Carroll County has hired a real estate consultant to study the industrial potential of 526 acres in Finksburg, land that is among 1,000 acres officials hope to rezone for industrial use.
The county Industrial Development Authority, an arm of the Economic Development Commission, has paid $20,000 to Lipman, Frizzell and Mitchell of Towson for a feasibility study of the Bethel Road site. The study is due Aug. 1.
The consultants will include cost estimates for bringing public water and sewer to the Bethel Road site and a traffic study detailing possible improvements to nearby Route 140.
The Finksburg Planning Area Council, a newly formed community activist group, has opposed development that would add to the existing heavy traffic on Route 140.
"Once we have the study, we will meet with citizens groups in Finksburg," said Jack Lyburn, county director of economic development.
The Finksburg site is among several parcels the county is considering rezoning for industrial use. The others are in Sykesville, Eldersburg and Westminster. Most of the land is zoned for agricultural use.
By increasing industrial land by nearly 20 percent, the county hopes to attract business and keep more of its labor force here.
Nearly 6,000 acres are available to business, and a committee appointed by the Economic Development Commission has targeted an additional 1,000 acres, particularly along the Route 140 corridor and in South Carroll.
"Our interest is in increasing the industrial tax base for the county through industrial development and employment," said Don Essich, a retired farmer and chairman of the six-member committee. "We want to keep people from leaving the county every day."
More the half the county's labor force commutes to jobs outside Carroll. The county could keep that labor closer to home if it had more high-tech employment to offer.
"Highly skilled manufacturing and bio-tech companies are out there looking, and we are aggressively marketing," Lyburn said. "We want land for back offices and white-collar workers, not just for distribution centers. We asked the committee to go through the whole county and look for more industrial land."
More industry could alleviate the burden on local taxpayers, who had a 27-cent increase in property taxes last year.
Residential development costs the county $1.22 in services for every dollar of revenue.
For commercial and industrial development, the county spends 46 cents in services for each dollar of revenue.
Carroll has a severe shortage of industrial land, and much of what it does have is in areas difficult to market.
Lyburn stressed the need for land with frontage near or along major highways and close to the towns, a concept that matches the state's newly adopted Smart Growth plan.
"We have always done smart growth here," Lyburn said. "We must get larger tracts for corporate campuses closer to Baltimore, especially along Route 140."
In response to residents' concerns, Essich said Route 140 is "the main artery out of Carroll County, and it is bound to get clogged."
"Any area in the state that has industrial development experiences crowded roads," he said. "The idea is to improve those roads and keep traffic moving at the critical times."
The committee looked at all available industrial possibilities and specifically those in and around the eight municipalities.
"We selected areas where infrastructure was available to accommodate future industrial development," Essich said. "Obviously, this has to happen in areas where roads, water and sewer can serve the needs of industry."
Rezoning the land must go through a lengthy review and become part of the new master plan for the county.
However, Essich said, the time to rezone is now, before the land is devoted to other purposes.
"We have to make Carroll more attractive to industry in the future," he said. "Those owning the land could continue farming it indefinitely. No one is mandating that they leave.
"The industrial demand is not there now, but we must look down the road to the future, when it may be."
The committee's task was complicated in a county that is not served by interstate highways, Essich said.
"We have to do the best with what we have," he said.
Pub Date: 7/08/97