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The former Wakefield Valley Golf Course in Westminster is one step closer to becoming a park and 60-plus unit development after the Carroll Board of County Commissioners agreed to forgo collecting a $400,000 penalty fee.

Developer Richard Kress purchased the $1.75 million bank note on the golf course property to build houses on 62 acres and give the remaining 164 acres to the city of Westminster. The city plans to use the property as a park.

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Water generated from the golf course property would be split between the city, the 60-unit development and a 225-house development Kress is planning on the other side of Westminster.

Clark Shaffer, an attorney representing Kress, said the state imposes a penalty fee when a golf course is turned into something else, like a development. The penalty fee, which is determined through past property assessments, totaled approximately $600,000, Shaffer said.

"With this $600,000 albatross around Wakefield Valley, the result is going to be that no one will buy this property," Shaffer said. "And if no one will buy this property, then it will sit and deteriorate, and it will be a potential blight on the community."

On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners voted 4-0 to waive its portion of the fee, which is about $400,000. The city of Westminster already agreed to waive its portion of the fee a couple months ago.

Now, Shaffer said, his client is waiting to find out if the state will waive its portion, which is about $30,000 to $40,000.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said parties involved in real estate transactions sometimes have to "take a haircut" and forgo costs. This time, Rothschild said, it is the government that is being asked to take a haircut.

Rothschild said he wanted to make sure there was no arbitrage, the simultaneous buying and selling of properties to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset, taking place.

"Nobody is flipping a note and walking away with a million dollars," Rothschild said.

Shaffer said Kress will still have to purchase the property at a foreclosure sale sometime in the next 90 days, go through the city's development permit process and get the Maryland Department of the Environment's approval to use the water from the golf course property before any development can be built.

Reach staff writer Christian Alexandersen at 410-857-7873 or christian.alexandersen@carrollcountytimes.com.

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