agyness deyn doc martens State to buy 255 acres in Millington
MILLINGTON Officials here say they were not consulted in the state Department of Natural Resources’ $2.8 million purchase of a couple of hundred acres of agricultural land that is in the town limits of Millington. And they’re miffed about being left out of the conversation.
“I perceive this as state arrogance,” Councilman Kevin Hemstock said, referencing the purchase of 255 acres belonging to Frederick and Mary Wick.
The state is using Program Open Space money to fund the purchase, which the Board of Public Works approved Nov. 12 by a 2 1 vote. Comptroller Peter Franchot dissented, portraying it as a highly irregular transaction.
Outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is chairman of the board, and state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp voted in favor of the land deal.
Originally, as part of the deal, the state was going to lease the property for $1 a year for a food hub to a company controlled by an organic farmer who also has contributed to O’Malley’s political campaigns. Several media outlets have identified the farmer as Cleo Braver of Talbot County.
The sweetheart deal with Braver drew criticism from Franchot and others, and was abruptly dropped last week.
The O’Malley administration now has promised to conduct requests for proposals for the land.
Kent County and Millington officials learned in mid September, in separate letters on Maryland DNR stationary, about a “potential real estate acquisition” and listed the properties as Crane Street, Parcel 302; 10683 Galena Road; 10701 Galena Road; and the north end of Crane Street, Parcel 225.
“The information contained in this letter is confidential and may not be released to the public,” the letter stated, citing the Finance and Procurement Article in the state code as the reason for secrecy. Morales. She made a copy for each of the council members and included it in their packets for the Oct. 14 monthly meeting. The letter was not discussed publicly at the October council meeting.
Hemstock, former editor of the Kent County News, said on Wednesday, Nov. 19 that he was unaware of the letter and must have “glossed over it” when going through his packet at the October council meeting.
The DNR letter was electronically sent to the Kent County Commissioners on Sept. 11. In addition to the directive about confidentiality, the letter asked for comments or questions within 30 days.
The letter was signed by Judd Vickers, chief real estate officer for the DNR.
County Administrator Ernie Crofoot said he called Vickers, and candidly asked if the land acquisition was connected to rumors that were circulating about a food hub.
“After a few seconds of dead silence, he said ‘Yes,'” Crofoot related in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I then said, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to tell the county where you are considering buying property what you’re purchasing the land for.'”
The 30 day time frame to respond would have put the county “behind the eight ball,” Crofoot said Wednesday, as “things happened awfully fast.”
He said the county did not respond directly to Vickers’ letter of Sept. 11.
Crofoot said the land deal “was highly unusual in all aspects.”
He emphasized that his comments were directed at state government and its lack of transparency, and not at the property owners.
Hemstock, on Wednesday, said he was concerned and disturbed by the lack of communication between the state and the town of Millington.
“It seems like the dealings are obscure and lead to a lot of questions,” he said.
“We should have been made well aware because it’s part of the town, and has to comply with our zoning,” Morales said Wednesday.
He was told in October that the purchase was “a done deal” and that the land was to become a state park.
The Wick property is the northern most part of town limits, contiguous to the mill pond that was purchased many years ago by the DNR. The mill pond is on the east side of the Wick property.
Part of the Wick family owned Quail Run Nursery is located in town limits.
When annexed, the Wick land more than doubled the geographical size of the town.
The property was annexed about six years ago, after a contentious public hearing. Town Administrator Manning said the understanding was that the land was to be developed mostly residential, but 13 acres were zoned light industrial.
The annexation agreement, the developer’s agreement and issues about water and sewer allocations have made for an uneasy relationship between the property owners and the town since then. Fred and Mary Wick sued the town earlier this year, according to online court records.
Appraisers who identified themselves as working for the DNR came to Millington town hall the first week of June and told Manning they were looking at the Wick property. They specifically asked about the zoning, she said.