Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw explained at both meetings that since the town purchased the 1.4-acre, 9,800-square-foot site in 2016 a few options for development have come up — including businesses, extra parking spaces for Sykesville’s growing downtown establishments, municipal operations and a brewery for 1623 Brewing Co.
“Economic development and parking are kind of the main goals here,” Shaw said Monday, “and of course it all relates to pricing, the crafting of the [request for proposal] and any subsequent proposals that come in — to hopefully get as much feedback as possible.”
Ideas suggested have included moving Carroll County Dance Center from its present location at Warfield at Historic Sykesville back to the Main Street area, adding more of the small businesses for which Sykesville has become known, a fitness center, more parking for a growing downtown, or a business that promotes arts and culture.
As at the last meeting, three rooms in the Town House were opened for the crowd, and many of the comments were in support of the dance center moving into the open space.
“I’d prefer to see downtown Sykesville stay the way it is, and offer the building to a more cultural [use],” said local resident John Shook. “We already have four places to get alcohol, but we have no place for a dance center, arts center — any place for that kind of thing to go on. That’s the direction I would prefer to see Sykesville go.”
Planning Commission member Jeremiah Schofield also spoke in support of Carroll County Dance Center on Monday. At the last hearing on Jan. 14, his wife, Joanne, talked about their daughter who lives with ADHD, autism, junior fibromyalgia, various learning disabilities and schizophrenia.
“I'm concerned with the direction of the town,” Joanne Schofield said at the last hearing. “A lot of people have said we have a lot of places to drink; we don't have a lot of places for the kids, we don’t have a lot for the arts. But how much do we have for adults or children to get [physically] active?
“Much of the time you have to go to Eldersburg or Westminster,” she said. “So let’s keep [Carroll County Dance Center] in our town for us to use. … My daughter, Phoenix, she’s really beautiful, but she also has a lot of disabilities, and she currently has to go to a special school where she has a one-on-one help. … She will never be able to drive.”
Jeremiah Schofield echoed his wife’s sentiments at this week’s hearing, reading a letter from his daughter to the town: “To Town Government,” he read. “I go to Carroll County Dance Center. It’s a very special place for me and everyone who goes there. It’s especially for me since it's so close to me and the people there are my second family.”
Phoenix Schofield explained she can currently walk there if her parents cannot drive her, and that although the decision for the building on Sandosky Road will ultimately be decided by “dollars and cents,” he hopes the town considers the importance of Carroll County Dance Center to Sykesville residents.
Another resident, Michael Wittig, proposed setting up a trolley that could solve the parking issue downtown by taking visitors to Warfield at Historic Sykesville down to Main Street.
He said that alleviating the parking concerns would allow the town to make sure the best decision is made for the space.
“People [can] park there and a train makes it easy for them to just get on a loop and travel downtown,” Wittig said. “Now you're leveraging the benefits of the new development over there as well as downtown if you have additional resources. … It may change your perspective here. Parking may not be the foremost concern, and then you can think, ‘OK, what’s the best thing for this location?’ ”
Two former town officials who played a role in the Warfield development also came to speak at the hearing: former Sykesville Mayor and Planning Commission Chairman Jonathan Herman, and former council member Mark Rychwalski.
“What is the best, walkable, livable town?” asked Herman. “Sykesville may be the coolest town, but I think it can be a great town, and I think we need to look a little bit beyond one property.”
He said one way to continue the town’s success in economic growth is to increase its density. He compared it to Sarasota, Florida.
“Every store on Main Street was drop-dead gorgeous,” he said. “I was like: How in the world do these people get amazing restaurants and stores and everything? And then I glanced over and there were massive buildings. It clicked: Sykesville needs more people.”
Rychwalski said he wasn’t opposed to the idea of a brewery, as long as it is consistent with the retail use.
“I would propose the town focus on retail development,” Rychwalski said. “And I think that we need to be patient; it’s a little different from the Warfield project because it’s right here on Main Street.
“If there’s a mistake, it can really do damage to Main Street.”
The owner of Market Tavern, Jennifer Truby, also said she wanted to go on the record supporting a new brewery or alcohol-serving establishment.
“For restaurants, we all feed off of each other,” Truby said at the hearing. “I would be very in favor of a brewery or distillery, or something.
“As I always say: A rising tide floats all boats,” she said. “We are all in this together.”
Town Clerk Kerry Chaney read multiple other comments that were submitted and told the crowd the two public hearings are available to view on the Town of Sykesville Facebook page, and additional public comment will be accepted via email at email@example.com.