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Board Delays Decision on Solomons Road
Prince Frederick, MD - 7/11/2012
By Marty Madden
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We do not want to lose Waterman’s Wharf.”
Commissioners’ President Jerry Clark affirms support for renegotiating a contract with Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
The Calvert County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday, July 10 to leave the record open for 30 days on a proposal to close a portion of a Solomons road in order to move forward with a contract renegotiation process. The road in question—Farren Avenue--provides access to the waterfront and the Waterman’s Wharf. According to a memo from Department of General Services Director V. Wilson Freeland, the Maryland Department of Transportation conveyed Farren Avenue to the county in 1998. In 2001, the county commissioners entered into a 10-year lease agreement with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Service’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (CBL) for the creation of the wharf. The agreement included the conveyance of 15,140 square feet of Farren Avenue property to CBL. Freeland stated that when county and CBL officials met to renegotiate the pact, they discovered the conveyance never took place.
In order to finalize that component of the deal, the commissioners scheduled two public hearings—one to formally close the road and a second to convey to parcel to CBL.
Several residents and local watermen offered testimony at the first scheduled hearing.
“I’m opposed to us just giving away property,” said Lusby resident Barbara Warner, who explained Farren Avenue provided locals with a pedestrian access to the water’s edge and a great view of Solomons Harbor.
Solomons native Alice Hall recalled that Dr. Reginald V. Truitt, who founded CBL in 1925, “believed in [CBL] being part of the community.” While University of Maryland officials have no immediate plans to deny access to residents once they take ownership of Farren Avenue, Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark [R] indicated there were no guarantees that the situation would not change in the future. Hall added the conveyance was not consistent with the Solomons Town Center Master Plan, which touts public access to the area’s waterways.
Solomons Civic Association spokesperson Gladys Bowers stated her organization “adamantly opposes” the road closing and conveyance. “It’s a public right-of-way to the water,” said Bowers, who ratcheted up her rhetoric by questioning the ethics of the deal made back in 2001. “Did all of you follow the correct procedures for closing a public right-of-way?” Bowers asked, adding her belief that the 2001 pact “was a secret agreement. What we’ve got here is a land-grabber. That is a total disgrace.” Bowers also expressed disappointment the public hearings were not being held in Solomons.
Several local watermen had a different take of the situation. “This county dock is crucial,” said Calvert Waterman’s Association President Tommy Zinn, who added his organization was unaware of the stipulation that Farren Avenue be closed and conveyed to CBL. “We don’t want to jeopardize the county dock. I think it can be worked out with the state.”
Jack Fringer of Lusby said not renewing the agreement with CBL for use of the dock “would put another nail in the waterman’s coffin.”
“That dock is crucial to my family,” said Rachel Dean, who explained her husband is a waterman. “It gives us the access [to the water] we wouldn’t have.”
“The dock is absolutely a necessity, not a convenience,” said Bobby Abner of Chesapeake Beach.
“I have a great concern with this also, but this is more of a paper thing,” said Clark. “We do not want to lose Waterman’s Wharf.”
“I think it’s unlikely that much will change,” said Commissioner Susan Shaw [R]. “We will continue to dialogue with the lab. We have an agreement we did not honor.”
Shaw and Clark both pointed out that while they are in the midst of serving third terms on the board, neither was a commissioner when the pact with CBL was forged.
“I would encourage the players here to write to Senator [Roy] Dyson,” said Commissioner Steven R. Weems [R], who expressed belief a state lawmaker could best deal with the University of Maryland officials in placating the parties.
Commissioner Pat Nutter [R] indicated he was concerned about the agreement’s potential for blocking public access to the water. He asked that the public record on the matter be left open for 30 days. After voting unanimously for Nutter’s motion, the board followed up with a vote to defer the second planned public hearing on the conveyance. Clark promised that the hearing would be rescheduled for a Tuesday evening and held in Solomons.
To the assembled watermen, Clark pledged “we’re not going to let this [wharf] get away.”
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org
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