Sykesville quietly OKs long-sought annexation of Warfield Complex Town officials seeking private development of the 139-acre site

September 29, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

With little public comment or official discussion, the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center became a part of the town of Sykesville last night.

The town formally annexed the 139 acres and 15 buildings, once part of the state hospital for the mentally ill, a project that local officials have worked on for more than three years.

"We have gone through all the hoops to get this far," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "This will be an important addition to the town."

The county commissioners notified the town yesterday that they had unanimously approved the annexation and that they had also changed the present agricultural zoning to mixed use.

"The county signed off on our plan, so we can zone Warfield in accordance with our master plan," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager.

Several county departments reviewed the request and "no adverse comments were received," the commissioners said. Public water and sewer service is already available to the site.

The state Board of Public Works awarded Warfield to the town in December, and local officials formulated an ambitious plan to renovate the century-old buildings into offices and possibly a satellite campus for Carroll Community College.

The commissioners urged the town to address highway safety and access issues as the site is developed.

"A mixed-use designation could significantly increase the amount of traffic on Route 32," the commissioners said in their letter to the town. They also recommended traffic studies once new tenants come onto the property.

A weeklong planning session at Warfield in April drew community and business leaders who helped create an initial design that included parks, bike and hiking trails, and some housing. Designers are asking for improvements to Route 32, the main access to Warfield.

Residents have 45 days to comment on the annexation before it becomes final. A petition of 20 percent of the registered voters in the town of 3,500 residents could bring the proposal to referendum.

Betty Lea Duncan, a Central Avenue resident, questioned the cost to taxpayers of developing Warfield.

"No one wants to pay any more in town taxes, especially the elderly," said Duncan.

Town residents now pay a property tax of 78 cents per $100 of assessed value, a rate the mayor does not anticipate will increase because of Warfield.

"We are looking for private development in this project," said Herman. "We view ourselves as a project manager for the site."

To date, Sykesville has spent about $55,000 on the project, some of which was offset by a $30,000 state grant.

"We see this parcel as an enormous asset, a commercial property that in the long run will help lower town taxes," said Herman. "We are looking for other state grants to fund infrastructure and highway improvements."

Pub Date: 9/29/98

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