Carroll County Times

Development of Warfield causes trepidation among Main Street business owners

In recent years, the revitalization of Sykesville Main Street has brought economic growth and connectivity between visitors and the businesses that serve them. However, many business and property owners in the historic downtown area are concerned that the development of the Warfield Complex could hinder growth.

The Town of Sykesville has signed an agreement with the Warfield Collaborative, a collection of local investors and business people, to sell the property. The complex consists of 15 historic buildings which date back to between 1900 and 1929.


Currently, the Sykesville Master Plan and zoning ordinance are being discussed by the town's Planning Commission. The preliminary concept proposed by the collaborative calls for a maximum of 125 residential units, a minimum 300,000-square feet of business or professional space and a maximum of 100,000-square feet for retail use.

During a public workshop at Sykesville's Town Hall Sept. 2, residents and business owners met with Town Manager Dawn Ashbacher and Sean Davis, a representative of Morris & Ritchie Associates Inc., the company hired to update the Master Plan and zoning ordinance. The part of the plan that concerns business and property owners is what sort of tenants will occupy the retail space.


Fred Gossage, an owner of several properties along Main Street, said he was most concerned with the potential for the Warfield Complex to take business away from the recently revitalized Main Street. Though the consultants to the collaborative include former mayor of Sykesville Jonathan Herman, Gossage said he wants to ensure the best interests of Main Street are taken into account by allowing business owners along Main Street to have a hand in selecting which tenants are allowed to occupy the Warfield Complex.

"We don't want to put a noose around [the collaborative's] neck but we need to have some control of what goes in there," Gossage said.

Ashbacher said it is highly unusual for members not associated with the purchasing group or a zoning ordinance to be so restrictive that it limits or states what exactly is allowed in a property. This doesn't mean that the collaborative won't listen to what the town government, residents and business owners have to say. What it does mean, Ashbacher said, is that any influence they may have on the Warfield Complex is difficult to determine.

"[The town] will have somewhere between zero and total control [of what is allowed in Warfield]," she said.

There is the possibility to affect several aspects of the Warfield Complex — including architecture, environmental protection and the tenants, Davis said.

Ed Cinkole, a member of the Planning Commission, said in past developmental enterprises, particularly the recent Raincliffe development, the town was able to exercise a lot of control over the architectural aspects. A condition of the public works agreement between the town and the developer was the enlargement and enhancement of the intersection at Md. 32 and Raincliffe Road. Cinkole is also a resident of Sykesville, and though he said he couldn't speak for the entire commission, he doesn't want to harm the Main Street area with the development of the Warfield Complex.

"We aren't looking for this to be harmful," Cinkole said. "I can't promise that as a business owner you won't suffer. But it's not going to be off-the-wall mainstream big business. That is not my intention at all."

Another business owner, Scott Beck, said he has no issue with expansion or competition within Sykesville. What he wants is to ensure that Main Street isn't bypassed again as it was when Md. 32 bypassed the town in the early 1960s.


"I'm all for [the Warfield Complex] as long as it's complementary, not detrimental," Beck said. "I think the developer, the planning commission and the town are in agreement about this but I want to be [part of the process] to try to make sure they do."

At the meeting Sept. 2, Councilman Leo Keenan said that synergy between Main Street and Warfield is key and has been on the forefront of the town's plans for years. Ivy Wells, Main Street Manager and director of economic development, said a tunnel was constructed years ago that runs underneath Md. 32 and connects Millard Cooper Park in Sykesville to the Warfield Complex.

"There is already a park to park connection," said Roger Conley, managing member of the collaborative. "Millard Cooper Park is at one end and Warfield is at the other and we want to continue to develop that connection."

Town Attorney Dennis Hoover said the agreement with the Warfield Collaborative is the best bet for development that will be sensitive to the concerns and needs of the community, but it is by no means guaranteed to succeed, especially if those concerns are too restrictive.

"If we are so restrictive of what can go there to eliminate competition, then the land will lose all value," Hoover said. "No developer will touch the property and Sykesville will continue to lose money due to the cost of maintaining these buildings."

Conley said the collaborative is interested in having a grocery-anchored type of shopping center. A number of other businesses would be supported by the vast office and professional space that will develop there. The complex is going to have a different flavor than Main Street, he said, and expects there to be a lot of complimentary attributes.


"We want to contribute to [Main Street's revitalization] and improve the overall growth of the economic landscape," Conley said. "We want to build on that, not retract that."

Wells said she does not believe the development of the Warfield Complex will heavily impact business along Main Street. She said the atmosphere of the complex will be totally different than Main Street. Warfield will be a stop, drop and shop type place while Main Street is a destination.

"People missed the sense of community and what Main Street's revitalization does is reconnect people and you can't get that at a strip mall," Wells said.

Conley said the development of the Warfield Complex is an attempt to create a more vibrant community and at the same time increase the revenue stream to the Town of Sykesville. He also said he wants to create dialogue with local business owners and continue to work with them throughout the entire process.

Ashbacher said as long as there is a commitment by all parties involved to make the Warfield Complex a contributing addition to the town's economic landscape, then everyone has a chance of being pleased with the results.

"In my experience, when people's hearts and minds are in the right place, and they are willing to engage in conversation during the whole process, there is a much greater likelihood the outcome will be satisfying to all parties," she said.


Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at