Bay Ridge Buys the “Big Woods”
Alex McCrary, who was BRCA president when BRPI dropped their bombshell, described the purchase efforts this way:
“In a transaction valued at more than $6 million, residents of this small, economically mixed neighborhood preserved a historic community, conserved the environmental benefits of a large parcel fronting the bay, and provided a blueprint for community-based efforts to control development. . . . Bay Ridge’s 400 households showed an extraordinary commitment to the purchase. Residents, well off and of modest means, sacrificed to pay for it through taxes and donations, and gave generously of their time and services.”
The purchase was made possible though a well-managed convergence of four elements:
1. Again quoting Alex: “The keystone of Bay Ridge’s funding approach . . . was the use of its Special Taxing District to provide a strong source of repayment for a bank loan. Bay Ridge maximized the use of its taxing district through a low-interest, long-term loan program. Federal funds—administered through the Maryland Department of the Environment, in partnership with a bank—are available for the conservation of land to protect water quality. So in Bay Ridge, 400 households, paying only $250 per tax account per year, were able to borrow $2.25 million. “
2. Tax deductible contributions to the non-profit Bay Ridge Trust were a second critical funding source. Bay Ridgers present and past, neighbors on the Annapolis Neck, and family and friends across the country and as far away as Scotland gave more than $1.1 million to the Bay Ridge Trust so that it could purchase Conservation Easements on the Bay Ridge Woods thus removing the land from any possibility of future development.
3. Because preservation of the Bay Ridge Woods and Commons aligned nicely with both state and county policies regarding residential development and water quality, BRCA obtained grants from each government: $450,000 from Maryland’s Project Open Space and $137,700 from the Anne Arundel County Conservation Fund. Throughout the project the Maryland Environmental Trust and the state Department of the Environment, as well as Anne Arundel County’s Land Use Office, Office of Planning and Zoning, Office of Law, and Office of Finance worked with BRCA and the Bay Ridge Trust to make sure the effort was a success.
4. The last item in the fundraising package was the decision to sell a few lots for development. Six platted lots adjacent to existing residences were offered to the neighboring property owner with stipulations that would restrict their use. Finally, as Alex put it: “Of the 110 acres Bay Ridge purchased, just two acres were sold in the form of four building lots. The location of the lots was chosen to spread the impact of development, enhance environmental benefits, and maintain the streetscape of the entrance road to the community. Also, covenants were placed on each lot to ensure environmentally responsible but practical development of the land—in perpetuity. Bay Ridge grossed almost $1.1 million from this source.”
And so, after months of well-attended community meetings, enthusiastic fund-raising, careful, tense negotiations, and hopeful anticipation, BRCA purchased BRPI and its 110 acres of land on March 20, 2002 for $4.1 million.