- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — State officials gave approval yesterday to spending $10.3 million to keep 728 acres near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge out of the hands of a developer.

The purchase means the development will be limited to about 328 acres for 675 houses, a 75 percent reduction from initial plans.

Originally, the land along the Little Blackwater River near Cambridge was destined for a development of thousands of homes, plus a golf course and hotel.

The development won local approval, but a year of protests led the state to decide to buy the land from the developer.

The purchase, approved by the Board of Public Works, prevents the land near the refuge from becoming part of the Blackwater Resorts Development.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said it was “a very good day” for the environment.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, praised a process he said enabled different interests “to come up with something that makes this part of God’s beautiful earth better for future generations to receive back from us when we are done borrowing it.”

Kim Coble, Maryland director of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said she was “elated.”

“This compromise really is a win-win for everybody, and I think it represents a great model on how we can have economic development and environmental protection all encompassed in one practice,” she said.

William “Sandy” McAllister, an attorney for Blackwater Resort developer Duane Zentgraf, said he was satisfied a conclusion has been reached, so the developer can move forward.

“It resolves much of the ambiguity regarding challenges to the development, so we’re certainly grateful to move ahead,” Mr. McAllister said after the board approved the deal.

The Board of Public Works comprises Mr. O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, who did not attend the meeting because of an illness.

The final Blackwater contract is expected to be signed late next month.

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