State officials are eyeing property off Bestgate Road near the Annapolis Mall as the site for a $15.7 million Annapolis District Court.
Maryland District Court Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney said he was told two weeks ago that the state Department of General Services plansto purchase at least part of the 55-acre tract, in the 800 block of Bestgate Road just north of the mall.
The site was one of about 30 proposed by developers and landowners as part of a yearlong search by state officials to find an alternative to the District Court quarters in the Millard Tawes complex on Rowe Boulevard, he said.
Joseph L. Harrison Jr., a department spokesman, declined to comment on the search. He would would only confirm that state officials are conducting appraisals on a site in the Annapolis area.
Once the appraisals are completed, he said, the department will begin negotiating to buy it.
Sweeney said he was asked by General Services Secretary Martin W. Walsh Jr. to look at four or five sites in recent months. The Bestgate Road site, he said, was selected because it is available for $125,000 to $150,000 per acre.
The other sites -- some of them in more visible locations -- were being marketed for more than twice that, he said.
"They were all the sameto us. It wasn't like we were Bloomingdale's trying to attract people to our business," he said. "The visibility wasn't that important."
A new district court is a necessity because of a 2-year-old reorganization of the district court system.
Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy wants to consolidate operations by movingdistrict court clerical staff, now scattered among several facilities, into the present Annapolis District Court quarters on Rowe Boulevard, Sweeney said.
The new building will likely be two stories and will be limited to a 10-acre portion of the 55-acre tract, he said.
According to the state's current capital budget, plans call for $2.75 million to be spent on acquisition and design of the building. Budget documents also say that plans call for $13 million for construction and that work would start in the fiscal year that begins June 30, 1993.
The tract is owned by a group of about 30 investors, businessmen and landowners headed by Dr. Oscar Brilliant, an Annapolis optometrist.
"It's for sale, and it's available to anyone who wants it," Brilliant said yesterday.
But the proposed purchase has upset atleast one neighbor, who says the site, which is zoned for residential use, lies in an area too environmentally sensitive to accommodate alarge office building.
Helen Laurie, who lives in the 1900 block of nearby Severn Grove Road, said the property includes a stream thatforms the headwaters of Saltworks Creek. She fears construction of alarge building and parking lot could damage the waterway.
Laurie said she has volunteered to serve on various planning advisory groups, such as the county's Comprehensive Rezoning Advisory Committee and the Parole Growth Management Area committee, and has fought hard to see that the tract remains residentially zoned. She said she feels as if that work has been tossed aside.
"I just don't see where the state can just come in and say, 'This is what we want to do with the site, whether you people like it or not,' " she said.