What began as a 9,000-acre development headache for Anne Arundel County -- the disposal of Fort Meade's surplus land -- has been whittled down to a minor annoyance. Last summer, local officials engineered the annexation of 7,600 acres of Fort Meade to the adjoining Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge. Now comes news that 400 acres of the remaining 1,400-acre parcel will be used for a landfill and pump station needed by the Army. Then there's the matter of Tipton Airfield, another 400 acres which the county wants, and will probably get, for use as a general aviation airfield.
This adds up to a clear and decisive victory for state and local officials who have waged a two-year fight to keep developers out of the attractively located, environmentally rich swath of land south of Routes 198 and 32. All told, the Army will likely end up with 600 acres to sell to developers, much of it littered with dangerous explosives and toxic waste. Even after decontamination, existing zoning of one house per five acres isn't likely to thrill commercial or residential builders. And private proposals will be considered only after federal, state and local governments are given a shot.
Still, there are issues to be worked out. The National Security Agency isn't happy about a public airfield near its headquarters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has voiced similar reservations.