Glendening may back away from plan to sell ICC land
Oct. 8, 1999

October 8, 1999

by Josh Kurtz

Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening may abandon his plan to sell off properties the state has acquired for the possible northern alignment of the proposed Intercounty Connector highway, administration officials said Tuesday.

Glendening now admits that the state cannot sell the land without a vote by the Board of Public Works, said Michael Morrill, a spokesman for the governor. Without the approval of the board -- which consists of Glendening, State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon -- the state will be unable to unload the 18 properties it has acquired for the ICC.

"We're not going to bang our heads against a brick wall for the sake of banging our heads against a wall," Morrill said.

But unless the state continues acquiring property along the proposed northern route linking Gaithersburg to Laurel, via Fairland and Burtonsville -- and it will not, under Glendening's decree -- it is not clear whether any road can be built there.

Last week, in a symbolic 2-1 vote, the board opposed any attempts to sell the land. Schaefer and Dixon blasted Glendening's decision to abandon the highway.

Two weeks ago, Glendening announced that he would not build the controversial road, which has been on regional planning books for 49 years. He said he would sell the properties the state has acquired for the so-called northern alignment, and would recommend that the property along the so-called Master Plan alignment -- most of which is owned by Montgomery County -- be reserved for parkland and mass transit. He also proposed building two new parkway -- one at the western end of the proposed ICC route, the other at the eastern end -- and said the state would pay for major intersection improvements throughout Montgomery County in an effort to ease traffic congestion.

Proponents and opponents of the ICC were largely critical of Glendening's decision. But when Schaefer and Dixon signaled their intention to block Glendening's land sale, it appeared as if Glendening's plan was doomed -- even though administration officials were at first unwilling to acknowledge that the board had authority over the dispensation of the land.

Now, Glendening is apparently admitting a tactical defeat, but still believes he will be able to achieve his goal of killing the road, Morrill said. That's because the administration is convinced that there will be so much development along the proposed northern alignment in the three years remaining in Glendening's term that it will be impossible for the next governor to acquire the additional properties needed to build a highway.

"People have the impression that we own a corridor [suitable for a road]," Morrill said. "We don't. It's 18 properties, widely scattered."

The State Highway Administration began buying land in the northern part of the county in January 1998. Since then, it has acquired 277.45 acres at a cost of $22.2 million. The state also leases property along the northern alignment. Morrill said those leases will be allowed to expire -- and said the Board of Public Works does not have any say over those.

Schaefer, a former governor who has clashed frequently with his successor, was in New York on business Tuesday and unavailable to comment.

Dixon said he was satisfied that Glendening would not try to sell the properties and could not speculate about future development along the proposed route.

"My goal is to stop the sales at this time, and that's what we've done," he said. "We should not tie the hands of future governors."

Stuart Rochester, a Fairland community activist who opposes the northern alignment, said he believes it will be politically difficult for a future governor to build the ICC along the northern route.

But, he said, "I'm wondering why the Glendening people aren't being more proactive about this, instead of letting the chips fall where they may."

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan was dismissive of the governor's latest move. "We'll see what they do," he said.