After five days of intense discussions with engineers, architects, business leaders and residents, Sykesville is now writing the future of the Warfield Complex.
The century-old and mostly vacant buildings, once part of the Springfield Hospital Center, can bring much-needed economic development to the town and all of South Carroll.
"We took care of much of the auxiliary and peripheral items that make up the big picture," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "Many issues have come to light that guide us through the maze of the plan. By the end of the week, we should have the idea for the plan."
Sykesville won the right to plan for Warfield, its neighbor across Route 32, when the state awarded the 131-acre site to the town late last year.
Town officials appointed an advisory committee and organized the planning session, which opened Tuesday, with a boost from a $30,000 state grant. Among the organizers were traffic and civil engineers, land-use planners, historic preservationists and residents such as Mary Ann Schmidt.
"If you don't give input now, why gripe later if you don't like it?" Schmidt said. "I would like to see the town grow over to this area and have easy access."
On the last two days of the conference, participants split into three work groups.
"We have had good discussion," said Matthew H. Candland, Sykesville's town manager. "We have not all agreed, but the atmosphere has been civil and robust."
One team tackled options for using existing buildings. Those included a satellite campus and telecommuting center. A second group looked at concepts for the open space, such as nature trails and bike paths.
"We want to keep the sylvan nature of the site and provide recreational opportunities," said Barbara Lilly, town preservation project coordinator.
Before the state built Route 32, the town's Main Street flowed onto the hospital campus. Planners are concentrating on ways to restore that connection.
"This site was actually the top end of Main Street," Lilly said.
A third team addressed historic preservation of the 15 brick buildings, which date to the early part of the century. Suggestions included a community center and theater.
"There is a deep fondness from the community for these buildings," said Lilly. "People remember coming here for 5-cent movies, dances and high school graduations. We want to reconnect this area with Sykesville."
State and federal tax credits can provide as much as 45 percent of the renovation costs, Lilly said.
Fairhaven Retirement Community also participated in the sessions and discussed its own master plan, which includes a possible relocation of its corporate headquarters to property adjoining Warfield.
"We are neighbors, interested in what our neighbors are doing," said Greg Burgan, vice president and treasurer of the 400-resident community.
Burgan said the organization has looked at locations in Frederick and Baltimore counties for its headquarters, but "we really want to stay here where it all started." Plans call for a 15,000-square-foot office that would house about 40 employees.
Burgan said Fairhaven may also lease to the town some land near Cooper Park, for a nominal $1 annual fee. The site would be ideal for a swimming pool and community center, Herman said.
Herman, a self-employed restoration contractor, expects to have an initial draft of the plan ready this week. He has promised to have a final proposal to the governor by the end of June.
"This is just such a natural project to be working on," the mayor said. "It is not like a bypass that requires millions of dollars and decades of planning. We are good to go, on track and in line."
Pub Date: 4/26/98