Pledging to maximize public input on the future of the former Naval Academy dairy farm, Anne Arundel County officials will detail their conceptual plan for farming and recreation there at a town hall meeting within the coming weeks.
In a briefing before the County Council, county officials said yesterday they hope to sign a lease with the Navy by Nov. 30 and open a park next year.
In the meantime, the two sides will discuss what environmental protections will be put in place on the 857-acre tract in Gambrills, and what, if any, buildings on the 90-year-old farm must be razed for safety reasons.
The county will hold a meeting by early August on its proposed uses for the farm. The county has also established a Web page for residents to learn more about the county's vision for the farm.
"There will be numerous points along the way for the public to have input," said Alan R. Friedman, the county's chief lobbyist.
County Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, said the county's outreach could serve as "a landmark for public input."
In June, the Navy granted exclusive negotiating rights to the county for a long-term lease of the farm, which produced milk for Naval Academy midshipmen from 1917 to 1998. It is currently being rented by an organic farming operation, Maryland Sunrise Farms LLC, whose lease expires Feb. 1.
County Executive John R. Leopold, a Republican, has said he would like to create both a community garden and botanical garden there, and maintain the presence of Maryland Sunrise Farms, but that he would defer to the surrounding communities on its uses.
Once Anne Arundel County takes control of the property, county officials said they would leave the farm as is during the first year as they determined what buildings would need to be shuttered. During that period, the county would form a committee of 12 to 20 people to establish a master plan for recreation uses there.
"If this goes well, this should be one big love fest," County Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, said in a phone interview.
Benoit, who did not attend the council's work session, said he would like to see farming continue there, as well as agricultural uses that offer public access. That could include using the existing road network for jogging.
The Maryland Stadium Authority had eyed the Gambrills land for a $114.2 million state horse park, but the agency threw in the towel after Leopold's administration made a lease bid.
As part of its proposal, the county agreed to rent the farm from the Navy for $240,000 a year. County officials said they can cover the rent by subleasing part of the property for farming and charging other facility rents and fees.
Benoit said he hopes a small section of the eastern side of property, abutting a Constellation Energy substation, will become home to a farm of another sort: solar power. The rent from a solar energy producer could go a long way toward paying for the farm's operation, he said.
Details for terms of a lease might be difficult to work out, "but they are workable," he said.
Sun reporter Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.
To access the county's Web page on the Gambrills plan, visit www.aacounty.org/RecParks/dairyfarm/index.cfm.