State Digest

STATE DIGEST

November 29, 2006

Somerset rezones for ethanol plant

Somerset County officials approved a zoning change yesterday that would allow a $136 million ethanol plant on the lower Eastern Shore.

Chesapeake Renewable Energy LLC wants to build a plant to manufacture 50 million gallons of ethanol a year on U.S. 13 just north of Pocomoke City. The Somerset County commission voted 4-0 yesterday to rezone the 78-acre site to allow the plant.

Company officials hope to open in spring 2008, but the proposal first will be scrutinized by state and local officials.

"Something of this magnitude will have to get county site plan approval, building permits, all that kind of thing," said County Administrator Charles Massey. "Then there are state environmental regulations that have to be considered. Certainly, the Department of the Environment will be involved in air and water quality issues."

Commissioner Michael K. McCready, a longtime Perdue Farms employee, abstained from the vote because the poultry industry will compete with the plant for Shore-grown grain, which provides feed for millions of chickens processed here.

Supporters say a plant here would boost the rural region's farm economy. The company is expected to buy 4.5 million bushels of grain a year from Maryland farmers. The rest of an estimated 18 million bushels would have to be delivered in train cars from the Midwest, Massey said.

The proposal is one of eight in Maryland to build plants to convert corn to fuel for cars.

Chris Guy

College Park

UM plans town-center project

Construction of a 38-acre "college town" development at the University of Maryland, College Park could begin as early as summer 2008, officials said.

The university hopes to select by February a private developer to transform an underutilized parcel of university land along U.S. 1 into a mixed-use town center, which could include a hotel, office space, market-rate housing, shopping and graduate student residences.

"What we want to do is provide the kind of amenities ... that a world-class university demands," said John D. Porcari, vice president for administrative affairs. "There are quantifiable needs for things like white-tablecloth restaurants, upscale grocers, and a larger sense of place where the university and the community converge."

A short list of developers was selected this month to prepare financing and design proposals for the project on the east side of the campus, Porcari said.

Near both the heart of the campus and downtown College Park, the site currently houses UM's fraternity row - which will remain there - and research and maintenance facilities, which will be relocated or demolished.

The project is not envisioned as primarily a student housing community, but short-listed developers were asked to include in their designs about 450 graduate student residences, as well as a hotel, bookstore, and affordable child care program.

Porcari said the university will retain ownership of the land and negotiate a long-term lease with the selected developer, who will finance the project.

"If it were done all at once, construction could be concluded in three or four years," Porcari said, but the project will probably occur in phases. "It's likely to take longer than that."

Gadi Dechter

Chesapeake Bay

Trust reaches funding milestone

The Chesapeake Bay restoration group funded largely by revenue from the popular blue "Treasure the Chesapeake" Maryland license plates announced yesterday that it has reached a major financial milestone: It has distributed more than $20 million worth of grants since its inception in 1985.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust says that the more than 7,000 grants it has awarded for restoration and educational projects have helped raise awareness and protect the bay and its rivers. Trust officials say their goal has always been to engage as many Marylanders as possible in restoration projects.

"The extent of the involvement of grass-roots organizations across the state demonstrates the commitment of our citizens to the protection and restoration of the bay," Harry R. Hughes, former governor of Maryland and founder of the trust, said in a prepared statement. More than 350,000 Maryland students, community activists and volunteers have taken part in the trust's grant-related activities, according to the trust.

Capital News Service

Cecil County

Teen acquitted in beating case

A Cecil County teen who faced attempted-murder charges in the beating of a man has been found not guilty in the case.

A judge dismissed all charges Monday against Lino Moralez, 17, who was accused of beating Randall Minker, 49, over the head with a two-by-four in May.

Retired Prince George's County Circuit Judge Vincent J. Femia noted that it was Minker, not the teen, who picked up the piece of wood and said that Moralez acted in self-defense. Femia presided as a visiting judge.

According to police, the two were arguing outside Minker's home and Minker picked up the piece of wood. After a scuffle, Moralez wrested the two-by-four from Minker and struck him on the head with it. Minker was hospitalized with head wounds.

Associated Press

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