Planning for industrial development Review panel must seek public input before deciding on rezonings.

March 02, 1998

THE CARROLL COUNTY Planning and Zoning Commission wants to reconsider a proposal to rezone nearly 1,000 acres for industrial use, which it rejected four weeks ago. That is good news for economic development.

The difference this time is that a seven-member review panel will take a closer look at these properties recommended by the Economic Development Commission. It will suggest ways to update county laws on industrial and commercial zoning, and to improve the process of site identification and approval. Public hearings will be held.

The planning commission did not have sufficient information upon which to base its decision in January. Members heard only the good-faith recommendations of the Economic Development Commission, and county staff. The process was not thorough enough.

More public input is needed on such a sensitive issue, one that is critical to building the county's tax base and also affects other growth-control efforts.

The seven panel members have yet to be named. They must hold hearings to provide an opportunity for broad public input on the properties and rezoning.

One reason the commission killed the rezoning idea was the lack basic facilities, such as roads and water, on some sites. That judgment is questionable. Unlike residential development, land held for possible industrial use does not necessarily require that these expensive facilities be installed in advance.

There's agreement that Carroll is lagging in industrial growth; its industrial tax base is the lowest in the region. Experts say the county must have a larger inventory of industrial sites to attract new firms.

At the same time, many Carroll citizens are worried about the impact of new businesses on already crowded roads and on limited water and sewer facilities. The specific locations of these rezoned sites are also of considerable concern to folks in nearby communities.

Carroll needs more good industrial-zoned land to lure more companies, with their jobs and taxes, to reverse the reliance on residential taxes. The new review panel should aim for that goal but with full consideration of the public's views.

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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