- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The state Board of Public Works yesterday delayed a second major land-preservation deal on Kent Island, this time over questions about its price and environmental value.

The land, which would be purchased through Program Open Space funds, has been used as a deep-water port by Langenfelder Marine, which dredged oyster shells for the state for more than 40 years.

“Aren”t there open-space opportunities around the state that are a much better fit for [the program] than this?” asked Comptroller Peter Franchot, who serves on the board with fellow Democrats Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp. “I find this hard to believe that is something high on the priority list.”

The state uses the program to preserve open farmland and wetlands.

Board members also raised questions about whether the $7.2 million price was too high for the 74 acres, at the northern tip of Queen Anne’s County. They are expected to make a final decision early next month.

Under the deal, the state would pay $1 an acre for a 12.5-acre lake on the plot and $117,000 for each of the remaining 61.5 acres.

Recent land-preservation deals in Queen Anne’s County have been watched closely.

The board blocked development of a waterfront parcel in the Four Seasons neighborhood on Kent Island in May but last month approved buying property that was once part of the Kudner Estate along the Wye River in Grasonville.

The board approved funding for the 271-acre Kudner property despite concerns about the price and whether Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin had a conflict of interest.

“I know these [preservation deals] are getting a lot more attention,” Mr. O’Malley said yesterday. “I don’t think that’s coincidental after what this board did on Four Seasons.”

Jim Matters, the president of Langenfelder Marine, said yesterday he wants only to preserve the land but that Mr. Franchot is right to ask questions.

Mr. Matters approached the state several months ago about purchasing the property.

“Clearly, if you don’t take it, it’s going to look more like that,” he said, pointing to waterfront homes built adjacent to his property.

Mr. Griffin defended the deal before the board, saying it was a key step toward local conservation efforts.

“I’d rather be criticized for trying to preserve land,” he said.

Roughly 12 acres of the property is used as an aggregate dumping site. “It”s not the kind of land that I would look at to take a hike to,” said Mr. Franchot. “It’s too much money.”

The industrial site, which borders the Chesapeake Bay, is crowded with old cranes and pipes. Mr. Matters said his company would clean the site through a five-year lease from the state for $215,000 a year.

The board also is set to consider purchasing a conservation easement on 1,213 acres adjacent to the Kudner property, but has delayed a vote on the deal until Aug. 1.

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