Some Sykesville residents want Warfield referendum Town council approved annexation of complex

October 22, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A few property owners in Sykesville are trying to stall the annexation of the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center by petitioning for a referendum.

For nearly three years, the town of 3,500 has worked to annex the state-owned property -- 131 acres and 15 vacant, historic buildings along Route 32.

"I am concerned with getting an issue of this magnitude voted on by taxpayers," said Betty Lea Duncan, who owns property on Central Avenue but lives outside the town limits. "This should not be decided by six council members and the mayor."

Petitions signed by 20 percent of the town's 1,770 registered voters would force the issue to referendum. If the petition drive succeeds, the council could schedule the vote immediately or wait until the municipal election in May.

"Too many choices are taken away from us," Duncan said. "Whether people take advantage of this opportunity and sign and then vote, who knows? But, the choice must be there."

Duncan said she has received the support of several town property owners and is confident she can collect the required signatures. She plans a door-to-door campaign.

"Many of those supporting this effort are absentee landlords and will not be eligible to sign the petition," said town manager Matthew H. Candland.

The town has printed a brochure detailing its plans for developing Warfield, a project that will probably take 20 years. Residents will receive the information by mail.

The brochure will detail the history of the annexation petition, which began when the state declared Warfield surplus nearly two years ago, and describe the town's vision for the property.

In December, the state approved the town proposal to restore the buildings and develop Warfield as a business and industrial complex. The Town Council unanimously approved the annexation Sept. 28.

Throughout the process, the town has given residents opportunities to comment at public hearings and, in April, at a weeklong planning session funded by the state. The plan calls for development of the property in partnership with the state.

"We could not have been more public or more open about this plan," said Mayor Jonathan Herman. "This [opposition] group has an agenda that has nothing to do with Warfield. These are the same people who, if offered a cure for cancer, would reject it as too costly."

About 20 people met Tuesday to plan the petition strategy, said Duncan, who paid $35 for a list of registered voters.

"Any person with common sense knows it is costly to renovate historic buildings, no matter who pays," Duncan said. "You have to be worried about future outlay whether it's now or five or 20 years from now."

Herman has said repeatedly that the Warfield project will not burden town taxpayers, who pay 77 cents per $100 of assessed value in property taxes. Sykesville is fiscally sound and has reduced its tax rate four times in the past five years, the mayor said.

State grants and money from private development will finance the restoration. The Glendening administration has pledged support, both financially and from its planners.

"The state loves this project and is a willing partner," Herman said. "Sykesville is moving forward with it. I have to continue doing what is right for the town."

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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