The Maryland Board of Public Works voted 2-1 on Wednesday to declare the majority of the Crownsville Hospital Center campus surplus property, perhaps clearing the way for Anne Arundel County to obtain the land.
Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, who was sitting in for Gov. Larry Hogan, and State Treasurer Dereck Davis voted in favor of the move. Comptroller Peter Franchot was opposed.
The property is managed by the Maryland Department of Health. Webster Ye, assistant secretary for health policy, told the board that, after a review, the department found no need to retain the property. The hospital was established in 1911; operations there ended in 2004.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said his plans for Crownsville Hospital Center include turning it into a nonprofit incubator, with housing for veterans and health and wellness programs.
Franchot said he thought the issue needed further study and that he wasn’t prepared to sell the property to the county for a dollar.
“It could have a lot of state uses,” Franchot said. “Unbelievably valuable land for a dollar?”
Lobbyist Bruce Bereano voiced concerns over what the vote could mean for facilities such as Gaudenzia and Hope House Treatment Center — both currently located on Crownsville Hospital Center property.
“You all know, respectfully, as elected officials in various capacities, the difficulty of locating these critically important facilities in places, but it’s always been a comfortable area in Crownsville,” Bereano said. “Our only protection is the fact that the state still owns it.”
Rutherford argued the property is in poor condition and said if the county is willing to take on the property and its challenges, the state should allow it to do so.
“I can tell you how much crap is in the land there,” Rutherford said, pointing specifically to asbestos in underground steam pipes. “Finally we’re getting to the point where there’s a county executive that is willing to take that property.”
Rutherford added that for several years various county executives and governors have struggled with what to do with the property.
“The best form of government, the most responsive government is the one that’s closest to the people and that’s the county and the local government,” Rutherford said.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Bereano responded that this is a volatile time, with a county executive election coming this year. He added that he would hate to see the property be used for something the community is against — as happened when there was discussion of using the campus for a lacrosse stadium.
“Someone is going to be sworn in in December of this year as county executive. I don’t know who that person is going to be or what their thoughts and ideas are going to be on this,” Bereano said. “We’re just asking for guarantees and assurances and limitations that whether it’s Anne Arundel County or whoever else uses the property, it’s not going to be a lacrosse stadium.”
The portion of the hospital property that was voted on Wednesday includes about 459 acres. The State Highway Administration, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System and Maryland Public Television have requested the remainder of the 544-acre campus, 85 acres, be retained by the state for their purposes.
Before the vote, the property went through the state clearinghouse process, which allows other government agencies to review the property and decide if they had a need for it. None did.
For decades — from its founding in 1911 to the 1960s — the now-shuttered Crownsville Hospital Center offered substandard care to poor, sick, Black Marylanders, according to historians, advocates and state officials. Staff forced psychiatric patients to work the land as farmers and manual laborers in order to manage their illnesses.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated health facilities Pascal Crisis Stabilization Center and Chrysalis House were on the Crownsville Hospital Center property. The Capital Gazette regrets the error.