800 Oak Street

The large building and property at 800 Oak St. in Frederick is bordered on the east by the southbound lanes of U.S. Route 15. 

Four of five Frederick city aldermen on Monday asked for a delay in the Frederick County Council’s vote on a bid for the county to acquire a $20 million property.

County leadership said they were surprised by the request and the aldermen’s opposition to moving forward quickly with acquiring the 26-acre site, located at 800 Oak St. off U.S. 15. Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said her counterpart on the Board of Aldermen, President Pro Tem Kelly Russell, didn't reach out to her before emailing the letter.

“I find it interesting that people decide to send a letter rather than engage in a conversation,” Keegan-Ayer (D) said.

Russell (D) said she didn’t try to contact Keegan-Ayer directly but had reached out to council members shortly before the council brought up the proposal during its Sept. 28 meeting. Russell didn’t reach out to council members after the meeting, she said.

Before they came before the council, County Executive Jan Gardner (D) announced the county’s plans to purchase the site during a Sept. 21 press briefing. Purchasing the property, she said, would allow county government the opportunity to relocate services that are running out of space, and it would bring an influx of economic activity to businesses in the adjacent area, including the Golden Mile.

“I think this will serve the county for years to come,” Gardner said.

Frederick County Council is scheduled to hear public comment on the county’s bid on Tuesday. Normally, Keegan-Ayer said, the council waits one week to vote on a proposal after hearing public input, which would likely be the case with this proposal.

The main ask in the alderman’s letter was for the council to delay its vote. In their letter, the aldermen -- including Russell, Derek Shackelford, Donna Kuzemchak and Ben MacShane -- also asked for a joint city and county public meeting to discuss the future of the property, a part of which the county has leased since April for vaccination clinics. It formerly housed a United Healthcare Inc. call center, and before that it belonged to State Farm Insurance.

“This proposed purchase took us all by surprise as the property had been listed for sale for about 12-18 months and this was the first time we had understood the county was interested in acquiring such a large tract of land within the city of Frederick,” the aldermen said in a copy of the letter obtained by the News-Post.

Also signed in the letter was Katie Nash, the lead vote-getter in the city’s primary election for the Board of Aldermen. Roger Wilson, who fell out of contention for mayor in the city’s September primary and who Nash may replace on the board, was the lone alderman to not sign the letter. He didn’t respond to a request for comment from the News-Post.

Mayor Michael O’Connor, who serves as the city’s executive officer to the legislative Board of Aldermen, said he supports the positions stated in the letter, adding that he may have signed on if the board wasn’t pressed for time to send it.

“I stand by my aldermen,” O’Connor (D) said.

Signees to the letter also requested documentation to clarify the county’s intended use for the property, though county officials have made no final decisions.

During her September briefing, Gardner said using the site for a 911 center the county has proposed would drastically cut expenditures for the project. She also mentioned the possibility of constructing a library, given the property’s position and desires she’s heard from constituents to have a library on the west side of town.

Additional costs, including preparing the roofing for solar panels, would bring the final price tag to $32 million. The county hopes to offset a chunk of the site’s $20 million property cost -- which doesn't include costs beyond acquiring the property -- by consolidating operations and improving efficiency to bring its net cost to between $7 million and $8 million, Gardner said.

For the county to finalize its offer, the council will need to approve the necessary $32 million in funding before Oct. 15, when the county is scheduled to finalize the deal. If the council doesn’t vote Tuesday, its members expect do so Oct. 12.

If the council votes against the proposal, the seller for the property will move on to another bidder.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan

(28) comments

shiftless88

One more thing on which so many of us agree, even if we are normally on "opposite" sides of issues. Namely, the city seems to be off the rails here.

kfmd

Yep. That's why I'm writing in Jennifer Dougherty for Mayor. Not, Michael the party "pick" or Steve the gun guy. Both, off the rails.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup]

rwaesche

Thirty years ago Sheriff Carl Harbaugh wanted to buy that building for both the sheriff's headquarters and the 911 center but didn't get any support. Looks like that missed opportunity will now cost us tens of millions.

AOC

[thumbup]

gardenwhimsey

I am a City of Frederick home owner and resident and I feel that as long as the intended use is within the existing zoning, it is not the business of our board of aldermen to decide who can buy a property.

kfmd

Please explain. Why the city has any say enter property they don’t own? Was the city planning on buying it? If yes, for what purpose? Sounds like the county has good plans? And, why is an unelected individual acting like an elected one?

joelp77440

This is about politics and optics. The county's bid without notice made the aldermen's position look week. They are pushing back to say to the county,. "hey, remember us?"

MD1756

It's not city property. If it's within zoning use they city should have no say unless they are going to bid more or the property than the county did.

newspostreader

This really makes no sense. Why does the City care where the County buys a building? It seems like the seller may have someone else interested. Might that be the City? I just hope the County has really looked into this building. Anyone who has been in this building will tell you that it is far from modern. It will need a complete remodel to bring this building up to today's standards in office space. This is going to be costly for the County.

jamesnee

Unless Frederick City itself has plans for the building, I believe Frederick County uses are an excellent idea!

matthewboh

And again, Mayor Michael is "totally behind". That's why I'm writing in Jennifer for Mayor!

Plumbum

Can someone explain to me why the city even has any involvement in this?

Dwasserba

I wondered too. “If the council votes against the proposal, the seller for the property will move on to another bidder.” Who owns it? There’s more than one bidder after all this time?

Plumbum

There’s used to be a day when newspaper reporters used to tell us who owns the property they’re writing about.......

acslifer

Does the County purchasing the site take it off the city's tax rolls?

Plumbum

That crossed my mind as well

AOC

It does remove it from tax roles but so does purchasing 100 E. All. Saints for the police. 800 Oak Street is large enough to relocate offices at 12 E. Church Street (built 1890), 116 North Market (built 1910) and 30 North Market (built 1970). The county should pay no attention to the City. And what is with the ignorant statement, "I support my aldermen." Now Michael O'Biden owns the alderman? They are the duly elected independant legislative leaders, not part of the executive branch.

Last month, I read that FCPS has signed a contract for a new recovery school at the OLD BOE location on East Church Street.

The paper publish this picture,

https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/fredericknewspost.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/87/c87b870a-fd6f-5888-9e8b-5bd370745504/613a791b307df.image.jpg?resize=750%2C536

On the way to the post office yesterday, I spotted a "O'Connor for Mayor" sign in the same flower bed shown of the right side of the picture above. How can that be legal?

kfmd

A quick search https://sdat.dat.maryland.gov/RealProperty/Pages/default.aspx would indicate that OAK CORPORATE CENTER LLC is the owner. So unless the city is using an 'alias' ... I don't think so.

kfmd

AOC... why? is the county automatically exempt from paying city taxes? Because we taxpayers are already being double-taxed by them for some services?

FrederickFan

The purchase by the county makes total sense. Why can't Kelly Russell pick up a phone and call the Council President? Are City officials really opposed to a library and other services coming to this part of the City? The City had taken twenty years to make a decision on a new police headquarters. City officials should use this as an opportunity to learn how decisions are actually made without years of delay and indecision.

teadoffinfrederickcounty

She may have been busy searching for appropriate business attire for the attached photo. It is always important to look your best being a 60+, 12 year elected official.

Doritos

City is worried that the county will move out of downtown making it a ghost town

AOC

Exactly. The purchase by the county makes sense.

Guy T. Ashton

Katie Nash, a little presumptuous perhaps? She might want to wait until she’s actually been elected to sign an official letter!

cphs

Completely agree, why is Nash even on this letter?

George69

Yeah, well, the City is currently trying to get out of downtown themselves regarding some services. Don’t want all our new sensitive rich condo owners to have to see actual poor people. O’Connor is a snake. He’s Ausherman’s proxy.

TomWheatley

Probably right. All those pesky downtown services for the people who live there. Let's relocate the services miles away and free up the space to be upscaled for more property tax income.

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