Springfield's future An affair of state: Who gets Warfield complex, and what goes there, is up to Maryland.

December 09, 1996

IN THE ANIMATED discussions of possibilities for future use of the vacant Warfield complex at Springfield Hospital Center, there is one thing to remember: The state owns the property and will decide who gets the surplus land and for what purpose.

If state officials don't want to see the century-old brick buildings torn down to accommodate development, they will not allow it.

If they believe the state should widen Route 32 to improve access to the site, and influence development, they will do so.

If they want the adjacent town of Sykesville or Carroll County to annex the property on the mental hospital campus, that is their choice.

That is what is different about the debate over use of this 131-acre parcel. It is not a matter of zoning and master plan and infrastructure, the things that a private owner must deal with. The state can virtually call its own shot (within reason and law) and can (if it chooses) build what roads and facilities are needed to advance the selected use.

But the decision is more important for Carroll County than for the state. So it is up to local authorities to present the best, fully developed plans for use of the property right now. No one has "dibs" on the land.

The state has to weigh the potential benefits of plans on the region, and on state tenants of the campus: the police training center and the hospital. If the state hospital is to be closed in the next few years -- a distinct possibility -- that would greatly affect Warfield's development. If the state will pay to widen Route 32 to four lanes, that will also have a major impact.

If the hospital remains open and Route 32 is unchanged, the idea of a large outdoor concert arena seems inappropriate. Traffic congestion would be too great, the noise too disruptive. There's a further obstacle: Two of the three members of the state Board of Public Works oppose demolition of the existing buildings, which would be needed to build the arena.

While the concert arena could generate millions in tax dollars and a lot of publicity for South Carroll, the idea faces more hurdles than Sykesville's proposal to develop offices, shops, homes and a college satellite campus. But the state must thoroughly analyze the competing proposals, and know its own future plans, before turning over the deed to the property.

Pub Date: 12/09/96

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