Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Belmont Blues Again

Poor Belmont. This picturesque estate in Elkridge continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons. Ever since the property was sold by the American Chemical Society to Howard County Community College for $4.8 million in 2004 it has been the subject of controversy. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, the college used unauthorized surplus funds to repay the “gift” from Harry “Chip” Lundy that originally helped them with the down payment for the historic property. The college has now agreed to pay that $1.7 million back to the county.

Where will the college get that money?

“When the school sells a 13-acre portion of the 81-acre property, the proceeds will be used to repay the surplus. No sale is imminent, however.”
The 13 acres the college hopes to dispose of to raise this money is the land surrounding the Dobbin House portion of the conference center campus. Dobbin House sits at the end of a tree lined drive just before the main entrance into the property. This was the property Chip Lundy had hoped to acquire for senior housing in return for his gift.

You can read my previous posts about Belmont here, here and here.


Cathy Hudson said...

I agree, the story keeps getting sadder and sadder for Belmont-and for the college. They didn't do good due diligence before they bought the property, they have allocated about $750,000 on legal fees to get out of an existing covenant concerning the use of the shared road, and to date they have poured or have allocated to spend at least $14 million of budget surpluses, (that is another story in today's economy), donations, taxpayer money or student fees into a plan that originally they claimed wouldn’t cost taxpayers or students anything.

The neighbors have historically worked with the owners of Belmont over the past 40 some years. The covenant that was signed a year before the college’s purchase was to allow Belmont expanded uses-in fact it just codified everything that the director of Belmont asked for. All the neighbors want is a reasonable plan that includes living with upper limits-not the addition of several buildings with a total size of over 100,000 sq ft, that is currently in the college’s master plan for Belmont-and that is in the first 10 years.

I think that many of us consider Belmont to be a treasure of Howard County and being that its original view shed is still intact, it will be increasingly rare. What I challenged the college in their planning for Belmont’s future was to not look for do all the things that could be done there, but to look to do the things that could only be done there and no place else. In fact its historical easement allows for other buildings to be built only if necessary to ensure the economic viability of the Belmont mansion.

Despite the history of the past 4 years, I remain ever hopeful that one day the college and the neighbors will come up with a future for Belmont that we all can celebrate. I hope Dr. Hetherington agrees.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that a well known land developer couldn't purchase the lot he wanted, so he lent HCC money for a "downpayment" on Belmont, and now HCC is saying they can pay back the inappropriately used county funds by selling off that exact land to the developer?

If that is the case, I missed that point until reading this post.

Anonymous said...

Cathy, as usual, you bring a well-informed, well-stated voice of reason to these matters. Keep up the good work.

Even prior to reading your comment, the phrase that came to my mind, too, for Belmont was "county treasure". Like many other visitors to it, my first impression was awe and pride that our county has such a fantastic conference center in a well-preserved setting.

It shouldn't have portions nibbled off here and there to bail out mistakes. Nor should it be developed in unnecessary ways.

Steve said...

The real story is that, once again, members of the County government lied. This time, it was the HCC executives.

Unfortunately, the common theme that typically accompanies the lie is involvement of developers - either directly or through their attorneys.

Anonymous said...


How are HCC Executives members of HC Govt? Who elects them? WHy then do they get almost a third of the budget from state and a third from the county? Why do they have to report to Maryland entities and follow State law?