Panel suggests study of industrial areas Survey would help county to attract businesses

October 22, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

To promote light industrial and commercial growth, an ad hoc committee suggested yesterday that the Board of County Commissioners initiate an in-depth study of Carroll's industrial properties.

The study would be a useful tool, committee members said, for drafting an economic development strategy to attract business to Carroll. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of the county tax base -- the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region.

The six-member committee suggested that the study of Carroll's industrial sites be conducted by the county's planning and economic development departments.

"We're not talking about a general inventory. We're talking about looking at specific sites and evaluating them," said Michael Burden, a member of the Economic Development Commission who served as chairman of the committee.

"We need to take each piece of property and grade it, see if it offers what is important to a person who wants to set up an industrial site," he said. "If not, let's pull that site from the inventory."

Carroll County has about 3,000 acres of industrial property and about 100 acres of commercial land. Many of those sites are in the county's nine community planning areas.

The committee suggested the county prepare capital budgets for each planning area that would include plans to extend infrastructure and services to industrial sites.

Other committee members are Thomas G. Hiltz and Maurice E. Wheatley of the planning commission; James L. Schumacher and Hobart D. Wolf Jr. of the Board of Zoning Appeals; and Louna S. Primm of the Economic Development Commission.

The county commissioners created the committee this year after the planning commission rejected all but 90 acres of the 1,069 acres recommended for industrial and commercial use by a county economic development panel.

The planning commission rejected most of the nine sites in response to opposition from the public and some of the incorporated towns, which said they had been excluded from the selection process.

The committee was originally charged with overhauling the county's zoning law but, after struggling to define the scope of the review, members agreed that a full-scale update of zoning laws would be too complicated.

In June, the committee decided to focus on sections in the zoning ordinance defining light industrial and commercial sites.

While examing those aspects of the ordinance, members determined they had neither the time nor the expertise to do the job. The committee then suggested that members of the county's planning and economic development departments work to modernize the law, perhaps with help from a consultant.

To help the process, the committee suggested that the Economic Development Commission and the planning commission designate representatives to provide liaison between the two groups.

"Whatever shape [the economic development plan] takes, we need to do it as a unified effort," said Primm, chair of the Economic Development Commission. "We need to compromise to come up with what is best not just for the citizens of Carroll County, but for the economic health of the county."

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates took no action on the committee's recommendations yesterday but said that an economic development plan should be drafted.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown did not attend yesterday's meeting.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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