Closing date for land purchase postponed

August 20, 1999|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

VIENNA -- The state has pushed back the planned completion date for its $33 million acquisition of 58,000 Eastern Shore acres owned by Chesapeake Forest Products -- noting the complexity of the deal, the largest ever in the state.

Previously set for Tuesday, the closing now is set for Sept. 2, state officials and industry spokesmen said yesterday.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who took a tour yesterday of some of the parcels to be preserved along the Nanticoke River, said the delay did not indicate that the overall deal was in trouble.

Other officials and a representative of the Hancock Timber Resource Group, the sellers, agreed that no snags have developed on significant issues.

The state has committed to spending $16.5 million to acquire half of the acreage, while the nonprofit Richard King Mellon Foundation will spend a roughly equal amount for the other half of the tract.

As part of the deal, Virginia and Delaware also will acquire land on the Delmarva Peninsula, bringing the total to 76,000 acres.

The land is to be kept free from development by the states. It is considered one of the most important preservation acquisitions in Maryland since Program Open Space began in 1969.

An ebullient Glendening toured the area yesterday. On several occasions he compared the acquisition to the U.S. purchase of Alaska in 1867, known then as "Seward's Folly" because of the $7 million price tag negotiated by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

"If some see this purchase of 60,000 acres for the future as Glendening's Folly, I'd wear that proudly," Glendening said.

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