Small-scale business projects get a head start

Commissioners speed up approval process, cut fees

May 19, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

In an attempt to strengthen the local economy, the Carroll County commissioners voted yesterday to accelerate the approval process for commercial and industrial projects, the types of projects that generate substantial tax revenue.

Under the new guidelines, small-scale projects - those that involve less than half an acre - will be exempt from formal review by the county planning commission. Projects that affect less than 5,000 square feet will also be exempt from landscaping requirements.

The accelerated review process will begin June 1."This will make things cheaper, faster and friendlier," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who noted that the new guidelines will require fewer permits.

The commissioners hope the lower fees and accelerated approval process will encourage local businesses to expand and will attract employers. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of Carroll's tax base - the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region.

In Frederick and Baltimore counties, small-scale projects are often exempt from a public hearing. Planners look at each project and decide which ones require community input and detailed site plans, basing their decision on the scope and intensity of the project. No such program existed in Carroll. The county charges at least $1,000 in review fees for every project.

Beginning next month, those fees will be cut by 30 percent over three years. The fee reduction is expected to cost the county about $270,000 in revenue.

The commissioners have also reduced building permit fees by half, a move that is expected to cost the county about $168,000 in lost revenue. Permit fees range from $25 to $150, depending on the nature of the project.

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