Panel to consider change in development review Process for small projects would be streamlined

June 17, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

The county planning commission agreed yesterday to explore a proposal that would curtail the development review process for small businesses, saving them time and money.

If the proposal wins final approval, it would trim up to two months from the review process, a bureaucratic labyrinth that takes up to a year to complete.

"It's a shortcut that's needed to cut out a lot of red tape," said Maurice E. Wheatley, a commission member.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission took no formal action yesterday. It only asked the county Department of Planning to investigate the proposal further.

Under development review laws, no distinction is made between plans for businesses as small as an antiques store or as large as a Wal-Mart.

Both must have their construction plans reviewed by more than 15 agencies, from the health department to the State Highway Administration. They also must appear before a county advisory committee and pay thousands of dollars in legal and county permit and review fees.

The proposal presented to the planning commission yesterday would allow three types of minor projects to be separated from the review process.

The projects would be:

Businesses opening within an existing residence, such as a professional office or beauty shop.

Businesses expanding 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 minor projects would be allowed to circumvent some agency reviews. They would not be required to appear before the Subdivision Advisory Committee, when county staff, developers and the public discuss construction plans.

Eliminating an appearance before the committee would remove the only forum for the public to comment on the projects.

The planning commission said the county must develop a process for public comment on minor site plans.

Commission members suggested sending notices to the neighbors of businesses seeking to use the minor site plan review process. They also suggested posting the businesses' names in the county office.

"I realize there are a lot of small businesses, and to make them go through the process would be ridiculous," said Deborah rTC Ridgely, commission member. "But we need to have some forum for public comment."

However, County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who attended yesterday's meeting, said public comment was unnecessary.

"It's overkill," he said. "I don't see a need to hold up the process for 30 to 60 days for public comment."

County officials are considering whether to hold a public hearing on the proposal.

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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