Board to mull funding for land

$450,000 from state asked toward buying Bay Bridge parcel

Aim is to block development

February 25, 2002|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The state Board of Public Works will consider a request Wednesday by environmental officials for $450,000 toward the purchase of 111 acres of wooded, waterfront land, in an attempt to preserve one of the last unspoiled parcels near Annapolis.

Determined not to lose the site to a planned development of more than 300 homes, homeowners in the community of Bay Ridge spearheaded the effort to buy the property for $4.1 million.

In the neighborhood campaign to save a rare piece of open space, residents committed more than $900,000 to the purchase price. Other proposed funding sources include the county, a land trust, and possibly the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The 400 residents of Bay Ridge also have agreed to pay a tax assessment of $250 a year each until the debt on the land purchase is retired.

"It's a pretty remarkable example of a community getting involved," said John Bernstein, director of the Maryland Environmental Trust, the largest land trust in the state and one of the largest in the country.

Bay Ridge was a summer resort for decades, attracting visitors to its scenic shoreline and the dining pavilion at the Bay Ridge Hotel that could seat 1,600. By the 1960s, the vacation town had become a bedroom community, and now Bay Ridge exists as a mix of older bungalows and expensive waterfront homes.

In the land-preservation effort, residents did what they could - donating legal, marketing and accounting services - to prevent Bay Ridge Properties from building on the land.

"The problem with this land is it's incredibly expensive," Bernstein said. "The only place where I've seen communities get together to preserve land are in Baltimore County and a couple places on the Eastern Shore."

Under the financing arrangement, the state Department of Natural Resources would contribute $450,000 in Program Open Space money and the Maryland Environmental Trust would lend the association $300,000. A $200,000 loan from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is under review.

To come up with the rest of the purchase price, the Bay Ridge Civic Association would take out a $2.3 million bank loan and, if necessary, make available for sale a maximum of 12 residential lots from the site that are near existing development, Bernstein said.

Once the association assumes ownership of the land, the agreement calls for the Bay Ridge Land Trust to buy 79 acres with a $137,000 down payment from the county and with donations from Bay Ridge residents. Some individual homeowners made contributions of $5,000 and $10,000, and the association secured donations from a number of nonprofit groups.

The land will be protected from development by a conservation easement to be held by the Bay Ridge Land Trust and Maryland Environmental Trust.

The property, bounded by Black Walnut Creek, Lake Ogleton and the Chesapeake Bay, is adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters.

It is home to 35 species of wildlife, including forest birds, a variety of waterfowl. Three plant species on the site are on state's watch list.

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