It was a bleak evening last week and chilly inside the abandoned, unheated propulsion research hangar at the David Taylor Research Center. Outside, the rain was coming down in buckets. Inside, representatives from Anne Arundel County, the Navy and a private firm huddled together for warmth and saw only the silver lining.

After seven years of negotiation, the three parties had just signed a $250 million deal to transform the shuttered naval research center across the Severn River from Annapolis into a high-tech office park. Work on the redevelopment project could take 12 years to complete.

"We will be good stewards of this land," said Maurice Tose, a telecommunications executive whose company will be the first to move into the site, before accepting a large key to the base given to him by Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D).

The deal was a political victory for Owens, who has dealt with three different secretaries of the Navy since taking on the crusade in 1998 to transform the research center.

"I'm happy because we already have it on the tax rolls," Owens said. "We have it assessed at $16 million."

Howard Kelsey, the Navy's representative at the ceremony, just seemed glad to have the base out of his hair.

"There were times when we had disagreements, but it was never contentious," Kelsey said in a speech to the gathered officials.

The audience laughed at the diplomatic understatement. "Well, maybe serious disagreements," Kelsey added with a chuckle.

Alton Honeymooning

Anne Arundel's first county executive and political patriarch, Joseph W. Alton Jr., chose a late October day to formalize his May-December romance with a county-employed computer programmer, Brenda Donaldson.

Alton, 83, married Donaldson, 39, on Oct. 23 in California. The wedding was his fourth and her first.

Alton told the Annapolis Capital that the two met through Donaldson's father, who was, and still is, a good friend of Alton's. The couple could not be reached this week. They were away on a 10-day honeymoon.