acres be turned over to the Interior Department.

The council will meet April 15 to discuss the draft report, and a public hearing will be held this month. "The local community will play an increasing role in determining the remaining acreage not transferred to the Department of the Interior," Mr.McMillen said.

In the draft environmental report released Monday, the Army detailed how the land would be partitioned, an effort worked out in conjunction with Harold J. O'Connor, director of the Patuxent wildlife center.

"We have the 7,600 acres that we want," said Mr. O'Connor, who said final approval of the decision would rest with the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The 1,400-acre parcel cited by the Army in its draft report also includes Tipton Army Airfield and "training areas, woodlands and wetlands." A final report is expected in late summer after public comment. The property is slated to be transferred by Sept. 30.

The Army, however, would not be able to sell the full 1,400-acre parcel because it wants to keep the landfill and pump station, which equal 300 to 400 acres but are outside its requested acreage, said Brad Fitch, a spokesman for Mr. McMillen.

"The pump station and landfill have to come out of the 1,400 acres," Mr. Fitch said, since the legislationcalled for the Patuxent Center to get 7,600 acres.

Gary B. Paterson, chief of the Army's Base Realignment and Closure Office, could not be reached yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Army draft report offers a variety of recommendations for use of its parcel, including selling the entire 1,400 acres for "mixed-use development" or transferring the 400 acres occupied by Tipton Army Airfield to state and local governments. The area is zoned one house per five acres.

Private proposals will not be considered until federal, state and local governments are offered a chance to buy the property. The state and local government screening process is expected this summer.

Three federal agencies already have expressed interest, said the report. Besides a request by the Interior Department for the entire parcel for extending the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, the U.S. Postal Service has requested 60 acres for a mail hTC distribution center, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has requested an undetermined amount for a guards training facility.

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