$2.8 million is realized in sale of properties

Government is to use funds for new complex

Howard County

November 09, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County has announced that the sale of four surplus buildings will provide $2.8 million to help pay for the new government office complex that the Robey administration plans for Ellicott City.

"With the downturn in the economy, I'm very pleased," County Executive James N. Robey said of the first round of sales, which brought in $340,000 less than the collective asking prices.

Another five surplus properties - all tracts of land - will be sold in the next two weeks, the County Council was told at a meeting yesterday. Manekin LLC is handling the sales.

A historic former firehouse on Main Street in the county seat is the most recognizable of the four sales finalized Wednesday, said James M. Irvin, county public works director. The 8,080-square-foot brick structure, built in 1938, sold for $835,000 to lawyer Richard Talkin and developer Donald Reuwer. They also bought the adjoining parking lot for $70,000.

Talkin said they have no specific plan for the old firehouse. "It's a great building, unique in Ellicott City, with parking," he said.

Main Street restaurant owners persuaded Robey to impose a five-year prohibition on using the building for a bar or restaurant, a move criticized by the County Council's Republicans at a briefing yesterday.

"Zoning allows what it allows," said Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican. "I have a problem. I hate to see us put restrictions on it."

Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, said later that he agrees with Kittleman. "By putting restrictions on the sale," he said, "the executive branch really surpasses the responsibility of the zoning board," which is made up of the County Council members.

Robey defended his decision, saying: "Right now, I'm trying to make sure of the viability of the restaurant businesses."

Too many food outlets could result in several failing, leaving empty businesses on Main Street, he added.

Kittleman also questioned Irvin about the county's bidding practices, wondering why the administration didn't award the sale to the highest bidder.

Irvin said the top two or three bidders were asked for their "highest and final offers" after submitting their first bid.

The county went back for second bids in some cases, he said, because most of the offers included contingency clauses. One bidder, for example, wanted to delay payment for two years pending a zoning change, Irvin said.

The other buildings are in more obscure locations. Two are on Chevrolet Drive, behind a car dealer's lot on U.S. 40 near a turnoff to U.S. 29.

A gas station owner bought one building for $910,000 so he can relocate his car repair facility.

Jim Neubauer, who operates an Exxon station on U.S. 40 at Frederick Road, said Exxon wants to convert the station into a gas-and-go.

The other building was purchased for $800,000 by Siena Corp., which wants to expand its huge EZ Storage facility next door.

The last building, on 1.16 acres at 14735 Frederick Road, was bought for $300,000 for office use by developer J. Thomas Scrivener, Irvin said.

The remaining surplus properties for sale range in size from 1.47 acres to 62 acres. Woodmont Academy, a private religious school, hopes to buy the large parcel in Cooksville for a new campus.

The county bought about 25 acres last year on Rogers Avenue near U.S. 40 - the last open land near the government complex on Court House Drive - on which to build office buildings.

Irvin said work clearing the mostly wooded land could begin late next year.

Money from the surplus property sales will pay for developing the site - grading and installing roads and utilities underground. Funds for construction of the first buildings have not been appropriated.

Council Chairman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, had one comment on the sales.

"Good job," Guzzone said to Irvin.

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