Good place for innovative zoning Carroll County Warfield Complex at Springfield good spot for R&D business campus.

March 04, 1996

SELLING THE Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center will not be an easy task, but Carroll County government could assist the state's efforts by enacting zoning to create "employment campuses." This concept was first proposed in 1992, but was put on a back burner. Now that the county government is beginning to realize the necessity of an aggressive economic development effort, the time has come to move this zoning idea to the fore.

As originally proposed, "employment campuses" would create an environment that would be attractive to high-tech employers. They would combine manufacturing, offices and research and development companies with restaurants, banks, health clubs, day-care centers and professional services often needed by the people who would work in the complex. In addition, the appearance of the buildings and signs would be strictly controlled to stimulate an attractive, park-like setting.

Unfortunately, under current zoning laws, this type of business park can not be built in Carroll. As a result, the county is at a competitive disadvantage with jurisdictions that have such business campus zoning such as Howard County. Carroll, with its high median income and strong quality-of-life, seems in a good position to attract research and development companies. However, under the county's current zoning, such firms could find themselves neighbors to a concrete plant, a warehouse or a foundry -- and they don't, understandably, want to take that chance.

The employment campus concept, while endorsed by Carroll's economic development and planning officials, has been languishing. Since it would not be a fixed zone but imposed over an existing industrial zone, there has been concern that its extensive use might crowd out manufacturing. There have been calls for more study. Rather than devoting more time to reports and surveys, however, the concept should be tested in Sykesville at Springfield.

Designating the Warfield Complex as an employment campus zone would make the property much more attractive. A developer would have greater flexibility in securing tenants and tailoring the buildings to their needs. Giving this zoning a trial in Springfield presents little risk and could produce tremendous gain.

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