Frederick County Council Approves Purchase Of Former State Farm Property

The sale is expected to be finalized on Friday.

Frederick, Md (KM) The sale of the former State Farm Building at 800 Oak Street in Frederick will go forward. In a 5-2 vote on Tuesday, the County Council approved the purchase of the 26-acre parcel with a 209,184 square-foot office building.

The purchase is expected to be finalized on Friday, October 15th.

“The pros on this so much outweigh the cons,” said Councilman Jerry Donald, who voted in favor of the purchase. “This is tremendous deal for the taxpayers of Frederick County.

County Executive Jan Gardner announced last month the county’s interest in purchasing the building. She said it would provide more room  for local government agencies which are running out of space. Because it was once used a call center by United Health Care, Gardner said this building could house a new 911 Center for the County.

No final decision on the use of this building was made on Tuesday night.    The County currently leases the site for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Councilman Phil Dacey voted against the purchase. He expressed concern that Frederick City was not informed about the County’s interest in buying the property. “This Council has been super respectful about process, at least articulating that we are. But when it comes down to it. we’re saying ‘sorry city. We know this a big generational type decision about where  to place county government within your boundaries. But we’re not including you at the seat at the table.’ I don’t think this sends the right message to our city partners,” said Dacey.

His colleague, Councilman Kai Hagen, also voted “no.” “I appreciate the needs that exist in the county. I appreciate the opportunities that exist. There are a lot of unanswered questions. There are a lot of uncertainties. Everybody knows that. We’re still looking at a range of options,” he said.

Council Vice President Michael Blue made the passing motion. “Yes, there may be some unknowns. There’s some unanswered questions. But it’s going to be nothing but a win-win for Frederick County. How big of a win is the unknown for me. I think it’s positive no matter what happens,” he said.

The County staff says the  purchase price is  $20-million with $452,000 in closing costs. The Divisions of Public Works and Parks and Recreation will need to assign new staff for building maintenance,  property management  and security which is estimated to cost $1,557,311 for fiscal year 2022. Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum has said the county already has the money, and there will be no new taxes imposed to pay for this property.  He also says the seat of County Government will continue to remain at Winchester Hall.

Part of the Oak Street building has been proposed as the site of a public library on the west side of Frederick.  . “I sit on the Library Board, ” said Councilman Donald. “We had a discussion about  this topic. They talked the difficulty of finding land appropriately on the west side .   And also, if we find land on the west side, we’d be taking that off the tax rolls.”

Part of the property could also be used for affordable housing, according to Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater. “The ability for the piece that is just green space and parking lot right now to be realized as an affordable housing project in the future is something that’s I’m obviously in favor of.  . It’s a demonstrated need in the county that we’re thousands and thousands of units short for affordable workforce housing,” she said.

By Kevin McManus