Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Buying Belmont...

It looks like Howard Community College's attempt to turn the Belmont Conference center into something of a satellite campus is just about kaput

Howard County Executive James N. Robey is moving to take over Belmont, the historic Elkridge estate that has become a hotly contested issue between nearby residents and Howard Community College.

The move comes after months of contention over management by the college of the 68-acre, 18th-century property and increasing pressure from nearby residents and preservationists to remove the property from the college's control.

Robey spokeswoman Victoria Goodman said the executive will use money for parkland acquisition in his forthcoming capital budget to buy Belmont, and transfer control of $2 million planned for renovation of the barn and carriage house to county recreation and parks officials.

"It is incumbent upon us to find an acceptable way to both preserve the integrity of the estate and further incorporate this valuable resource into the fabric of our community," Robey said in a statement.

Neighbors and preservationists are no doubt happy with the news. And HCC should be, as well. After having bungled the public relations aspects, the situation for HCC was becoming untenable. This gives it an easy out and the rest of us some assurance that the property will maintain its historic and natural qualities.

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