Md. deals for land at Deep Creek

State will acquire 600 acres, sell property to nearby residents

January 28, 2000|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

After a year and a half of negotiations, Maryland has reached a final agreement with the owner of Deep Creek Lake, under which the state will acquire 600 surrounding acres and offer the property for sale to local landowners, Gov. Parris N. Glendening will announce today.

The state's agreement to purchase the land for $9.8 million follows its proposal last year to buy the lake and a narrow buffer strip for $7.8 million.

Officials said they expect to recover most of the land purchase price by selling about 2,500 parcels to neighboring property owners at cost.

The agreement clears the way for completion of the deal to buy the 3,700-acre lake, Western Maryland's leading tourist attraction and the mainstay of Garrett County's economy.

"This is the deal," said Eugene R. Lynch, the governor's deputy chief of staff and the state's lead negotiator. "There are no more pieces to negotiate."

The deal appears to answer most of the concerns of landowners who are worried that the owner of the lake, GPU Inc., might sell the land for development and possibly block their views or restrict access to the lake.

"I think what's been struck will be acceptable to a majority of the people," said Del. George C. Edwards, who has closely followed the negotiations.

The agreement came as county officials, legislators and the state Department of Natural Resources reached a tentative accord about the governance of the lake.

If the governance deal is agreed to by Glendening, it will put to rest a long dispute over how Garrett County and the state will divide responsibility for the lake, Edwards said.

The Garrett County Republican said officials had agreed to replace the state's advisory commission on the lake with a Deep Creek Lake Policy and Review Board that would exercise decision-making authority.

Administration officials said they have yet to determine the final price at which the Deep Creek parcels will be offered to landowners, but apparently it will be about 38 cents per square foot.

The parcels range in size from "spite strips" of about 200 square feet to about 5 acres.

If the price estimate holds, the cost would be a little more than $4,000 per quarter-acre.

Landowners will have the exclusive right to use the neighboring parcels they buy but will have to accept conservation easements barring construction of permanent structures on the properties.

If the landowners decide not to buy the parcels within a certain time, the state will keep the land. It would not be developed, but the public would have access to the parcels.

The agreement with GPU concludes 18 months of complicated negotiations that began when the utility announced in 1998 its intention to sell its electricity-generating assets.

The drawn-out talks about the land purchase have held up the state's settlement on its March 1999 deal to buy the lake.

The state expects to settle on the lake Feb. 25 and on the 600 acres April 30, if the deal is approved by the Board of Public Works, the General Assembly and the Garrett County commissioners.

Edwards said most of the landowners he has talked to want to buy the adjoining parcels.

"They would rather own it than have the government own it," he said.

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