Ben Brown's bandstand Carroll County: There are better uses of former mental hospital than a concert pavilion.

November 14, 1996

NO ONE would mistake Carroll County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown for a "Deadhead," an aging groupie of the venerable rock band, the Grateful Dead. Few would consider him the acting county executive, either.

Yet that's the impression Mr. Brown is making by his unilateral push to convert part of the Springfield Hospital Center near Sykesville to a rock concert pavilion, after the state turns over the surplus property to the county, charges his fellow commissioner, Richard Yates.

"South Carroll doesn't really need the streets clogged with old Volkswagen buses with peace signs and marijuana smoke wafting out the windows," Mr. Yates fumed. "I would wish, in the future, Mr. Brown would. . . stop acting like charter (government) is here and he has been elected county executive."

It was a full fusillade against Mr. Brown by his closest ally on the three-man board of commissioners. Commissioners Yates and Donald Dell are annoyed that Mr. Brown has single-handedly promoted the concert pavilion idea, leaving them in the dark. They are also miffed that the county's economic development office endorsed that land use, without their input.

Personal pique aside, however, there are better uses for development of the 131-acre Warfield Complex at the mental hospital center, when the state turns over the property with 15 solid, century-old brick buildings.

Sykesville officials propose shops and offices, homes and a satellite college campus for the land. That would avoid having to tear down the impressive buildings, a sentiment strongly shared by state Treasurer Richard Dixon and Comptroller Louis Goldstein, who will ultimately decide on the state turnover.

Whether the land is acquired by Sykesville or Carroll County, this type of economic development is a better bet for its future use. It will create local jobs and sustained economic activity in the area, consistent with the adjacent two-lane Route 32. A community brainstorming meeting, with ideas from the successful Kentlands community in Montgomery County, could provide elaboration of those goals.

The state is still investigating possible uses of Warfield. It is in no hurry, despite Mr. Brown's public prodding. The decision will be a vital one for South Carroll's future.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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