HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — The potential buyer of the Spire Institute is pursuing a zoning maneuver to have an option to use the facility, or a portion of it, as a warehouse in the future.

During a Tuesday meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals, attorney Thaddeus Boggs, representing potential buyer Blue Ocean, a Baltimore-based real estate and investment management company, sought board approval to add warehouse distribution to the list of conditional uses for the property.

Geneva Owner LLC, of which Blue Ocean is the principal according to Boggs, filed the application seeking the conditional use “to create cash flow to support the complex,” according to the application.

Geneva Owner LLC is a prospective buyer working with investment firm Axxela, Boggs said. Axxella is a Baltimore-based investment firm which focuses on capital investments in commercial trade service businesses, according to a company website. Some of its clients are Northwest Equipment Rentals, Atlantic Mechanical, ACE Environmental, Municipal Lien Fund, Mez Electric Co., TKC Water Conservation Specialists and My Video Intercom, the site states.

“It is a joint venture of a real estate firm and a capital fund,” Boggs said. “The real estate firm has a $500 million portfolio and specializes in taking on projects to turn them around. Likewise the capital firm is an entity that specializes in taking on projects, changing their management to turn them around to make them financially viable.”

The intention is to continue using Spire as an athletic complex, Boggs said, and a tenant is not lined up to use it as a warehouse or distribution space. The buyer just wants the option to do something else with the property if the sports facility cannot be made into a profitable site, he said.

“There is risk involved with taking over this sports complex to make it into an economically, financially viable operation,” Boggs said. “This request is to provide a safety net that if after a period of time that becomes unworkable that this area could be used for these warehousing and distribution uses to supplement the ability to keep the athletic complex afloat.”

The potential buyer has agreed to assume the sports facility usage agreement that is in place and the payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreement that is in place to catch the property back up to its tax obligations, Biggs said. They are not working on this deal in order to “flip” the property, Boggs said, but are seeking a long-term investment.

Larry Lister, zoning inspector, said the conditional use being sought is “for the whole building” and not just a portion of it. However, he too said the plan is to keep the site as a sports complex.

“It’s still an athletic recreational complex,” Lister said. “It’s not just going to disappear.”

There was a problem, however, in that the matter should have come before the Harpersfield Zoning Board and not the Zoning Board of Appeals. Warehousing is not currently an accepted use under the zoning code for the property and only the Zoning Board can decide whether to add it as a conditional use, officials said.

“The Zoning Board of Appeals cannot grant a conditional use for a use that is not permitted in the district,” board member Matt Nousak said. “That is not to say the zoning board cannot create that conditional use or permitted use.”

The matter was tabled until a later date when it can come before the Zoning Board.

This story was edited to reflect that Axxella is a Baltimore-based company.

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