Bowing to political and legal reality, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has essentially abandoned his plan to sell parcels of a state-owned right of way in an effort to kill the long-debated Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County, aides said yesterday.
A legal opinion from the Maryland attorney general's office confirmed yesterday what Glendening administration officials had already concluded -- the governor needs the approval of the Maryland Board of Public Works to sell "most, if not all" of the state's properties purchased for the road.
That would stymie Glendening since two members of the three-member panel, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, have said they would oppose any such land sale because they favor building the highway.
Selling the widely scattered parcels -- acquired by the state in the past two years -- likely would have closed that possibility forever.
Michael Morrill, a Glendening spokesman, said he would be "extremely surprised" if the governor attempted to win Board of Public Works approval for a land sale involving parcels that make up the ICC right of way, knowing the opinions of the other two board members.
Barring a sale, the state will hold the land while officials weigh other options, Morrill said. The 18 parcels making up 277 acres of the right of way from Montgomery County to Prince George's County are undeveloped.
Dixon said the governor had mis-stepped by vowing to sell the property.
"My position is if a future governor wants to build it, he should do so," Dixon said.
Glendening surprised many state and Montgomery County officials recently when he pledged not only to stop work on the ICC but to sell the right of way to make sure the road was never built.
While environmental groups and the Montgomery County Council applauded his decision, Schaefer, Dixon, legislative leaders and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan were sharply critical.
Supporters of the road say the ICC is desperately needed to relieve congestion in the state's largest county and better link the county to the Baltimore region.
The state-owned parcels are along the proposed northern route for the ICC, which was to connect the Interstate 270 corridor near Rockville with Interstate 95 south of Laurel in Prince George's County. The state has spent more than $22 million acquiring the land.
Maryland also owns other parcels along a more southerly right of way, closer to the Washington Beltway and once considered for the ICC. Glendening has said he would like to use that right of way for mass transit.
While his plan to sell the land may have been effectively stopped, Glendening said he can accomplish the same goal by doing nothing.
Other parcels of privately owned land in the ICC right of way will continue to be developed, driving up the cost and making it increasingly difficult for a future governor to build the road.
"The real issue is that the 18 state-owned parcels are widely scattered," said Morrill. "We won't be buying any more parcels, and we won't be stopping them from being developed."