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Gatehouse lease up for comment Sykesville may get visitors center SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber


For the next three weeks, Sykesville residents will have the chance to sound off on the town's proposed lease of the Gatehouse, Cottage 15 at Springfield Hospital Center.

The five members of the Historic Preservation Commission are conducting a telephone survey of registered voters.

State officials have offered to lease the two-story building to the town for $1 a year. The Historic Commission would like to accept the offer, renovate the 100-year-old structure and make it handicapped-accessible.

"This is a great building with good bones," said Rebecca Herman, the commission's chairwoman. "The location would make it an ideal visitors center."

Commission members also envision the building as a museum for their collection of town memorabilia and a meeting place.

"This building would not just be a museum for our historical collection," said Councilwoman Julie A. Kaus. "The town could use it for meetings and other events."

The state-owned building faces Millard Cooper Park at the northeast corner of town. Councilman Jonathan Herman said that the Gatehouse would "complement the park and be a new focal point for the town."

The "unscientific survey" can help the commission "find out what people are thinking," she said.

Ms. Herman has written to the Town Council asking for support.

Councilman Kenneth W. Clark said that he would consider placing the proposal on the May 4 ballot to "capture public opinion."

Town Attorney Dennis J. Hoover advised council members to review the lease carefully.

"It would be nice to have a $1 building, but can we afford it?" he said. "The rental is low, but we are undertaking maintenance and insurance responsibilities."

Before returning the lease to the state, Mr. Hoover compiled 10 pages of amendments, including one that would give Sykesville the right to terminate the agreement at any time. The council approved those additions last month.

"We have heard the state's assistant attorney is willing to accept the terms of the lease," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "County inspectors have toured the building and said it only needs minor changes to meet handicap requirements."

Council members said that they want the commission to assume the daily responsibility and pay for a final inspection of the building. The town would provide minimum liability and fire insurance at a cost of about $2,000 annually, Mr. Schumacher said.

Ms. Herman said the commission could start a campaign to pay for Gatehouse repairs as it did to raise about $30,000 to renovate the town's train station about three years ago.

"We are hoping we won't need nearly that much, because this building is in a lot better shape," she said. "There also are a lot more grants available now for historic buildings."

The commission will pay for a final inspection and review the lease at its March 23 meeting. Some survey results should also be available, Ms. Herman said.

Ms. Herman expects it will take "at least a year" from the time work begins until the house is open to the public.

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