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Editorial: Tough choice to make on Sykesville's Sandosky Road property

The town of Sykesville asked for community feedback on what it should do with a site it purchased on Sandosky Road back in 2016, and boy did it receive it on Monday night.

One clear statement that was made — residents don’t want the site to be used as a municipal building by town government — and two frontrunners seemed to emerge with plenty of support: 1623 Brewing Company and the Carroll County Dance Center.

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Both offer something a little different to the downtown Sykesville area, and could bring customers to the area that aren’t already coming there.

The dance center has been part of the Sykesville-Eldersburg region since 1990, when it first opened downtown, and for the past 12 years has been located at the Warfield complex. However, one of the dance center’s owners, Megan Logee, said Warfield is changing from a cultural center to “a more medical, research center, and we don't fit in there anymore.” She worried that as the business continues to grow, it may have to leave the area.

The 1623 Brewing Company, which wants to open a brewery there, has already spent money on engineering studies for existing space, which owner Mike McKelvin said needs a lot of work.

Parents whose children attend classes at the dance center said they would welcome the opportunity to patronize nearby shops while waiting for their kids to finish classes. Others said it would draw both adults and youth to downtown, since the center also offers classes for adults.

The downside, though, is that some parents are likely to drop their child off and go run errands elsewhere a majority of the time. The dance center also isn’t likely to bring people into the community who don’t already live near there, although it would bring a regular stream of mostly the same customers.

One person suggested it would be a good addition downtown to give youth something to do. But unlike say, a trampoline park or the COB51 art studio at TownMall, which offer drop-in opportunities for parents and adults, the dance center would require customers already be registered for classes. So there isn’t much appeal to someone who wants to stroll Main Street and find something fun for the kids to do on a whim.

Now, on its surface, a brewery doesn’t necessarily offer drop-in appeal with youth either, and unless the owners of 1623 wish to also set up a taproom or brewpub on premises and offer tours to bring in customers, it won’t be much of a draw for adults either. However, with the right set-up, it could become a key part of a craft beer and beverage culture in Sykesville that already includes places like Market Tavern, E.W. Beck’s, Baldwin’s Station, The Vine on Main and Patapsco Distillery.

For craft beer drinkers, it’s not unusual for them to travel to try new brews that aren’t available elsewhere, meaning a downtown brewery could add to the tourism value of Sykesville’s Main Street area. It would also fit in well with the town’s signature craft beer street festival in the fall.

A brewery could also be set up to offer family events such as picnics and lawn games during weekends or special events, as one attendee to Monday’s meeting described as her experience visiting another brewery.

Both have potential benefits and drawbacks, and while we’d hate to see a staple of the community like Carroll County Dance Center leave that area, we believe the 1623 Brewery has a better chance of growing an already vibrant Main Street in Sykesville.

If you have a strong opinion, or maybe would like to see something else make use of the space, the town will continue accepting public comment at its email town@sykesville.net and another public hearing on the subject is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Town House. Let town officials know what you want to see.

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