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Harford County submits letter of intent to purchase Joppatowne pool

Harford County officials are forging ahead with an effort to purchase a Joppatowne swim club.

The first step was the submission of a letter of intent. County Councilman Dion Guthrie, whose district includes Joppatowne, announced during Monday evening's Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council meeting that the letter had been sent regarding the Mariner Point Swim Club, and he provided copies to council and audience members.

About 30 people attended the meeting, held at the Harford County Sheriff's Office Southern Precinct in Joppa.

The letter had been sent to Chris Smith, president of TriAlliance Commercial Real Estate Services LLC of Sparks and representative of the seller of the 4.53-acre property, and signed by Arden McClune, director of the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation.

"Per our discussion last week, Harford County Government is interested in a possible acquisition of the Joppatowne Swim Club property for community recreation," McClune wrote.

The letter is dated Oct. 24.

McClune also stated in the letter that county leaders planned to use Program Open Space funds allocated each year by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; the county would use money allocated for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2014, since Harford County has already committed the funds allocated for this fiscal year.

Officials with Southern Baptist Church of Baltimore, which also holds services in Aberdeen, had been working with Smith and the property owner Murray Stephens to purchase the pool and the surrounding Joppa Farm Road property to build a church sanctuary and community center.

The contract between the church and the sellers to purchase the property fell through in October, however, in the face of community opposition to the sale of a pool that had been part of Joppatowne since it was built the late 1960s.

Local residents had encouraged the county to purchase the site instead, and build a community center, but Guthrie and Harford County Executive David Craig said earlier this year the county could take no action while there was another active contract to purchase the site.

Hazel Morgan, the former president of the Joppatowne Recreation Council and a longtime advocate of the county building a recreation center for Joppatowne residents, also spoke during Monday's community council meeting.

She said she envisioned a facility similar to the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air, a county recreation center with programs for youths and senior citizens.

Morgan said she visited McFaul recently and saw seniors engaged in games and activities and "just enjoying each other," as well as activities for children, including children with special needs.

"That's my vision of what we can have and should have already had years ago in Joppatowne," she said.

Guthrie said the next step, which McClune also described in her letter, involves getting two appraisals on the property.

The asking price is $679,500.

Guthrie said the appraisals are underway and county officials expect to hear the results in about two weeks.

One member of the audience objected to the county paying more than $600,000 for a property that he estimated the owners had paid about $300,000 for.

Guthrie responded that "you'd be hard pressed" to find a four-acre property on the water, bounded on three sides by roads and with amenities such as an Olympic-size pool for an asking price of $600,000.

"That is the perfect place, and there is no other," he said.

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