Baldwin's Choice: This Trust is a Must

Author Saul Bellow titled a book Seize the Day. Activist-turned-congressman Bobby Seale wrote: "Seize the Time."

Those words apply right now in Southern Anne Arundel, where a pivotal moment has arrived with startling speed. We're speaking of the proposed purchase of 477 acres of Chesapeake Bayfront acreage by a land trust and governments as an alternative to a 154-home subdivision that would be called Baldwin's Choice.

This is, to sum it up, a moment that needs to be seized.

Recent events surrounding the old Franklin Point property are these:

  • The principal owner of the land, Washington parking magnate Dominic Antonelli, says he would sell the land to the South County Conservation Trust if the price is right;
  • The subdivision was dealt a new blow last week when the county Board of Appeals said no to another request by developers to skirt rules requiring sufficient school capacity. For developers, this means another long and costly delay.
  • Gov. Parris Glendening and Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary each have expressed willingness to ante up money. Each comes to the table with budget surpluses from the strong economy. And both, it so happens, are up for re-election in November.
  • In short, the stars are lined up just right for a choice piece of land to be saved.

    The arguments against this subdivision have been articulately made. No matter what cautions the developers deploy, they would damage one of the remaining Bayfront greenspaces in the Annapolis region. Many locals who have contacted us over the years have expressed horror at the prospect of a subdivision where adequate roads, schools and public services already are in short supply.

    The building blocks for this master stroke of preservation have been put in place by Joe Browder, of Fairhaven, a consultant who has been a key strategist for more than three decades in the crusade to save Florida's Everglades. The governor's office takes the ball and runs now with support from Gary, who is keen on the prospect of using some of the land for sports fields, he told us.

    Antonelli's signal that he may sell suggests a more complex story than many people know. He once owned a house on the property and spent a lot of time there. So he knows the beauty and solitude of an area that people are fighting to protect. Given the emotions that have flowed on both sides of this question, it would be a happy ending for a developer who has been vilified to win praise, not to mention getting back his investment.

    Meanwhile, the people get a beautiful tract of land.

    The last chapter is far from written, though. Expect tough bargaining on a sale price (between $6 million and $10 million, we guess). No matter how much work it takes, it will be worth it. Those who support this land trust should say so. There may never be an opportunity like this again.

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    VolumeVI Number 18
    May 7-13, 1998
    New Bay Times

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