DNR Guidelines Protect Maryland’s Public Open Space (POS)

We believe that a majority of the town’s political leadership had made up its mind on selling part of the Elk Landing tract a long time ago.  Perhaps that occurred during initial meetings suggested a few days ago by Ekton resident,” before the deal started appearing on the agenda of the governing body.  That’s something we hadn’t pondered much, but we’ll keep it in mind as a related research opportunity. 

Our assumption has always been that the chance for getting a fair hearing on our case, a place where it would get an impartial evaluation, would be once the town began meeting state-mandated obligations and reviews.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has in place guidelines that seek to assure properties are properly protected and if there is a reason for a conversion (sale in our case) it is for the larger good.

A comprehensive manual delineates a number of tasks focused on determining if the sale is for the greater public good.  A transaction may take place only after the local governing body replaces the land with land of at least equivalent area and of equal recreation or open space value.  Additionally the appraised monetary value of the land proposed for acquisition shall be equal to or greater than the appraised monetary value of the land to be converted. 

The entire process must be consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and consistent with its strategies for providing public spaces.   Just a few years ago when Elkton filed its request to state funding, it said that the acquisition was consistent with the the town’s plan and that it created a vital greenway as part of that.  I guess that changed once a developer came along.  If it goes to the state level, we’ll see how they make the argument that the new property, whereever it might be, is consistent with the municipal plan.   

I guess in the case of the Mayor and Commissioners they were going to argue that the RMR property was as valuable as water front property at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay, one that was part of a larger tract bordered by three waterways and loaded with extrant cultural resources.  Perhaps they were other plans!  We can’t say for sure, since despite all the noise over this confusing mess, the Mayor and Commissioners have yet to make public statement.

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