Mayor seeks support for Warfield site Herman pitches ideas to preserve, annex land to Md. official

Status of complex undecided

State must declare property excess before development begins

December 24, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman yesterday pitched the town's concepts for the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center to another high-ranking Maryland official.

Herman, who has met with the state treasurer and comptroller, hopes the secretary of general services, the department that would handle possible sale of the site, will join the effort to preserve the complex.

Hoping to impress decision-makers with the site's importance for South Carroll, Herman's presentation includes an annexation proposal, drafted more than a year ago. The state first mentioned it might discard the 131-acre site across Route 32 from the town of 3,000 people in November 1995.

"We want to ensure what takes place works," Herman said. "Development at Springfield will have an impact on the town, whether it is in the town or not. I think the state fully understands the town's concerns."

The best way to influence and monitor what happens at Warfield may be through annexation, Herman said. County officials have decried annexation, saying the additional tax burden would deter business development.

"Whatever happens, I want us all to work together," Herman said.

Although the hospital has little use for the 15 century-old Warfield buildings, development appears a long way off --

despite predictions from the county Office of Economic Development that the site would be available by the end of the year.

Springfield is one of three Central Maryland hospitals that the state may close by 2000, but its closure is unlikely to affect the development of the Warfield Complex.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has yet to declare hTC Warfield excess, the first step in the process to make the land available for development. The Department of General Services has not taken any proposal for the site to the Board of Public Works, which makes the final decision on disposal of state property.

"There is no time schedule and it is a lot of steps away, farther off than some think," Gene R. Lynch, secretary of the state Department of General Services, said. "The question is what the community wants and what economics work."

The state does not have to sell Warfield. It could give it to local government, "if there is sufficient economic value to the state," said Lynch. So far, Lynch has not heard any proposal that would speed the process.

Without planning, Herman fears the Springfield property will be overdeveloped like Eldersburg in a "haphazard way that did not live up to the original vision. It is important to stick with a plan and not change it for whoever comes along to develop the land."

The town is proposing a planning session with input from the community, business and political leaders. The architect who designed Kentlands in Montgomery County has offered to lead the sessions.

"Springfield is an important piece of the puzzle for South Carroll," Herman said. "This is not just a question of just putting something on a piece of property."

While the county has not been receptive to the planning session, calling it premature, Herman has found allies in two of the three state public works board members.

Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein want to preserve the Warfield buildings. Both officials have said they support the planning session.

Lynch is reserving comment on preservation, which he said is desirable but not always the driving economic factor.

The mayor, a self-employed restoration contractor, envisions shops, a satellite campus, light industry and maybe residences at Warfield.

Nearly a year ago, the state organized forums and tours at what many have called a challenging site for reasons including road and wetland considerations.

About a month ago, the county initiated a marketing study, which Lynch compared to an appraisal.

"There have been many conversations about this site, but not many answers," Lynch said. "Opinions don't sell a site. What people like and what the market wants are not necessarily the same. Ultimately, the market is the real test."

At the meeting in town yesterday, the mayor again proposed a planning session to Lynch and Steve Cassard, assistant secretary for real estate.

"We reached no conclusion, but anytime someone talks about logical, concerted development, it makes good sense," Lynch said. "Herman is a good, sensible man, who knows a lot about construction. He is for well-thought-out development that speaks the surrounding community."

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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