Zoning board's fast-food mentality More manufacturing needed on industrial land, not more shopping.

March 08, 1996

IN THE unlikely event that Carroll were one of the Maryland counties competing for a Toyota Motor Corp. engine plant, the Japanese automaker would have difficulty finding appropriately zoned land here. The reason: the county Board of Zoning Appeals regularly transforms industrial zoning to commercial uses. As a result, the county is full of shopping centers and gas stations on parcels where industrial plants could have risen.

The latest example of this misguided policy was the BZA's decision to rezone 10.7 acres in the Walnut Industrial Park in Finksburg so that a developer can erect a shopping complex. As proposed, the new center would contain a filling station, a convenience store, a fast-food restaurant, a bank and several office or retail buildings.

Considering that a Tevco gas station sits across the road from the proposed development and an Exxon station several hundred yards down the road, the area is not especially in need of more service stations. From an economic development perspective, the complex will not provide the types of jobs the county desperately needs. Most of the jobs in the gas station, fast-food restaurants and convenience store will be low-wage. At the moment, the county is overrun with this type of development; there is no pressing need for more of it in locations zoned for industrial growth.

Even though Carroll's lack of an industrial tax base is well known and should be of major concern to a government body responsible for overseeing land use, this rezoning request sailed right through the zoning board. County Planning Director Phillip J. Rovang raised the point that the loss of additional industrial land could hamper Carroll's economic development efforts. Judging from its unanimous approval, however, the three-member BZA apparently paid that argument little heed.

While this site presented some difficult circumstances for an industrial company -- it lacks sewer and water service and is located within the Liberty Reservoir watershed -- it is surrounded by other industrial concerns, including an asphalt plant. Carroll officials could have put greater pressure on the developer to find tenants more in keeping with these existing uses and with the county's goal of attracting substantial industrial companies.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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