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Bel Air purchases BB&T building, plans for parking lot

The Town of Bel Air has purchased for more than $1 million a former Branch Bank and Trust Company building on Main Street that in the short term will be used as a public parking lot, according to a town press release.

After more than a year of negotiations with the bank and its Realtor, RKS Realty, the town bought the building for $1,032,400. The 19,700-square-foot building is at 33-37 S. Main St. in Bel Air.

The $1.03 million bought the town the 0.19-acre lot where the old building is housed, as well as the 0.25-acre parking lot adjacent to it.

Bel Air town commissioners plan to demolish the building and pave the area to accommodate an estimated 33 metered parking spaces, according to the release. It may also be eventually used as a site for a new town government office building.

Town Administrator Chris Schlehr said Thursday the decision was approved in a closed session July 28. With the settlement still pending, he added, the town has not yet determined a timeline for the projects.

"We won't settle on the property until late October so we're looking at all that right now," he said.

Schlehr estimated demolition of the building may begin by the end of this year, but the future municipal building is years away.

"You [have to] wait until the economy turns around and that's several years into the future," he added.

The BB&T Bank Building purchase has been in the works since at least May 2010, when town commissioners voted to terminate a mutual contract price of $1,567,000.

The building was originally listed at $2.5 million, but at the time, commissioners still felt nearly $1.6 million was too much before voting, 3-1, in a closed session to terminate the contract.

Mayor David Carey was the only commissioner to vote against terminating the contract, with commissioners Robert Preston, Terence Hanley and Robert Reier for termination. Commissioner Edward Hopkins had to leave before the vote was taken.

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