State officials are about to give Sykesville a 131-acre tract and 14 century-old brick buildings at Springfield Hospital Center, according to state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.
The state's Board of Public Works will vote tomorrow. Dixon said the three-member panel has reviewed the town's proposal, submitted in April, and is expected to approve it. Dixon, a former Carroll County delegate, serves on the board with the governor and the state comptroller.
"It is a done deal," Dixon said after a preliminary briefing yesterday. "When projects involve Carroll County, the other board members defer to me."
In what officials have called an unprecedented action, the town of 3,500 residents will annex the Warfield Complex at the hospital and renovate the asbestos-laden buildings into a corporate and commercial center.
"This is the best way to expeditiously get the property into town hands," Dixon said. "The town will annex the entire complex. The state will transfer the title at a later point in time."
Sykesville officials said they are optimistic the project will be approved, but refused comment until after the board votes.
A spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the governor won't comment on the proposal until it comes before the board tomorrow.
Nearly two years ago, the state announced plans to declare Warfield surplus, an action it took in March.
Officials held public hearings and conducted tours of the buildings, most of which are vacant, but found no interest from the private sector. Both the town and Carroll County submitted bids to the state, although officials said the town's offer was more detailed than a $35,000 consultant's study the county used in its proposal.
Four months ago, Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown cited high costs and rescinded the county's bid for the property, which he once touted as a golden opportunity for industrial development in South Carroll.
Buoyed by support from state officials, Sykesville presented "as bold and aggressive a plan as possible," Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said of the proposal, which called for town ownership of the buildings -- a savings of about $700,000 in heating costs alone for the state.
The proposal outlined a state and town partnership to promote economic development during the renovation, which could take 15 years. The state would share profits from the sale of subdivided lots, once the town developed the site.
The town will organize a planning session with community and business leaders and hire a marketing director for Warfield, Herman said, when the town submitted its plan. Sykesville is now involved in an extensive revitalization of its Main Street and has incorporated Warfield into its plan.
The Sykesville proposal fits well with the governor's smart growth initiative, which directs development to municipalities. Annexation will also give 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.
In making his decision, Dixon met several times with town officials and said he relied heavily on a recommendation from Gene R. Lynch, secretary of the state Department of General Services.
"It was not my place to get in between the town and the county," Dixon said. "I decided I would back Lynch's decision."
Pub Date: 12/16/97