Warfield Complex declared surplus State clears way for development of 131-acre site

March 25, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Maryland health officials have declared as surplus the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center, and a study released yesterday urged the county to take over the property.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's decision is the first step toward making the property available for lease or sale. Health officials have spent a year trying to define uses for 14 aging buildings on the 131-acre site and have conducted forums, tours and commissioned a $40,000 study.

The study, by Legg Mason Realty Group of Baltimore, urged the county "to get involved with the state's blessing" at the site on Route 32 outside Sykesville, said Commissioner Richard T. Yates.

Officials met privately with the County Commissioners yesterday before making the study public.

"If the state deeds Warfield to us, we are not going to just let the property sit there," Yates said. "We want to get it back on the tax rolls. The gist of the report is that Warfield is too big for any private developer to handle."

The study gives the county and the state "an expert assessment for developing Warfield," said Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown.

"The site lends itself for a wide variety of possibilities, but there are several major challenges," he said.

Those challenges include costly improvements to infrastructure and asbestos removal. The commissioners would like to see a campus zone on the property with light manufacturing and professional offices.

"I am confident that by working together with the state, we can develop an industrial campus on the site within five years," Brown said. "This is a doable project, and the state stands ready to give us assistance. The state wants it to succeed."

The study recommends preserving nearly all of the 100-year-old buildings. It defined five buildings as usable and designated several others as marginal, said Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman, who was invited to preview the report during the closed session with the commissioners.

"They have not determined the exact number of buildings to be saved, but they want as many saved as possible," Herman said. "Any plan we submit to the state must show we made the best effort to save the buildings."

The state Board of Public Works -- a three-member panel that includes the governor, treasurer and comptroller -- will make the final decision on Warfield. Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein have said they oppose razing the Warfield buildings. Goldstein points to the Martin Gross Complex, also on the hospital grounds, which the state is renovating into a $46 million training center for police.

Annexation possible

Although the study recommends that the county take over the Warfield site, Sykesville officials have not abandoned the possibility of annexing the property. A 1995 annexation proposal has been viewed favorably by state officials.

"If the property were part of the town, we would not be at the mercy of the county," Herman said.

The mayor said he is encouraged that the Legg Mason report incorporated many of the town's ideas.

"I hope they were not just placating the town," Herman said. "At least, it seems we are being heard. They have put forth a good, acceptable concept plan."

The report stressed the need for architectural standards so that whatever is developed on the property complements the existing structures.

"There is an enormous need to see this project as one whole unit, not as individual pieces where each area is planned differently," Herman said. "You have to have standards and keep the entire property to those standards."

The study identified three potential users for the property: professional offices, a private school and senior-citizen housing, Herman said.

"The idea is to get the best and highest use for the buildings," said Herman, a self-employed restoration contractor. "One- and two-bedroom assisted-living units would work well in some buildings."

Long-term project

State officials cautioned that Warfield would be a long-term project which could take 20 years. The report also looked at Route 32, a two-lane highway through Carroll, which would be a prime factor in drawing users to the site.

"All the recommendations dealt with users who could fit into the two-lane scenario," Herman said.

The next step in the process will be for the county to appoint a committee with representatives from the town, the county and local business and civic leaders. The panel would review the Legg Mason report and make its recommendation to the state by the end of April.

"We would have to agree on the concept, but not specify users," Brown said.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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