Harford council discusses buying Joppatowne swim club

The Harford County Council is continuing to look into the possibility of buying a Joppatowne swim club that closed abruptly right as the summer began.

Southern Baptist Church has a contract to buy the swim club property, centrally located off of Joppa Farm Road, but Council President Billy Boniface said after a council meeting Tuesday that the church has yet to close on the sale.


Speaking to about 15 people who came to the council meeting to support a county effort to buy the pool, Boniface said: "We are working towards it but there's still a process to it and the funding wouldn't be available until the next budget cycle."

Many of the residents wore T-shirts that said "Save the Pool," and their spokeswoman, Frances Salbeck, said Joppatowne residents want to save the property that is so central to its community.

Salbeck said Joppatowne is in danger of losing the only green space in the neighborhood.

"It's not only the pool that's at stake here, it's a quality of life," Salbeck said, adding that children have no other outlets to play in the summer and groups have no official meeting place or community center like other parts of the county do.

She said the residents have collected 3,000 signatures to save the pool and posted their effort on Facebook.

Councilman Dion Guthrie, who represents the area and has been active in the pool-saving movement, said he and Boniface sent a letter to county parks and recreation director Arden McClune, asking her to investigate acquisition of the property.

Guthrie said McClune is "on board" with the proposal and that county Director of Administration Mary Chance told him she expects a letter from County Executive David Craig stating a position on the property.

Guthrie also said he has asked Aaron Tomarchio, Craig's chief of staff, if the council could draft a letter to the real estate agent informing him of interest in the property and Tomarchio responded he would put that together.

Guthrie called the swim club's 4.3 acres a "perfect piece of property" to have for a community center, which is lacking in some parts of the county, including Joppatowne.

Evergreen decision upheld

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the council upheld one of two zoning appeals decisions pending for Evergreen Business Trust and Peak Management LLC to build 198 apartments in Bel Air South, as ruled by hearing examiner Robert Kahoe Jr., in July.

The council voted unanimously to uphold Kahoe's decision interpreting where the 198th unit can be built.

Kahoe has also ruled that the site plan for the apartment complex, which would be at Plumtree Road and Route 24, meets county requirements for building in high-density residential zones. That decision will be reviewed by the council in its capacity as the board of appeals during the Sept. 10 council session.

The project has drawn opposition from residents living around the wooded property, concerned about traffic and the potential for low income residents moving into the area.


Kahoe had specified in his decision approving the plan that the apartments can not be subsidized or "Section 8" housing.

Tax credits, appointments

The council approved applications for state tax credits filed by The Highlands School and LASOS, Inc.

The Bel Air-based non-profit LASOS, which provides services to non-native residents, will apply for a $40,000 award through the state's Department of Housing and Community Development.

Director Melynda Velez said the funds will go toward serving youth or providing jobs. She said LASOS hopes to expand its services into the Joppatowne area.

She also noted the organization has helped 98 people become American citizens and its clients speak 76 different languages.

According to its website, LASOS, which stands for Linking All So Others Succeed, is a non-profit organization "that provides adult literacy classes in civics, financial literacy, technology and citizenship, at risk youth mentoring and family literacy programs... We also provide on site translation as well as a network of service providers that assist in the integration process."

"LASOS, Inc.'s vision is to provide all the resources needed by non-English speaking residents to support integration into the American society," the website states. "In turn, the residents will be empowered to contribute and communicate more effectively in their families, work places, and communities."

The Highlands School, based in Creswell, received council approval to apply for a $50,000 award through the Housing and Community Development department.

Boniface announced that Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti was appointed to serve as the vice-chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.

The council also honored Korean War veterans Bob Banker, Sam Fielder Jr. and Jack Cloman with a proclamation marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict.