Soccer group pledges Smith Farm money $1 million offered in exchange for use of soccer fields

October 29, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

A Columbia soccer official last night made the first commitment of funds to help buy the $7.7 million Smith Farm in east Columbia.

Bob Landolt, who is vice president of the Soccer Association of Columbia, said his group would donate $1 million to help buy the 300-acre farm along Route 175 in exchange for using 30 to 40 acres of the property for much-needed soccer fields.

Landolt was among some 60 residents who met with elected and other county officials last night to discuss the future of the undeveloped farmland near the center of Columbia. The meeting was at The Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center.

Landolt said that in the last five years, the soccer group, which has about 5,500 youths as members, has put aside $500,000 from membership fees and tournaments to buy property for fields.

"The Smith Farm is an ideal location and it is perfect for soccer fields," he said.

Since Elizabeth C. "Nancy" Smith's death in February, dozens of residents, who fear their property values will decrease and traffic will increase if the parcel is developed for housing, have formed groups to pursue purchasing the property and turning it into a county park.

Three Columbia villages border the property, which is less than a mile from Columbia's Town Center.

Smith died without a will. Because she never married and had no children, the property reverts to her father's heirs, Carolyn L. Smith of Baltimore and Tabi Williamson of Eureka, Calif.

Attorneys for the heirs said they are interested in hearing options for preserving the farmland.

But finding the rest of the money to buy it may prove to be difficult.

At last night's meeting, residents noted that the county found funds to purchase the aging AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp. building on Bendix Road in Columbia to keep the company from taking its 900 jobs out of the county.

"If we can find $7.5 million to buy AlliedSignal, plus [money] to renovate the building, then we can find $7.7 million to buy this farm," said Democratic state Del. Frank S. Turner, who represents Columbia. "We just have to make it as much of a priority as we did with AlliedSignal."

County Executive Charles I. Ecker has asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening for $4 million to help purchase the property.

At last night's meeting, Democratic state Del. Shane BTC Pendergrass, who represents the district where the Smith Farm is located, said she felt there was a "strong commitment" from the state to find money in the Department of Natural Resources budget to buy it.

"Whenever the heirs do decide to sell, we'll be there with all the others," said County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Columbia Democrat. "You have to have money to be a player; otherwise, you're just sitting on the sidelines."

Jeff Bourne, the county recreation and parks director, said the county will pay for two independent appraisals of the property next month.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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