Arundel residents block development plan

Fund-raising effort saves woods, bluffs, beaches

October 09, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

When plastic surveyors' ribbons first appeared tied to tulip poplar and oak trees in Bay Ridge, an enclave of old summer cottages and modern mini-mansions southeast of Annapolis, residents got nervous. Then they got organized.

About a year later, a few of those ribbons remain. But the surveyors, and all they represent in communities such as this one once targeted for a new housing development, are gone.

Bay Ridge residents didn't engage attorneys or wait out revision of an outdated land development law. Instead, leaders representing the 400 homeowners negotiated a contract last month to purchase the 115 acres of woodland, beaches and bluffs to preserve them.

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's Maryland section, an article misstated the amount of money raised by Bay Ridge residents to buy property in their neighborhood near Annapolis to block development. Residents have committed to contribute $760,000 to the Bay Ridge Trust over the next five years. The Sun regrets the error.

Although the purchase price has not been revealed, the Bay Ridge Civic Association raised $950,000 as part of a campaign that engaged residents - many of whom volunteered legal, marketing and accounting services - for the past year.

"We've set a goal of $1 million," said Alex McCrary, immediate past association president and leader of the fund-raising effort. "We expect to exceed that goal."

The preservation effort, which matched residents against absentee landowners and their attorney, a local expert in development law, is a significant win for homeowners, said Beth Hickey, coordinator of the Environmental Finance Center at the University System of Maryland. Her group works with neighborhoods to find ways to fund preservation efforts.

"This is, to my knowledge, probably the only homeowners association that has single-handedly done it," said Hickey, noting that the Bay Ridge Civic Association didn't enlist help from local government officials.

The residents did receive a $140,000 grant from Anne Arundel County. They also are considering applying to a loan program sponsored by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The basic work - editing the newsletter, writing brochures, creating cover art, making phone calls and writing grant proposals - was done by neighborhood residents, many of whom bought or built homes in Bay Ridge because they valued its mixture of retirees, empty-nesters and young families.

"I think it's marvelous," said state Del. C. Richard D'Amato, a Democrat who has lived in Bay Ridge for four years and met with residents to discuss state funding options. "This community is doing in its own way what the state government has been encouraging people to do across the state. This kind of community commitment is really what is going to make conservation work."

Originally known as Tolley Point Farm, Bay Ridge was transformed into a summer resort in the late 1800s. At the pinnacle of its popularity, the Bay Ridge hotel, with a dining pavilion that could seat 1,600, was heralded as the "Queen Resort of the Chesapeake."

Families continued to frequent Bay Ridge until the 1930s, when the Depression made it difficult to maintain second homes. Some families sold city properties in favor of economical vacation bungalows. The trend continued until the 1960s, at which point Bay Ridge made a final transition to suburban community.

The community's history - and its waterfront forest, one of the last such large tracts on the Annapolis Neck - energized residents to stand up against the developers, Bay Ridge Properties.

"It's definitely been a collaborative effort," said McCrary, who put together a core group of several residents to develop a contract to purchase the land. "There's a lot of talent here."

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