The College Park City Council unanimously voted to approve purchasing a local swim club during a special session Tuesday night.
College Park Woods residents, including the neighborhood watch, civic association and local sports leagues, use the property's clubhouse as a meeting space, said Steven Mudd, an attorney for the swim club.
Purchasing the property allows the city to preserve it as a community meeting space in an area that doesn't have many other choices, said Scott Somers, the city manager.
Mudd said Mayor Patrick Wojahn and state Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George's) have said they wanted the swim club to remain a community space.
Acquiring the property and carrying out any necessary improvements will likely cost between $500,000 and $750,000, Somers said.
The city could purchase the property with state funds from Project Open Space, but would have to use its general fund to finance further improvements, he said.
After the swim club's membership declined in recent years, the pool board wasn't able to maintain the property. The clubhouse will need to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the city will need to improve the parking lot and demolish and decommission the pool, Somers said.
As the pool board's debts grew, it was at risk of declaring bankruptcy within six months if the property wasn't sold, Mudd said, adding that anybody could buy the club if that happened.
"There's a lot of concern in the community that someone is going to profit off of this," Mudd said.
The council voted to submit an offer to purchase the property last month, but the swim club's board of directors rejected it because they favored a different buyer's offer, which was later withdrawn.
The city and swim club entered into negotiations nearly two years ago, but an offer was only recently submitted because of uncertainty over who owned the property. The pool board offered to cover the closing costs so the purchase would be made quicker, Mudd added.
The contract of sale the city approved Tuesday night is an amended version of the one submitted in September.
It now includes a $10,000 nonrefundable deposit to the swim club, city attorney Suellen Ferguson said. The swim club will use this deposit to pay for a survey of the property, as well as its property real estate tax bill to avoid foreclosure, Mudd said.
It also reduces the due diligence period — the period in which the city surveys the land and performs environmental studies — from 45 to 30 days, and it starts the period Friday, rather than whenever the county circuit court approves the sale, Mudd said.
"About a year and a half, almost two years ago, when I was running for office … I brought up this very issue," District 4 Councilwoman Mary Cook said. "I said we could make this happen, and we did make this happen."
The council will vote on an ordinance to approve the property for public use on Oct. 24.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the approved contract of sale includes a $100,000 nonrefundable deposit to the swim club. The contract includes a $10,000 nonrefundable deposit. This story has been updated.