Unveiling of Warfield plan is near State to recommend renovation, creation of industrial park

Focus is on job creation

County hoping for economic boon to southern section

March 23, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Maryland officials will unveil a plan tomorrow that recommends renovating most of the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center and creating an industrial campus on the 131-acre property.

Legg Mason Realty Group in Baltimore has worked on the plan for several months as it has developed possible uses for the state-owned site along Route 32 in Sykesville.

"Legg Mason talked to citizens and about 50 groups in preparing this study," said Jack Lyburn, the county's director of economic development. "We think we know what citizens want. Our main focus is to create jobs."

Carroll County is hoping to convert what it calls a prime industrial property into an economic boon for the southern part of the county.

"It is a great mixed-use site," Lyburn said. "We would like it to look like Hunt Valley, with manufacturing and biotech companies."

Lyburn guarded the details of the study but said it recommends renovating Warfield's historic buildings. The report provides cost estimates for the work on the century-old buildings, in what Lyburn called "a 20-year project."

The one exception would be the Lane Building, a one-story structure built in 1954. It has long been vacant, has no historic value and is considered unusable, Lyburn said.

Because the presence of wetlands would prevent construction on much of the Warfield property,"there is not a lot of usable

land," Lyburn said. "There are only about 30 usable acres on this property, and Lane is on a prime piece."

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman had suggested using Lane for an elementary school, but Lyburn called a school inappropriate if the site is to be developed for industrial uses.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioned the study, the cost of which has been put at $40,000, to determine the site's development potential and gauge the interest of prospective users.

Legg Mason has found a few prospective tenants for the buildings, and Lyburn said he will discuss those prospects in a closed session with county officials tomorrow before the public meeting.

The state expects to declare Warfield surplus and make its land and 15 aging buildings available to the county or to a private investor.

More than a year ago, Sykesville developed an annexation proposal for the property. Herman has discussed it with state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein. Both officials, who with the governor will make the final decision on the disposition of Warfield, were receptive to the mayor's plan.

"Once Warfield is deemed surplus, the county will have the first right of refusal," Lyburn said at a meeting with the Freedom Area Community Planning Council last week. "The town was never in the pecking order, although we agree, whatever goes on the site, it is important to complement the town."

The consultant considered the town's concept in preparing the report.

"It has [Herman's] footprints all over it," Lyburn said.

Herman said he never saw the town's role as adversarial.

"My goal is to work together," the mayor said. "We will get a lot more accomplished that way."

Lyburn assured members of the Freedom group that the county is committed to keeping the hospital open and making Warfield a viable industrial site.

He also said no plan exists to build a concert arena on the `D property.

Dave Williams, owner of Cellar Door Productions, a Virginia-based concert promoter, had called Warfield a good site for an enterprise similar to the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va.

"Cellar Door is looking in the county, and we want them here," said Lyburn. "But they won't come to South Carroll. It was never a deal for Warfield."

Unless two-lane Route 32 was widened, managing the traffic generated by a 15,000-seat arena would be difficult.

"Legg Mason has found uses that Route 32 could accommodate," Lyburn said.

Warfield would become the second chunk of hospital property adapted for other uses.

Last fall, renovation began at the Martin Gross Complex, which will become part of a $46 million state police training center.

County officials hope the new options for the 101-year-old hospital will persuade the state to keep it open.

By 2000, the state plans to close one of three regional hospitals for the mentally ill -- Crownsville, Spring Grove or Springfield.

Losing about 800 jobs at one of Carroll County's largest employers would be disastrous, Lyburn said.

"Our major goal has always been to keep Springfield open," Lyburn said.

He added, "Imagine what the cost of losing 800 jobs would be."

Legg Mason representatives will discuss the Warfield Complex proposal during a public meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the cafeteria building at Springfield. For additional information, phone 857-2039.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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