Baltimore Co. officials change policy to point developers toward fast track

February 17, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

In an attempt to lure new businesses to Baltimore County, local officials have designated six ways commercial developers can qualify to get their projects quickly reviewed and approved.

Separate criteria for affordable housing projects, which also can qualify for the special approval process, have not yet been decided, according to Arnold Jablon, the county's zoning administrator.

Last week, County Executive Roger B. Hayden revealed he would not submit legislation for handling certain "select" projects. Instead, he will try to achieve nearly the same results through changes in administrative policy, which are not subject to county council approval.

By opting for a policy change instead of a new law, the Hayden administration avoids a confrontation with the council over making affordable housing projects eligible for the fast-track review process. Most council members oppose the idea.

Mr. Hayden and Mr. Kelly have said they are afraid the county could lose young, working couples to Harford, Howard and Carroll counties, where detached individual homes are still available for $150,000 or less.

The policy change also doesn't put any restrictions on community involvement in the development approval process. The law Mr. Hayden abandoned would have eliminated at least one of two chances for public debate, and would have allowed certain projects to be approved in 30 days, if no one appealed.

Recently, the county development review process underwent a thorough reform to give residents more input. The Hayden administration feared any law restricting public access would create a bad impression.

Projects reviewed under the new policy could win approval in 90 days, if they are not appealed, said county administrative officer Merreen E. Kelly. Currently, approval takes six to 18 months. The county will shave months off the review process by holding public meetings and reviews at the same time permit applications are processed.

Mr. Jablon said the new approval process would benefit the public by forcing developers to present much more detailed plans to the public. Previously, developers only had to offer the conceptual plan at the initial hearing.

Under the new policy, a business would qualify for the new review process if:

* It generates at least $200,000 in new annual revenue.

* It creates at least 200 full-time jobs.

* It is planned for a "targeted development area" like Owings Mills, Hunt Valley-Timonium or White Marsh and adds $100,000 a year in revenue, and 100 full-time jobs.

* It is located in a "project area" such as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus in Catonsville and produces at least $50,000 in new revenue or 50 full-time jobs.

* It is in a revitalization district like one of the old county business strips from Dundalk to Catonsville and produces at least $15,000 in new revenues and at least 20 full-time jobs.

* It expands to produce at least $50,000 in new revenue annually and at least 50 new full-time jobs.

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