Carroll plan would cut new business a break Officials eye waiving review fees in attempt to broaden the tax base

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

Those looking to bring business or industry to Carroll County might soon be able to sail through the county's review process without paying a penny.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is considering a proposal that would eliminate the fees that commercial and industrial developers pay the county to review their plans.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell suggested that the county do away with all fees for commercial and industrial projects during the board's meeting yesterday with the director of planning and development.

The proposal is designed to attract business and industry to Carroll County, Dell said. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of the county tax base -- the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region.

The task force, headed by county Planning Director Philip J. Rovang, has been asked to review the county's fee structure and determine how much money the county would lose if development fees were eliminated for commercial and industrial projects. The task force is expected to report its findings to the commissioners next month.

Development fees for commercial and industrial projects cover the cost of reviewing construction plans, engineering reports and storm-water management requirements -- a process that can take six months to a year to complete. The fees typically total $3,350 for each project.

Unlike homebuilders, commercial and industrial developers are not required to pay impact fees, which help fund school and park projects. The commissioners raised the county's impact fees last month. Those increases ranged from almost 6 percent for a single-family home (from $4,487 to $4,744) to 11 percent for a mobile home (from $1,473 to $1,631).

Dell's recommendation was made as the commissioners were discussing a proposal that would allow certain kinds of small-business projects to win speedy approval.

Development review laws make no distinction between plans for a business as small as a home beauty salon or as large as a retail complex such as Cranberry Mall. Both must have their construction plans approved by more than 15 agencies, appear before a county advisory committee and pay thousands of dollars in legal and county permit and review fees.

The proposal discussed yesterday would make three types of small-business projects eligible for an expedited site plan review process. Those projects would be in-home businesses; expanding businesses that would not require changes in storm-water management, water and sewer systems or road entrances; and new businesses that have a limited impact on the surrounding area.

The commissioners plan to meet next month with members of the Board of Zoning Appeals to discuss the site plan review process.

Dell, who last spring called for an examination of the process, suggested the meeting.

"I'd like to hear what the BZA has to say about this," Dell said.

Several months ago, the Board of Zoning Appeals allowed a Taneytown man to open a farm equipment and service business without completing a full site plan. The appeals board ruled that an abbreviated plan would be sufficient.

That decision was later reversed by George Beisser, Carroll's zoning administrator, when he realized a process for an abbreviated plan did not exist.

Pub Date: 12/22/98

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