Finalization of Sykesville's Master Plan concerning the Warfield Complex set for end of year

The Town of Sykesville could be celebrating the sale of the Warfield Complex by Christmas.

The finalization of the Sykesville Master Plan and the accompanying zoning ordinance has been scheduled for early December. Once plans are finalized, the next step is the completion of the purchase of the property by the Warfield Collaborative, said Roger Conley, managing member of the group of local investors and business people.


"Because [the complex] is part of the town, they [decide] what activities and businesses will go on there," Conley said. "That requires this planning and zoning process; it's standard for municipalities in this type of procedure."

The reason the plan and ordinance must be finalized before the sale can be completed is to ensure the collaborative is able to use the property for their intended purposes, Conley said.

"We don't want to buy the property if we can't use it for what we want to use it for," Conley said.

To facilitate the finalization process, the town council hired Morris & Ritchie Associates, Inc., a company that provides architectural, engineering and planning services, to update the existing master plan. Sean Davis, a principal at the company, outlined his suggested changes at the most recent town council meeting Aug.11.

The updates include three fundamental steps, he said. The language of the master plan needs to be adjusted for clarity and to add description of residential uses. In the master plan, the complex has a mixed-use designation, which includes both residential and employment purposes; yet, at certain points the site is referred to as an employment campus, which implies employment is its only use.

Secondly, he suggested updating the existing comprehensive plan — which is comprised of the first three chapters of the master plan — for consistency with the remainder of the plan, and finally, to comb through the rest of the document's text and exhibits to validate references to the complex.

"Fundamentally, it's a very well-written master plan and embraces the unique nature of Sykesville," Davis said at the meeting.

Davis also discussed changes to the upcoming meeting schedule of the Sykesville Planning Commission. To expedite the approval of both the master plan and zoning ordinance, he and the commission have added three additional meetings during which both documents can be reviewed and approved without infringing on other town business.


"We didn't want to consume the regular planning commission meetings so we wanted to plan these separately," Davis said.

The first additional meeting takes place Tuesday, Aug. 19, so that the amendments to the master plan can be reviewed by the commission. A vote for approval will take place during the commission's regular scheduled meeting Sept. 2.

The next two meetings, Sept. 16 and Oct. 20, will concern the zoning ordinance. The master plan lays out the vision of the town, while the ordinance divides the town into various zoning districts to help achieve these visions, Davis said.

"There will be a lot of discussion regarding the zoning ordinance because there is a lot of detail, whereas the master plan is simplified," he said.

Before the commission approves the ordinance, a public hearing will take place Oct. 6 so that any comments and suggestions that could affect the document can be addressed, said Town Manager Dawn Ashbacher. A second public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4, during the planning commission's regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The vote to approve the ordinance will happen immediately after the hearing.

It will then go to the town council, which will hold a public hearing Nov. 24.


"[The amended schedule] is designed to keep it on a reasonable time frame, and at the same time we need to allow the public to have their comments to maybe incorporate those suggestions into the final draft," Mayor Ian Shaw said. "If the comments come to the council [first], then they have to send [the documents] back to the planning commission."

Even with the approval of the commission, Davis said, the final sale of the complex to the Collaborative cannot take place until both documents are also approved by the council.

"[The planning commission] is a recommending body but not final authority," he said.

Ashbacher said the council could vote to approve the master plan as early as Nov. 10, but it is more likely the council will vote on both items Nov. 24 after the hearing. If the council and mayor would like a chance to deliberate suggestions made at the final hearing, they can postpone the vote until the following council meeting Dec. 8.

Since the agreement to sell the Warfield Complex was signed in April, the Collaborative has proceeded with clean-up and preparation of three of the site's buildings, which included the disposal of any harmful chemicals, debris and accepting estimates on roofing costs to prepare for stabilization.

They are also talking to prospective users of these buildings, Conley said.

"These conversations are open-ended, and parties don't like to be identified, but there is definite interest in these properties," he said.

Shaw said he isn't at all surprised in the interest the complex has piqued.

The Collaborative, he said, has done a fantastic job marketing the site to the right people. It has direct access to Md. 32 and Interstate 70, will have many supporting services, including businesses, restaurants and medical facilities, and combined with the setting, it could be a wonderful example of how projects like this can be done.

"You can live there, work there and play there, and people are starting to see it's something special," Shaw said.

The preliminary concept plan proposed by the collaborative is a mixed-use development, including a maximum of 125 residential units, a minimum 300,000 square feet of commercial or professional space, and a maximum of 100,000 square feet for retail use.

If the finalization of the master plan and zoning ordinance go according to schedule, the Collaborative could have ownership of the property by the end of the year, Conley said.

"[The purchase] could be the end of the year or the first part of the next year," he said.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go:

Public Hearing Oct. 6, Sykesville Town Hall, 7547 Main St., Sykesville.

Public Hearing Nov. 4, Sykesville Town Hall, 7547 Main St., Sykesville.

Final Public Hearing Nov. 24, Sykesville Town Hall, 7547 Main St., Sykesville.