The Calvert County commissioners are ready to take steps to nix a controversial proposal to swap land with the town of Chesapeake Beach so that a recreational complex could be developed, officials said last week.
The proposal, which has been on the table since last summer, would have given the town control of the county's three-acre Kellam ballfield in return for a parcel of the same size nearby.
However, the commissioners have been discussing plans to install lights and other improvements at the ballfield, thus closing the door on the proposed deal.
"There'll be no land swap," said Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings).
If the commissioners agree to go ahead with the ballfield improvements, a public hearing will be scheduled soon.
A public hearing about the land-swap plan drew about 300 people to the town fire station in August. Under the original proposal, which included the town spending $500,000 for ballfield and other improvements, Chesapeake Beach Mayor Gerald Donovan said he wanted to build parking spaces and preserve a portion of the land for what he called "future improvements."
Critics of the plan said the failure to specify what those improvements would be was a ploy to expand the town's water park, which they opposed. The ballfield property is adjacent to the water park.
Donovan withdrew that proposal and made another offer, which included the town spending $400,000 for improvements to the Northeast Community Center.
The county commissioners sent Donovan and the Town Council a letter last week with information about their own plans for ballpark improvements, officials said.
Donovan said last week that, with the exception of Commissioner Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard), he was "embarrassed by this County Board of Commissioners."
"There's no cooperation," he said. "There's no mutual respect. I don't know another nice way to say this: They're just getting meaner and nastier. . . . We're trying to make improvements in town. They're coming up with conspiracy theories."
At a commissioners meeting earlier this year, Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) showed the board a blueprint prepared by the Chesapeake Beach town engineer that was labeled "water park expansion."
On Wednesday, Stinnett said that her first goal was not the expansion of the water park.
"My first goal," she said, "is satisfying the people who are playing on these fields."
In September, the commissioners voted 4 to 1, with Buehler opposed, to seek bids for the field lighting, which has been estimated to cost $100,000 or more.