Price Clubs cancels deal to buy Colts land


Representatives of the Price Co. of San Diego, operators of discount retail outlets known as Price Clubs, have notified Baltimore officials that they want to cancel their proposed acquisition of a 38-acre parcel within the former Baltimore Colts training camp property in Owings Mills.

Shirley Summers, special projects coordinator for Baltimore's real estate office, said the city received notice last week that Price officials did not want to proceed with a previous ly negotiated agreement that would enable them to buy the property, which is off the 11000 block of Bonita Avenue.

Price officials had offered to pay $4.7 million, or $125,000 an acre, for the property -- the highest of five bids received after city officials offered the property for sale last summer -- and expressed an interest in building its third Baltimore-area Price Club there.

City officials are retaining the Colts' former training building and three practice fields in case the city gets another National Football League franchise. The city acquired the 100-acre training camp after the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

Ms. Summers said Baltimore now has the option of negotiating with the next-highest bidder or reoffering the property entirely, and that the choice would be up to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"This is a very good property, and there has been a lot of interest in it," she said. "I don't think we will have a problem finding a purchaser."

In October, Price officials paid a $712,500 deposit and were given a 90-day study period to determine whether to move ahead with the acquisition. They were to pay the rest of the price by the end of February.

Ms. Summers said Price's letter did not give a specific reason for wanting to terminate the agreement. But Ted Wallace, executive vice president of Price's eastern regional office, said zoning has emerged as an issue.

Ms. Summers said the designated property is zoned for light manufacturing and warehouse but that county officials recently proposed a change in their classification of discount stores such as Price Clubs so that they would be considered retail outlets rather than warehouses.

Such a change -- which is not official but appears likely -- would prohibit construction of a Price Club on the Colts parcel or force Price to go through a more time-consuming process of seeking rezoning for the property, Ms. Summers explained. Price's two area outlets are in industrially zoned districts.

"We are hoping that Price will have a change of heart and continue with their plan," she said. "And we would love to have more cooperation from Baltimore County. We feel they changed the rules in the middle of the game."

Mr. Wallace said Price is still talking with city and county officials

about the Colts property. "We'd love to be in that area," he said. "It's one of the strongest areas in the region."

Ms. Summers said Price has sought a return of its $712,500 deposit. The city's law department is determining whether Price is eligible for a refund, she said.

In October, the second-highest bid for the Colts parcel came from Riparius Development Corp. of Timonium, which offered $3,078,000.

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