The County is obligated to go through a number of steps when looking to purchase property. The steps are governed by the County's procurement code and the requirements of any State or Federal agency providing funds. Most of the County's purchases of parkland are funded through Program Open Space, which is a grant from the Department of Natural Resources.
County parkland acquisitions must go through a process with several steps. We must obtain two appraisals, which govern the price that can be offered for a property. Once we agree on a price that is supported by the appraisals and acceptable to the owner, we enter into a contract of sale that is contingent on the approval of the County Board of Estimates, completion of an Environmental Assessment and approval of the grant funding. The authority for accepting and spending funds for land acquisition must be approved in the annual Capital Budget. Once these steps have been completed, a settlement date is set and the transaction completed. This process usually takes four to six months if there are no complicating factors.
As soon as we learned that the previous contract had lapsed, we ordered the appraisals. We made an offer to the real estate broker for the swim club property. This offer was subject to other conditions outlined above. The broker also received a non-contingent offer, which could go to settlement quicker than the County. We raised our offer, but we could not shortcut the steps required before settlement. Harford County has acquired more than 445 acres of parkland since I took office in 2005 and these steps were followed for every purchase.
It is disappointing that the County is unable to purchase the Joppatowne Swim Club property. A Youth-Senior Center to serve the Joppatowne community remains in the long term plans of the County. We will continue to look for an appropriate site.
David R. Craig
Harford County Executive