Baltimore County, which businessmen have cited for taking too long to approve new developments, is trying to speed up the approval process and is using a 20-acre site near White Marsh to test the accelerated procedure.
Owings Mills-based developer Larry Macks wants to start grading the site by September and begin construction on a 117,000-square-foot building before winter. If all goes as planned, the building, located just west of Belair Road and north of Putty Hill, could be occupied and open for business early next year.
That schedule would be a change from the 18-month process most developments have gone through. Mr. Macks appears to be off to a good start. Yesterday, the county's Economic Development Commission sponsored a meeting between Mr. Macks and the county agencies that will consider his project.
"We were told to make this a priority," said Adam Wasserman, deputy director of the development commission.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden has said that cutting the time it takes to get county approval for business developments can attract more new businesses and help the county's sagging economy.
"Our goal is that nobody be in the process longer than six months," Mr. Hayden said yesterday.
Mr. Macks' project is a challenge for a county bureaucracy in the process of shifting to a new approval process that will put so-called high profile commercial projects on a fast-track system. Mr. Macks said his proposed building will provide up to 1,000 jobs just in its planning, engineering and construction phases.
Because previous approval for Mr. Macks' site was granted for a proposal to build four auto dealerships, county zoning officials now must determine if the old zoning is still proper. They also must decide whether the new site proposal is merely a variation of the old plan,said Arnold E. Jablon, county zoning administrator.
Though Mr. Macks would not confirm reports that he trying to get a Wal-Mart outlet on his site, he did say he has enough assurances from "a major user" to justify speeding ahead on the construction.
Kristin Stehben, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart in Arkansas, said she does not know of plans for a company store in White Marsh, but said "it's very possible we're looking for other sites."