Commissioners approve minor-site review plan Proposal would expedite small-business projects

May 22, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Small-business owners might soon be offered a short cut through Carroll County's development review process, a bureaucratic maze that takes six months to a year to complete.

The County Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal yesterday that would separate mom-and-pop operations from major projects, allowing the smaller businesses to win speedier approval for their construction projects.

"In my opinion, there is a lot of difference between building a Wal-Mart and an office in a home," said Commissioner Donald I. )) Dell, before voting to support the plan.

The proposal will move to the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

Under current development review laws, no distinction is made between plans for a business as small as a home barbershop or as large as a multiplex theater. Both must have their construction plans approved by more than 15 agencies, appear before a county advisory committee and pay thousands in legal and county permit and review fees.

The proposal approved yesterday would change that, making three types of small-business projects eligible for minor-site plan review. They would be:

Businesses within an existing residence, such as beauty shops, professional offices or antiques shops.

Businesses expanding existing facilities that would not require changes in storm water management, water and sewer systems or construction of a new entrance onto a public road.

New businesses that do not disturb more than 20,000 square feet, about a half-acre.

These small businesses should raise few health, safety and environmental concerns for the agencies reviewing construction plans, said Philip J. Rovang, director of the county department of planning and development.

County officials have not calculated how many weeks or months could be saved if the process were adopted. Nor have they established a fee schedule for proposed reviews.

Rovang said the county could save these businesses a 15- to 30-day wait if it did not require them to appear before the Subdivision Advisory Committee, when county staff, developers and the public discuss construction plans. For many minor plans, this meeting would be unnecessary, he said.

But Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates shot down this part of the proposal, arguing that the committee provides the only opportunity for the public to be heard on development plans.

Dell, who asked the county staff to explore a minor-site plan review process, lobbied to eliminate the committee review. "If all the regulations are in place, I don't know how it becomes a public issue," he said. The commissioners agreed that the county could make other modifications to expedite the review process.

One of those changes could be to eliminate the public works agreement between a property owner and the county. The agreement, which often takes two to four weeks to prepare, guarantees that public road entrances, utilities and drainage will be completed according to the approved construction plans.

County officials said that adjustments should be made to shorten that process for smaller businesses.

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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