Concert venue plan leads to disharmony County, Sykesville offer competing plans for Warfield property

November 10, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The town of Sykesville and Carroll County are feuding over a 131-acre property that neither owns.

Both sides agree the South Carroll site is ripe for industrial and commercial development. Where the town sees a satellite college campus, offices, shops and homes in renovated buildings, county officials want a concert venue similar to Merriweather Post in Columbia or Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge in Bristow, Va.

At issue is the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center, the site of 15 aging, unused buildings and land that sprawls along Route 32, a two-lane highway the county envisions as its major access to Interstates 70 and 95.

The state is expected to soon declare Warfield surplus and make it available to the county, the town or private business.

Constructing a concert pavilion, concessions and parking for thousands would probably mean demolishing many of Warfield's century-old buildings, a possibility that has raised the ire of Louis L. Goldstein, state comptroller, and Richard N. Dixon, state treasurer and former Carroll County delegate.

The two, along with the governor, make up the state Board of Public Works, the final authority on the disposition of state property.

Goldstein has visited Springfield several times, most recently last month at the dedication of the Martin Gross Complex, another group of aging buildings that the state is renovating into a police training facility.

"I have fought long and hard for those buildings," said Goldstein. "They were built like fortresses."

Goldstein said he will go to Sykesville this month to meet with Mayor Jonathan S. Herman, a restoration contractor who shares the comptroller's respect for the buildings.

Treasurer Dixon, reached on vacation in California, said: "I share the view of the comptroller. It is in the state's best interest to preserve those buildings."

Neither official had heard of plans for a concert pavilion, and both declined to comment on the subject until they had more information.

Since January, the state has conducted tours and forums at Springfield with community and business leaders, trying to determine what the private sector could accomplish with Warfield.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown has mentioned the possibility a concert venue to Herman several times, the mayor said.

"That would be the worst and lowest use for the site," said Herman.

Rumors about a county plan for a concert pavilion have surfaced in recent months, Herman said, but county officials have "gone tight-lipped on me now."

Brown said that Cellar Door Productions, a concert promoter that built the Nissan Pavilion in Northern Virginia, is looking at several sites, including the Warfield property.

"We have been told they may be interested in the Springfield location," said Brown. "If the state is willing to improve Route 32, making it four lanes to [Interstate] 70, we could support it. Without improvements, there is no way [Route] 32 could handle the volume of traffic.

"If the state wants [a concert pavilion] there and is willing to put the money into road improvements, it will happen," he said.

Elizabeth Barnard, director of the Office of Planning and Capital Financing for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Jack Lyburn, the county director of economic development, has mentioned the concert venue idea to her several times. She has "no idea if that concept is compatible and acceptable to the surrounding community," she said.

Lyburn declined to comment.

Sykesville officials have developed a plan to annex the Warfield site, a proposal in which the town outlines how it would extend its historic Main Street across Route 32 and onto the Warfield property. Herman has also contacted administrators at Carroll Community College to gauge interest in a satellite campus, and he said their response was positive.

With help from the architectural firm that cre- ated the Kentlands community in Montgomery County, the town would like to hold a charrette -- an intensive planning session with officials, residents and business professionals early next year.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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