Maryland pays $5.8 million for 477 acres on Franklin Point

Anne Arundel residents and developer Antonelli had feuded for five years

February 23, 1999|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

At long last, environmental activists in south Anne Arundel County can throw out their "Save Franklin Point" yard signs and bumper stickers.

In a deal that ends more than five years of feuding and name-calling, Maryland paid $5.8 million to a Washington developer for 477 acres of wetland and forests that were slated to become a tract of upscale homes until residents dug in their heels.

"The natural setting of Franklin Point will be a permanent reminder that citizens cared about the environment and they successfully worked hard to save an important piece of habitat on the Chesapeake Bay," said Mike Shay of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development (SACReD), the group that led the fight to preserve Franklin Point.

The state paid the money to Pointe Properties Inc., the company owned by Washington parking lot magnate Dominic F. Antonelli. Anne Arundel County is to reimburse the state for half of the money, nearly $3 million. The land transfer officially ends Antonelli's plan to build 152 luxury homes beside the Chesapeake Bay on an undeveloped portion of the Shady Side peninsula. The land will likely become a wilderness preserve.

The state's share of the purchase price came from Project Open Space, a program that has spent millions of dollars in recent years to save more than 140,000 acres from development, said Dave Humphrey, director of community relations for the state Department of General Services.

The battle over Franklin Point reached its peak last year when Antonelli filed a libel suit against SACReD, accusing the community activists of going too far when they wrote politicians questioning whether he was involved in sweetheart land deals.

A District of Columbia Superior Court jury ruled in June in favor of SACReD, deciding that although some of the complaints about Antonelli were false, they were not libelous.

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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