Aberdeen to spend $1.2 million for 13 acres to be used for urban park, future home of activity center

The city of Aberdeen wants to spend $1.2 million to purchase the 13-acre Mitchell Estate on West Bel Air Avenue to serve as an urban park and the future site of an activity center.
The city of Aberdeen wants to spend $1.2 million to purchase the 13-acre Mitchell Estate on West Bel Air Avenue to serve as an urban park and the future site of an activity center. (Erika Butler/The Aegis)

The city of Aberdeen intends to buy a more than 13-acre parcel on West Bel Air Avenue in order to develop an urban park, and city leaders hope it will also be the site of the future activity center.

At its meeting Monday night, June 17, the council voted to spend $1.2 million for the Mitchell Estate at 684 W. Bel Air Ave. The asking price for the property was $1.8 million, city manager Randy Robertson said.


The city has 90 days to complete a feasibility study on the site and could back out — and keep its $25,000 deposit — if it deems the site won’t work, Mayor Patrick McGrady said.

Three groups have a contract to buy 75 acres, which they are seeking to annex into the city of Aberdeen and build as many as 425 residential units.

City officials also met last week with the county’s parks and recreation director, Kathleen Burley, and Director of Administration Billy Boniface, to talk about several park projects in Aberdeen, including an activity center.


“We wanted to make it crystal clear to [Burley], since it’s out-year funding, of what you intended to do,” Robertson told the council members. “And that is to acquire this piece of property.”

The intent is to design it in the next fiscal year and build it the year after that, he said.

While Robertson said he and Aberdeen’s Planning Director Phyllis Grover were assured the funding for planning would be in Harford County’s FY2021 budget and for construction in the FY2022 budget, he encouraged the council to work as a team with the community and local legislative leaders to ensure it remains there.

“We all heard ‘It’s in the budget, it’s in the budget.’ But you know more than I do, the budget seems to keep moving,” Robertson said.

According to county budget documents, $500,000 is budgeted in FY2021 for engineering and design, with $8 million in FY2022 for construction and $500,000 in FY2023 for equipment and furniture.

“This project will provide a multi-purpose center to serve leisure needs for all ages in the Aberdeen community,” according to the capital budget for FY2020, which takes effect July 1.

It will be designed similar to those in Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Fallston to be used by the county’s Office of Aging and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

At the request of the council members, city officials looked over the last year for properties that could accommodate an urban park, a place where people would walk or bike to.

“That dismissed some properties on the periphery of the city,” Robertson said.

Five other sites, some city-owned, were considered, Grover said.

“This meets your requirement for an urban park, and it’s a beautiful piece of property,” she said.

About 9 acres of the parcel is flat, and usable. The wetlands that aren’t usable complement the rest of the site.


The house on the property would need to be torn down, Robertson said, “it’s not salvageable,” but it doesn’t need to be done immediately since design money won’t be available until July 2021.

He said he tried to get the county to allow Aberdeen to move forward now on the project, paying money up front for design and be reimbursed later, but county officials said it wasn’t feasible.

McGrady said he planned to take the contract to the Harford County Council and explain what the city wants to do.

“I’m excited about this site for a park in the center of Aberdeen,” McGrady said.

Rock Glenn Park

The county doesn’t intend to move forward on a $1.3 million project to build Rock Glenn Park in the Aberdeen community until the city’s funding is in obtained, Robertson said.

The city applied for a grant for its share of the project, $500,000, but was rejected, he said.

“We were strongly urged to apply again,” Robertson said, noting it’s more likely to be approved on the second, third or fourth application.

The Rock Glenn project includes multipurpose fields and courts as well as parking, according to the county’s budget documents, which includes $1.2 million in the FY2020 budget for construction and $100,000 already spent on design.

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