Sykesville submits plan for annexing 130 acres at Springfield hospital If the state accepts proposal, it would share in sale of subdivided lots

April 19, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The town of Sykesville has unveiled an ambitious plan for annexing 130 acres owned by the state at Springfield Hospital Center and creating a partnership with the state to market it.

Long touted for its economic development potential, the Warfield Complex was declared surplus last month. The state set yesterday as the deadline to submit proposals for the site and its 14 century-old brick buildings.

Buoyed by support from state officials, including Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, Sykesville presented "as bold and aggressive a plan as possible," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman.

If the state accepts the proposal, the town would assume ownership of the mostly vacant buildings, saving the state about $700,000 in heating costs alone.

"We can handle these buildings and truly focus all our energies on this property," Herman said.

Sykesville is seeking a partnership to promote economic development during the renovation, which could take 15 years, Herman said. The town of about 3,000 residents and the state would share profits from the sale of subdivided lots.

"We are assuming an enormous responsibility without asking for any handouts," said Herman. "We understand the mechanics of how this will work."

Carroll County also is submitting a proposal, said County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown. The concept is based on a $35,000 study by a consultant that recommended converting Warfield's buildings into a college campus, a professional office park or a senior housing center.

"It is in the state's interest to see the property developed and for the community to benefit and preserve it," Brown said. "The state will make up its own mind if Sykesville is big enough to chew the bite it wants to take."

The two proposals may be the only bids, said William G. Carroll, state manager of planning and project review.

Ronald N. Young, the state's deputy director of planning, who pushed the governor's Smart Growth initiatives through the just-completed General Assembly session, met with town officials last month and advised them on the proposal.

Young said the Sykesville proposal would fit well with Gov. Parris N. Glendening's legislative package that is designed to control suburban sprawl and direct development in and around Maryland's municipalities.

He called the town's plan "a reasonable approach that fits with the governor's initiative."

As mayor of Frederick for 16 years, Young oversaw annexation of about 10,000 acres, including Fort Detrick. "We kept growth in the city and controlled it," he said.

The proposal would give the Sykesville a much-needed industrial tax base. Also, town leaders say, Warfield would benefit from the town's proven growth management -- which stands in stark contrast to nearby Eldersburg, often cited as the worst example of suburban sprawl in the state.

"Without significant input from us, we will only have more of Eldersburg," Herman said. "If we are in control, we will make sure development is compatible with what we have."

Warfield can become a showcase for the merits of smart growth, said Matthew H. Candland, town manager.

"The town has the most at stake and has a reputation for safeguarding development," Candland said. "Whatever happens to Springfield will have an immense impact on the entire area."

Significant development of its unused buildings and property could benefit the 500-acre hospital center, which employs nearly 800 people and houses about 400 patients. For now, Springfield remains on the list of three hospitals for the mentally ill which the state is considering closing by 2000.

If its proposal succeeds, the town will organize a planning session with community and business leaders and hire a marketing director for Warfield, Herman said.

The town also delivered copies of the proposal to the county offices late yesterday, but few officials have seen it.

Commissioner Brown said a comparison of economic development history and ability should weigh heavily in the county's favor.

Pub Date: 4/19/97

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