For months, elected officials have been weighing in on a controversial plan that at one point would have had Calvert County swapping land with the town of Chesapeake Beach so that a recreational complex could be developed.
Now members of the public will have a chance to tell the county commissioners what they think about the latest, pared-down version of the plan.
On Tuesday, the commissioners, on a 4 to 1 vote, asked county staff to schedule a future public hearing to discuss a central element in the controversy: the county's three-acre Kellam ballfield.
Under an earlier plan put on the table last summer, the county would have given the town control of the ballfield in return for a parcel of the same size nearby. Though the land swap has appeared unlikely for some time now, the public hearing would involve the authorization of funds that would allow the commissioners to make a move that would officially close the door on the deal: a plan by the county to install lights and other improvements at the existing ballfield.
The cost of installing lights at the ballfield is estimated at $250,000.
That plan, if approved, could also signal an end to any joint county-town effort.
"They've left us on our own," Board of Commissioners President Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings) said Tuesday.
The motion to move ahead with Kellam field plans was opposed by Commissioner Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard).
On Tuesday, Buehler urged the commissioners to try to work things out with the town first.
"I think it's the right thing to do," he said.
A public hearing last August about the land-swap plan drew about 300 people to the town fire station. 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 also 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 those improvements was a ploy to expand the town's water park, which they opposed. The ballfield is adjacent to the water park.
Donovan withdrew that proposal and made another offer, which included the town spending $400,000 to improve the Northeast Community Center.
Last week, Donovan blasted the commissioners, saying that the town was trying to make improvements and "there's no cooperation" from the majority of them.
However, the commissioners, in a letter dated Tuesday, told Mayor Donovan and the Town Council that if they had "any additional input to the site improvements, we would be most willing to entertain your ideas."