The Warfield complex at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville will be available soon for private development, and state officials are asking what others would do with the property.
An open house in two weeks and a forum next month is expected to generate fresh ideas for the 120 acres and 15 vacant buildings.
"We are asking the businesses and community for alternative uses," said Steve Cassard, assistant secretary of the state Real Estate Department. "We hope to attract people who might be able to give the government advice."
Warfield was closed many years ago when there was a push to move patients into community care. When Gov. Parris N. Glendening was elected, he asked state agencies to review properties that were not being used, with the thought of making them available to the private sector.
The town of Sykesville did not wait for the site tour. It offered to annex its neighbor just across Route 32. Warfield could provide a much-needed industrial site for the town of 3,000 residents, town officials said.
Mayor Jonathan S. Herman already has tried to attract a new Sykesville post office as the first tenant. Postal officials have said they will consider Warfield in their search for a site.
"No town has ever annexed state property in Maryland," said Paula Langmead, Springfield superintendent. "The town is looking at the possibility of a corporate center and retaining the historic nature of the buildings."
If annexed, the site and what is developed on it would have the benefit of municipal services and town property taxes -- now at 83 cents per $100 of assessed value.
"We are trying to bring what is good about Sykesville to Springfield Hospital," said Councilman Michael Burgoyne. "We want to work with the county to get the most productive use for the area."
A post office, which does not pay taxes, would not be the county's first choice for Warfield, Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said.
In a meeting last week with Better Solutions for South Carroll, a community activist group, Mr. Brown said the county Office of TC Economic Development would support local efforts to develop the property, which he called "a gem as far as industrial development goes."
Eventually, Mr. Brown said, 206 hospital acres along Route 32 could become available for private. Springfield includes 586 acres and about 80 buildings, many of which are vacant.
"The county is going to be involved and exercise as much interest in the project as possible," Mr. Brown said. "We all recognize the benefit of industrial land in Carroll County. It is either higher taxes or increase the industrial base."
By using its vacant property, the hospital could strengthen its efforts to stay open, county officials said. The state has decided it must close one of its three hospitals for the mentally ill -- Springfield, Crownsville or Spring Grove -- early next year.
If the 100-year-old hospital closes, local businesses and the hospital's neighbors in Sykesville and Eldersburg would feel the repercussions for years, officials say."Springfield Hospital is a great anchor for this area," Mr. Brown said. "It has 100 years of stability and some of the newest, most modern buildings in the state hospital system."
Bill Wagner, president of the Sykesville Volunteer Fire Department, urged the community to work to keep the hospital open.
"People here are too docile," he said. "We have to support the hospital now before a closing affects our economy."
Generations of some families have worked for Springfield, which includes nearly 700 county residents among its 1,280 employees.
The hospital also purchases much of its food, clothing and supplies from area businesses.
"Springfield is the third-largest employer in Carroll County and a good neighbor to the surrounding community," Ms. Langmead said.
The state also has adapted the property for other uses. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees the hospital, recently transferred nearly 800 acres and the Martin Gross buildings at Springfield to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for a police training facility.
Most of the Warfield buildings are in better condition than those at Martin Gross, and nearly all are eligible for the Maryland Historic Register.
The complex will be open for tours by appointment Feb. 28.
"We have every intention to seek what is in the best interests of the hospital," Mr. Cassard said. "We are interested in input from the private sector for ideas on possible uses."
State officials also plan a forum at Warfield at 9 a.m. March 13. They will discuss any concerns residents might have about a possible closing of Springfield and the police training center.
To make an appointment for a site visit or to obtain an information packet on the Warfield complex, call the state Office of Planning and Capital Financing at (410) 225-6816.