A committee evaluating the county's zoning laws recommends creating an "industrial campus" district that could make Carroll more competitive in attracting businesses, Carroll's economic development director said.
The zone -- which would allow a mix of manufacturing, offices, research and development, commercial and service operations -- would allow Carroll to better compete with surrounding jurisdictions that have similar business park districts, Economic and Community Development Director James C. Threatte said.
The city of Westminster is the only Carroll jurisdiction with zoning that permits business park-type developments, he said.
The 11-member Zoning Ordinance Oversight Committee, made up of directors from several county government agencies, recently released a report recommending some proposals and technical refinements urged by a previous zoning study group.
Evaluation of the zoning regulations has been a slow process. In 1985 a committee was appointed by a Board of County Commissioners now twice removed. The oversight committee was created two years ago to follow up on that initial work.
The new panel plans to conduct a workshop with the County Planning and Zoning Commission, and possibly the new commissioners, next month to introduce and discuss recommended zoning changes.
The committee recommends further study on several zoning innovations, including a "transfer of development rights" program, which would shift development from rural areas to growth centers; higher density residential zones; protection zones to safeguard special features or resources; and a residence-office district for existing residential areas more suited for other uses.
The previous zoning review panel made "philosophical statements but not a lot of concrete recommendations," said Solveig Smith, county zoning administrator and chairman of the new committee. "Our charge is to present suggestions to the commissioners and implement those changes that are valuable."
Carroll zoning allows a district for light industrial use, mainly processing and assembly, and another for heavier manufacturing. Commercial uses are allowed only as an exception in those districts. Threatte said county zoning must be more flexible to attract a variety of businesses that offer higher-salaried professional jobs, as well as blue-collar opportunities.
"We've looked at our competition in Howard and Baltimore counties," he said. "We need to establish a zone so we can attract park developers rather than users who buy land and sell off lots."
The industrial campus would be developed based on a comprehensive plan for the whole park, rather than one building or one lot at a time, Threatte said. He said park developments typically maintain higher property values and encourage more investment than traditional industrial settings.
Business centers would boost the county's industrial tax base, he said.
An industrial campus district would be more flexible in meeting market demands because it would allow a variety of business uses, Threatte said. It also could allow for such amenities as recreation areas, golf courses, ponds and day-care centers and other services for the workers, he said.
A business park's jobs could help reduce Carroll's job commuting rate, expected to near 60 percent in the next decade, said Threatte, who has advocated the need to create jobs in conjunction with residential developments.
"We're putting too much burden on residential taxpayers," he said.
However, the county's relative lack of major highways and limited water and sewer systems remain obstacles to industrial development, he said.
Planner Gregg Horner said he has designed an ordinance, to be presented to the oversight committee, setting regulations for an industrial campus district.