Anne Arundel backing off land takeover

Old hospital site may be too costly to clean up

February 04, 2005|By Childs Walker and Phillip McGowan | Childs Walker and Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County may back away from a bid to take over the Crownsville Hospital Center because a potential cleanup could cost tens of millions of dollars, County Executive Janet S. Owens has advised state officials.

"Unfortunately, the more we learn about Crownsville, the more we become convinced that a scenario may not exist under which Anne Arundel County could reasonably afford to take control of the property," Owens wrote in a Jan. 28 letter to S. Anthony McCann, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The county executive did not close the door to taking over the shuttered, state-owned mental hospital but said the state would probably have to fund a significant portion of asbestos cleanup and rehabilitation of the property's sewer system.

"Should the state provide sufficient funding to address all of the situations discussed ... Anne Arundel County would certainly be willing to reconsider its position on this matter," she wrote.

State health officials said they had received Owens' letter but had not reviewed it and could not comment. The state is conducting an assessment of possible environmental hazards and cleanup costs at Crownsville. Once the review is complete, state officials will work to eliminate environmental hazards or restrict access to them, said Elizabeth Barnard, director of the state department's office of planning and capital financing. Barnard said she doesn't know when the report will be complete.

Owens had talked of using the 648-acre campus for such purposes as a center for county nonprofits or a venue for large celebrations such as high school graduations. Meanwhile, state Del. David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Republican, has introduced a bill to create a task force to study converting part of the property into a state veterans home. The study would be completed by the end of the year.

The county remains interested in a separate parcel west of Interstate 97 on the hospital campus. The wooded area was on a list of properties declared "excess" by the governor's office last year. Owens hopes to preserve that tract of about 550 acres as open space.

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