Plan to buy Crown site reconsidered by county

College would annex land to its conference center

July 27, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials have resurrected plans to pay $200,000 toward Towson University's purchase of a half-acre parcel to expand the school's conference facilities -- even though the total price is nearly double the tract's appraised value.

Plans for the university to buy the shuttered Crown service station site at Burke Avenue and York Road were shelved six months ago after County Council members complained that the $783,000 cost was $353,000 more than the parcel's appraised value.

But Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican, said he is confident that he has the four votes necessary for Towson University to win the funds and make an offer on the tract. The site is considered a blight on the downtown Towson business district struggling to fill vacant commercial spaces.

Cleaning up the site is a priority for Towson merchants and the county, Skinner said.

But the councilman said the purchase is also vital because Towson has a shortage of conference facilities. The land is needed for the expansion of the university's Burkshire Conference Center, which is next door and includes dormitories for graduate students and guest rooms operated by the Marriott hotel chain, he said.

The purchase makes economic sense because it will mean expanded conference facilities and additional tax revenues from hotel and conference rentals, Skinner said.

The Burkshire contributes $251,000 a year in property and hotel occupancy use taxes, he said.

"There's a real shortage of conference facilities in the county right now," Skinner said. "I don't think [the] council realized what was at stake last time in terms of revenues."

But Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a North County-Owings Mills Republican, said yesterday he thinks the land "is still too expensive."

James Fielder, Towson University's vice president of administration and finance, said the school hopes to purchase the site from the estate of Saul Goldman, a New York businessman. The estate is asking $814,000.

But he said the state Department of General Services will only approve the purchase if Baltimore County and Crown Central Petroleum, which is committed to renting the tract until it is sold, agree to contribute toward the purchase.

Under the agreement's terms, the county would contribute $200,000 and Crown $153,000 toward the purchase, according to state and county officials.

Robert Fritz, vice president for real estate and facilities for CrownCen Marketing Co., an arm of the fuel oil company, said that Crown Central negotiated a lease in the mid-1980s that requires Crown to rent the property until 2006 unless a buyer is found. But the lease requires the buyer to pay a price tied to the rents Crown pays -- $5,440 a month.

Pub Date: 7/27/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.