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Bel Air land deal near

The Baltimore Sun

Before the Harford County Council authorizes the $1.8 million purchase of a small parcel in downtown Bel Air, members want to make sure the county has brokered the best possible price for the land.

The county has negotiated with Paca Limited Inc. of Bel Air for the 16,500-square-foot property, which includes a few one-story shops, at 112 S. Hickory Ave., across the street from the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Co. The asking price was $2 million.

The county has been attempting to acquire all the land along the north side of Churchville Road from Main Street to Hickory Avenue for several years. The purchase would complete the county's ownership of all the adjoining property, which includes the schools' administration building.

"This is the last parcel that we need to acquire," said Deborah Henderson, county director of procurement.

"Is this economically feasible just because the county owns the surrounding property?" asked Councilman Dion Guthrie, who said Tuesday that a decision should be deferred for at least a week.

"There is no question that we need this location, but are we getting the best bang for the buck? Would the owner get this price from any other buyer?" Guthrie asked.

The site's existing buildings, one of which is vacant, take up about 7,700 square feet of the space and would be razed. Shop owners' leases would all expire before the county completed the sale sometime this summer.

Eventually, officials hope to build a five-story county office building on the site, a project the council has yet to review. Council members will meet discuss site plans with the administration Jan. 29.

Since two county-authorized appraisals put the value at $1.6 million and $1.8 million, council members said they were unsure the county had negotiated the most reasonable deal.

"In the real estate world, at this moment in time, property values are down," Guthrie said. "Why are we paying a premium price?"

"This $1.8 million for this small property is really a lot for us to consider," said Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti.

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