City trims golf course proposal

Mayor eyes prospect of buying only the waterfront portion

June 04, 2008|By Karen Shih and Nicole Fuller | Karen Shih and Nicole Fuller,Sun reporters

The city of Annapolis is considering making a bid for a smaller portion of a golf course that it hopes to protect from development and is exploring other ways of paying for it, after opposition from neighbors and some city lawmakers, and Anne Arundel County's refusal to release state money for the purchase.

In the latest kink in Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's proposal to buy the Annapolis Golf Course for more than $4 million, Alderman David L. Cordle plans to introduce Monday night an amendment to the city's capital budget that would prevent the city from spending state Program Open Space money, which the purchase would require, without City Council approval. Currently, the mayor allocates the city's portion of the funds.

"I don't think [the city should buy] at this point, based on our economic climate," said Cordle, a Ward 5 Republican. "I don't want to leave the taxpayers holding the bag for 10 years worth of payments."

The city, at Moyer's request, sought a funding authorization last year to buy the 77-acre parcel in the Annapolis Roads community outside the city boundaries, through Program Open Space, which allocates land-preservation money to counties. County officials denied the request in April, leaving Moyer fuming over what she called a "control issue."

She said yesterday that she will pursue grant money to buy only the 7 waterfront acres of the property that could be developed.

"This parcel of property has the access point to bayside water, which is pretty unique in the area," Moyer said. "We're not giving up."

The city can't afford the purchase on its own because its open-space acquisition account contained $1.54 million in fiscal 2007 and the city was to receive about $732,000 this year, which Moyer said it never received.

Frank J. Marzucco, the county's director of recreation and parks, said in his rejection letter that the golf course property wasn't a good use of open-space money. He said the land is in a designated Resources Conservation Area, "limiting the combined development potential" of the 7 acres of waterfront land to one house.

The letter further states that the county's yearly allocation of open-space funding has been drastically cut for fiscal 2009 to about $1 million, 80 percent less than this year's total.

Daniel J. Mellin, a lawyer for the golf course owners, said the need to preserve the land is more urgent than Marzucco said it is. The land could be zoned for up to seven houses and must be bought by the city to protect waterfront access, he said.

"If it was purchased by the city, it would be preserved as open space," he said.

Dennis Callahan, chief administrative officer for Anne Arundel County government and a former Annapolis mayor, said, "If the city wants to buy it, let them come up with the money."

In recent years, former County Executive Janet S. Owens, under whom Callahan was recreation and parks chief, explored whether to buy the golf course but rejected the idea after determining that the zoning provided adequate protection from development.

In 2005, St. Mary's Church in Annapolis pulled out of a deal to purchase the golf club and adjacent property known as Ogleton Woods after neighbors, who vehemently opposed new sports fields and homes, bought the Ogleton property themselves.

Cordle said he is open to exploring a joint venture with the county to get the land, which he said might be "lucrative."

"I'm not trying to kill the deal for the sake of killing the deal," he said. "If we're going to buy the land along with the business of the golf course, I want to see the financial statements, balance sheets, profit, loss, tax returns - things that show due diligence."

Anastasia Hopkinson, president of the Annapolis Roads Property Owners Association, said the community would like more information before making an assessment.

"Our biggest concern is that we'd like to see what the plan is," she said. "The plan that they presented to us is incomplete. There wasn't anything I could react to."

"We'll support plans that are allowed by the covenants and the open space laws," Hopkinson said. "The golf course is integral to our community, and we are the adjacent property owner, so we are keenly interested in how it would be used."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

karen.shih@baltsun.com

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