Only Sykesville saw the potential in the state-owned property at Springfield Hospital Center, and yesterday the small Carroll County town won the right to plan the parcel's future.
The state Board of Public Works voted unanimously to transfer the Warfield Complex -- 15 aging buildings on 131 acres along Route 32 -- to Sykesville, a town of 3,500 residents.
Annexing the property, which the state declared surplus in March, is a natural for the town, whose Main Street continues onto the Springfield campus. The livelihood of the town and the 101-year-old hospital, the county's third-largest employer, have long been entwined.
Sykesville officials, who have lobbied the state for nearly two years, submitted a detailed proposal in April, outlining a partnership to promote economic development and an ambitious renovation for some 300,000 square feet of asbestos-laden space.
Once the town develops the site, it would share with the state the profits from the sale of subdivided lots.
"We will spend the dollars to develop and split the proceeds with the state," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman.
The mayor has been tireless in his efforts to obtain the property for the town, which he promises will be "the best steward of this property."
"Warfield is a vitally important link to the town, and the transfer insures cohesive planning for the area," Herman said. "The town has a great history of planning, unparalleled historic preservation, and it will maintain the historic details at Warfield."
Local officials will create a Warfield Advisory Committee with representatives from government, business and the community. The town will have planning and zoning authority for what is expected to be a 15-year, $20 million project and would make development at Warfield compatible with the existing neighborhood of Victorian-era homes and turn-of-the-century storefronts, the mayor said.
"Annexation will allow appropriate development and keep our Main Street vital and prosperous," Herman said.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the project fits well with his Smart Growth initiative enacted last spring.
The annexation "will not only spur economic development in South Carroll, but also will concentrate it in an existing community," he said.
The governor told his colleagues on the board how the mayor had cornered him at a convention in Ocean City last summer, pleading for time to talk about Warfield.
"The mayor feared the big box development would destroy the character of the neighborhood," Glendening said.
He commended Herman for persistence and a leadership that will create community resources from the abandoned buildings and save the state at least $700,000 in annual heating costs. He also urged the County Commissioners to cooperate with the town on the renovation.
Carroll County had earlier been a competitor for Warfield but a few months ago rescinded its offer because of high costs.
"We bowed out because of the magnitude of the project," said Commissioner Richard T. Yates. "This is a real plus for the town, if they can get the funding. I hope it will bring more business to South Carroll."
Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the county, state and town will all work together. The Warfield site is among potential industrial sites published last month by the county office of economic development.
"As far as help, we will treat Sykesville the same as other towns," Dell said. "We are not shutting them out."
John T. "Jack" Lyburn, county economic development director, said he firmly believes in Warfield's potential and has a few active prospects.
"We intend to work with Jonathan to help market this property," Lyburn said.
Pub Date: 12/18/97