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County signs agreement to buy Belmont Conference Center from HCC

By Sara Toth, stoth@patuxent.com

7:18 PM EDT, September 20, 2011

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Howard Community College has agreed to sell the historic Belmont Conference Center estate in Elkridge to the county, officials said Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The agreement was signed Sept. 7. The county has 90 days to complete a study period, which includes environmental studies and exploring the condition of and feasibility of operating the property.

If the county is satisfied with the results of the various studies, settlement should occur within 30 days of the end of the study period.

A final price has not been determined, but county spokesman Kevin Enright said the purchase price would likely be less than $100,000.

HCC purchased the facility from the American Chemical Society in 2004 for $5.2 million, and had used it for the school's culinary and hospitality programs. The 68-acre property, which was also rented out for special events, was put on the market in September 2009 because of budgetary strains. The college had planned to continue operating the facility until a buyer was found, but closed the center at the end of 2010 because of a decline in business.

Because the county gave the college $2.6 million to use toward the purchase and renovation of the estate, it has the right of first refusal to buy the property. When an earlier offer of $2.7 was made on the estate, County Executive Ken Ulman exercised that right, saying that he couldn't let "one of the few historic gems that's left in the county" go at such a low price.