Concert venue plan leads to disharmony Carroll, Sykesville clash over 131-acre site

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 as surplus and make it available to the county, the town or private business.

Constructing a concert pavilion, concessions and parking for thousands of people 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.

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 meet this month with Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman, a restoration contractor who shares the comptroller's respect for the buildings.

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 has heard of plans for a concert pavilion, and both declined to comment 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," he said.

Brown said 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," Brown said. "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 improve- ments, it will happen," said Brown.

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 to her several times, and as recently as last week.

However, she said she had "no idea if that concept is compatible and acceptable to the surrounding community."

Lyburn declined to comment Friday.

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 a nationally known architectural firm that created the Kentlands community in Montgomery County, the town would like to hold a charette -- an intensive planning session with officials, residents and business professionals early next year.

"It is a really benevolent idea for a blown-out planning session," said Herman. "If nobody goes with it, there is nothing lost."

Brown has said the town is putting the cart before the horse, and he wants Sykesville to wait to see the county plan, a proposal that has not been made public.

"The state asked the county for a plan two years ago," said Herman. "Where is it?"

At a meeting with South Carroll business leaders last month, Brown said the county would "gain control" of the Warfield site within 60 days. He said Friday that he is still hoping for that timetable, but "really has no idea when the state will make up its mind."

State officials say that 60 days is possible, but improbable.

"The property has not been excessed yet and there are procedures we must go through," said Steve Cassard, assistant secretary of the state Real Estate Department. "We are not putting the property up for grabs yet."

Bill Carroll, manager of planning and project review for the state HTC Office of Planning, said he is "not even close to excessing the Warfield property."

The process would take at least 60 days and "nothing is moving yet," he said. Any effort to find a buyer for the property is premature, Carroll said.

"I know there is a lot of interest and concern, but you cannot negotiate with a user over something you do not own," said Carroll.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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