College hopes to `move on' from deal

Arrangement with developer to purchase historic Belmont estate has raised questions

March 29, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

While Howard Community College and county officials work out the details of a plan for the county to buy the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, college leaders are eager to lay to rest questions about the purchase of the property a year and a half ago.

According to college President Mary Ellen Duncan, the college has requested in writing that developer Chip Lundy terminate a public/private partnership that involved his contribution of a $1 million down payment and a plan to build senior housing on a portion of the Belmont property and share the profit with the center.

The partnership allowed the Howard Community College Educational Foundation to take out a loan to purchase the conference center for $5.21 million in August 2004 and arrange for the college to manage it.

Duncan said Lundy's contribution and the fact that the college was exploring senior housing were discussed publicly at the time of the purchase. But the text of the agreement between Lundy and the foundation was not released, raising persistent questions about possible implications for the site's 18th-century manor house and 68 acres surrounded by parkland.

Duncan said the agreement with Lundy has become a distraction from the college's efforts to enhance the center's business and build a hospitality training program at the site.

Now that the college has concluded that there is no viable plan for building on the property, "we just need to get [the agreement] out of the way," Duncan said. "We need to move on to do the things the college is trying to do there. ... We don't want people to continue to speculate."

If he terminates the agreement, Lundy will have the right to receive $1 million back from the college. Duncan said the funds would be raised by selling the Dobbin property, a 13-acre parcel and house that stand separate from the main 68-acre parcel.

Lundy also planned to pay a $100,000 annual mortgage on the property for two years. Duncan said that money is not included in the agreement. But in an effort to conclude Lundy's role in the purchase, she said the college returned the most recent $25,000 quarterly payment and plans to cover the future payments with revenues from Belmont.

Up to this point, Duncan said, Lundy has refused verbal offers by the college to return his investment. But Lundy confirmed in an interview last week that the $1 million was not a gift.

Lundy was out of the country yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

"His intentions were very honorable," Duncan said. But if the purpose of the partnership is for Lundy to make money, then "there is no reason for us to continue to take money from him," she said.

Greg Greisman, a member of the Rockburn Land Trust, said removing the agreement "can only help" ease concerns among community members.

"That [agreement] certainly added to the questions swirling around," he said.

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

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.