County, hospital weigh swap CCGH would barter land for building

June 27, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Carroll's commissioners are negotiating a land swap with officials at Carroll County General Hospital that would exchange the Health Department building in Westminster for vacant land in Hampstead.

Officials at Carroll County General Hospital, which owns the land, are eager to acquire the Health Department building on Washington Road. They want to use the building for outpatient surgery or doctors' offices.

The commissioners are eager to accommodate the hospital and to stimulate development on the Hampstead site. The site, which contains approximately 400 acres, lies between the west side of routes 30 and 482 opposite North Carroll High School.

Carroll County General is in good shape financially for operating expenses but doesn't have the resources to pay cash for expansion projects such as the Health Department acquisition, said Linda Harder, vice president for marketing.

The state Department of Assessments and Taxation values the 15-year-old building and land occupied by the Health Department at $4,152,650.

The assessors value the hospital-owned acreage along routes 30 and 482 in Hampstead at $161,110. That is a farm-use assessment, in which land is valued by soil type, to a maximum of $400 per acre. Larry White, supervisor of assessments, said that if the property is used for industry, the assessment would be changed to reflect its market value.

The commissioners also are considering relocating the planned Westminster senior center to keep additional land cleared for possible future hospital expansion.

Current plans call for the senior center to open in spring 1995 behind CHANGE Inc. and the Winchester Country Inn on Bishop Street, near the Health Department. The site is part of county-owned land that previous commissioners planned as a health campus.

"I just feel like to put it there is a little shortsighted, because 15 to 20 years down the road, we might need that land for expansion of the hospital," said Commission President Donald I. Dell. He said he has several alternative sites in mind for the center but declined to identify them.

The current negotiations focus only on CCGH's acquisition of the Health Department building and parking lot.

Mr. Dell refused to say how much land the county expects to acquire from the hospital.

"It's not that we really want that land over there," Mr. Dell said. "It's part of the deal. The hospital is cash-short, like the county."

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy pledged that taxpayers won't be losers in the deal.

"The taxpayer would get [cheated] if we didn't help Carroll County General Hospital. . . . We should look after these folks and make the way as easy for them as we can," he said.

Mr. Lippy noted that the hospital, with its 1,100 employees, is a major Carroll employer.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge says the Hampstead property is "as valuable now as money would be. We need the business and industrial side of the county to grow, and that's a place where it could grow."

The hospital has owned the land for nearly 30 years but hasn't actively marketed it, Mrs. Gouge said.

County officials could market the property through the Economic Development Commission or Industrial Development Authority, Mrs. Gouge said. And if the State Highway Administration sees some action on the site, "that might be an impetus" to reactivate the planned Hampstead bypass, she said.

The late Willella S. Kriel willed the land to Carroll County General in 1964. Linda Harder, the hospital's vice president for marketing, said the board of directors has been trying to sell the Hampstead land for years. But the directors never listed it with a real estate agent.

"We just didn't want to restrict it to one person, but all the local Realtors know about it," Ms. Harder said.

She said the asking price averages $35,000 an acre.

Two parcels have been sold. Ridge Engineering Inc. paid $177,250 for 7.1 acres in 1980. Shamrock Communications Inc. paid $355,560 for 8.9 acres to house the WGRX radio tower in 1985.

The hospital board retained an engineer to analyze the property in 1988 but never submitted a site development plan to the county.

County officials would face two obstacles in trying to bring industry to the property: road access and lack of water.

In 1991, the county lost a food-product manufacturer that had taken an option on part of the property. The company needed highway access but backed out when the state Department of Transportation deferred the planned Hampstead bypass, said William E. Jenne, Carroll's economic development administrator.

The bypass is no closer to construction financing today.

Town Manager John A. Riley said Hampstead could not supply '' an industry that uses a lot of water. He said town officials have never calculated the water capacity available for industrial uses.

Meanwhile, the commissioners are discussing the possible relocation of the senior center.

Mr. Lippy said it makes sense to reserve county property between Washington Road and Center Street exclusively for health services.

Mrs. Gouge said she had mixed feelings about building the senior center on land originally designated as a health campus. But she reasoned that elderly persons who go to the center could visit the nearby Health Department offices and eliminate duplication of trips.

She said hospital officials worked with the Bureau of Aging in choosing the site near Bishop Street.

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