Chesapeake Beach Mayor Gerald Donovan paid a call on the Calvert County commissioners earlier this week, offering to swap some land. The mayor wanted to trade four acres of land owned by the county next to the Chesapeake Beach Water Park for four acres of town-owned land a little farther west.

When several of the county commissioners started asking about Donovan's long-range plans for the land, the mayor sweetened the deal. He said he would give the town's land to the county outright, without anything in return, if the county just allowed the town to make "improvements" on county land, including finishing the community center, upgrading parking and boat ramps.

And would that include an expansion of the small but popular water park? Commissioner Linda L. Kelley wanted to know. Some in Chesapeake Beach worry the mayor wants to expand the park, which could exacerbate traffic and parking problems.

Donovan, who several times at the beginning of his presentation on Tuesday assured the commissioners "we are not adversaries here," got annoyed.

"I'm not proposing that," he said and then began referring to himself in the third person. "Gerald isn't going to apologize to you or any member of this board for the Chesapeake Beach Water Park and for the offer to make public improvements." Kelley (R-Owings) and Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings) said that before they agreed to any plan, they wanted a written proposal and a public hearing in the town of Chesapeake Beach -- requests which didn't seem to calm Donovan.

"The public hearing is not going to be about expansion of the water park," he said. "It is not on the table."

Charles Seeks Community `Character'

Charles County commissioners Tuesday chose an Annapolis firm to take a closer look at how future development should unfold in Waldorf and Bryans Road.

The county awarded Environmental Resources Management (ERM) a contract worth about $197,000 to draft a plan that will address everything from utilities to green spaces to sidewalks and signs.

Hiring a consulting firm is the latest step following Charles County's 1997 Comprehensive Plan for development, according to Planning Director Steve Magoon. The Comprehensive Plan aims to concentrate 75 percent of the county's development in a high-density area covering the northern third of the county.

"We've done a good job concentrating development in our development area," Magoon said. "Now we need to work on creating healthy communities, places that have identities and architecture that are an asset to Charles County."

Recent declines in property values and changes in land use regulations led planners to focus on Waldorf and Bryans Road, Magoon said.

County commissioners' goals for Waldorf and Bryans Road include making them more accessible to pedestrians and preserving local and historical character.

"We want to think about defining the character of a place," Magoon said.

ERM will seek community participation through focus groups and a citizens council, according to its proposal. The company is set to report back to the commissioners in March 2001.

The commissioners chose ERM over two other bidders, saying ERM offered the lowest bid and has performed good work for the county on other projects.

Charles Ups Local `Piggyback' Tax

Charles County commissioners made it official Tuesday: Residents will see an increase in their local income taxes in the year 2000, with most of the added revenue going to public schools.

County commissioners unanimously voted to raise the county "piggyback" income tax rate from 50 percent of taxpayers' state income taxes to 56 percent.

But commissioners said many taxpayers will not pay more taxes overall, since the local tax hike comes at the same time as a state tax cut.

The extra local property tax will be part of a revenue package that includes an increase in property taxes that the commissioners approved in May.

Only one resident showed up at a public hearing Tuesday to protest the proposed local income tax increase.

Smile for the Trooper's Camera

Motorists whose only encounter with a state trooper started with red lights in the rear-view mirror may think the patrol officers don't have a sense of humor. But an announcement by the Maryland State Police this month suggests otherwise.

Col. David B. Mitchell, state police superintendent, announced yesterday that video cameras are being installed in patrol cars operating along I-95. The new equipment will be added to 50 patrol cars operating out of the barrack at headquarters in Pikesville.

The cameras are intended to record what happens during traffic stops, according to a state police statement, thereby enhancing the safety of both the officer and the motorist stopped.

But there's another benefit, the statement deadpans: "Now the warm smiles and friendly gestures used to greet troopers will be caught on video."