Maryland buys more land
The Sun's Tim Wheeler reports that the state has approved the purchase of a large wooded tract on the Eastern Shore this morning for $14.4 million. This is part of a $70 million land purchase Gov. O'Malley announced a few months ago, a deal that raised a lot of eyebrows at the time because many found it crazy to be buying land at the same time that the state is cutting back on spending elsewhere, furloughing employees etc.
(The reason the state is doing it is because land purchase money comes from a dedicated tax that isn't supposed to be used for other purposes, though sometimes it has been in the past.)
But another detail Tim uncovered that could raise some more eyebrows is that the $14.4 million is the higher of two appraisal prices for the land. The lower appraisal was for $12.2 million. $2 million may not mean much in the scheme of Maryland's budget problems, but the question of how the state handles land purchases when two appraisals differ has been a pretty hot topic in the past.
In this case, the state apparently rejected the lower appraisal as flawed because it considered properties from far and wide in trying to come up with comparable sales (there being relatively few such parcels out there to sell). The $14.4 million figure relied solely on sales from the Shore. But it still leaves open a lot of room for debate over whether the state's getting the best deal, not to mention whether it should be buying land now at all.