The site of the Wakefield Valley Golf Course, as it looked when the golf course was still in operation.
The site of the Wakefield Valley Golf Course, as it looked when the golf course was still in operation.

A dog training facility, a performing arts center, a sports complex, a day spa and even a tree farm are some of the ideas that have been floated for the City of Westminster's use of the former site of the Wakefield Valley Golf Course.

On Monday the mayor and Common Council took a step toward determining that use, voting to establish a task force that will study and recommend options for the 160-acre property.


Council President Robert Wack said task force members will play a key role in deciding the future of the property.

"They won't make the plan, but their recommendations and suggestions will be the basis for the plan," Wack said. "We need to start fielding input from the community to figure out the best way to put the property to work for the community."

The Wakefield Valley Task Force consists of 13 members chaired by Ed Cramer, who also is chairman of the city's Board of Zoning Appeals. Members include people from both public and private sectors, including Jeff Degitz, director of Carroll County's Department of Recreation and Parks, and Steve Powell, former county chief of staff and current vice president of finance for Carroll Lutheran Village.

The vote to establish the task force was 4-0, with Councilwoman Mona Becker absent.

Councilman Tony Chiavacci said county staff and council members were purposefully left off the task force in an effort to keep the development of the property community-driven. He also encouraged Mayor Kevin Utz and the rest of the common council's members to provide a sense of direction for the group.

"It would be good to give some level of input," Chiavacci said.

Utz said a meeting is planned between the task force and the council but a date has not been chosen.

Councilman Gregory Pecoraro said he was concerned the presence of county representatives on the task force could color the outcome of the long-term plan in a way that would not be to the greatest benefit of the city.

"I want to make sure this is city-driven and not by governments other than Westminster," Pecoraro said.

Wack said while he understands Pecoraro's concern, it would be impossible to complete the project without partners, both public and private.

"What we know for sure is the city won't have liquid assets to put into this, so there will have to be partners involved in this," Wack said.

The Westminster Common Council and the owner of the now-closed Wakefield Valley Golf Course entered into an agreement last July under which the city is to perform routine maintenance on the land and secure its buildings. The city will continue to maintain a 25-foot buffer zone around houses adjacent to the course and will repair bridges on the property's walking paths.

This work will be completed by the end of June, and the course will be open to the public while the legalities of the property transfer are completed, according to a news release. The buildings will remain fenced and unavailable to the public.

This agreement is part of a larger deal involving the city and the golf course's owner, Richard Kress, City Administrator Marge Wolf said. Kress is developing another property near Old Westminster Pike, known as the Stonegate development, but has been delayed due to a consent order from the Maryland Department of the Environment that limits new water allocations.


If all goes according to plan, Kress will gain access to the Golf Course property's well water, from which the MDE currently permits 85,000 gallons of water to be drawn per day, and, in return, he will donate a large part of the property to Westminster, Wolf said. Any water that Kress does not use as part of the development will be utilized by the city.

"As many people you talk to have a different idea about what should happen there," Wolf said. "We have put together the task force to get all these ideas and figure out which one or which combination makes the most sense for the city."

This larger deal between Westminster and Kress is still progressing, she said, but there is no time table for when the property will be transferred to the city's control.

The task force will issue a request for proposal and conduct an evaluation of the property and potential uses, Wolf said.

"Sooner or later we will get this property," she said. "All those legal things will be checked off on by one and the property will be donated to the city. It is time to think about what we are going to do with it."

Another issue regarding the transfer is the debt owed by the owner of the property to the state for back taxes, Wack said.

Under state law, the owner of a golf course is exempt from paying certain taxes on the property, but once the land is no longer used for that purpose, back taxes are owed, Wack said.

Fortunately, he said, this will not cost the city. The county has agreed to provide the $40,000 fee in the form of a grant to the city, which in turn will reimburse Kress once he pays the back taxes, Wolf said.