Zone laws to be eyed

Commissioners call for ordinances' review at meeting

`Now's the time to do it'

Assisted living, industrial land needs are concern

January 24, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners have ordered staff to review Carroll's zoning laws, as the three-member board moves forward with plans to consider rezoning 47 mostly rural properties for commercial or industrial use.

The directive was issued during a routine staff meeting yesterday, after the commissioners learned that county zoning laws fail to address Carroll's need for assisted-living facilities for seniors. Current zoning laws allow for nursing homes as a conditional use on farmland, but make no mention of assisted-living and continuing care retirement communities.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell noted that other areas in the zoning laws might need review.

"If [the zoning ordinance] needs to be amended, we should amend it. If parts of it need to be rescinded, then we should rescind" them, Dell said.

He directed the planning director and zoning administrator to "take a look at that whole ordinance and see if you can break it down into sections that can be reviewed by the zoning ordinance committee."

Dell's colleagues, Commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier, supported his recommendation.

The county's zoning ordinance committee - which consists of real estate agents, developers, engineers and county staff - would review sections in need of work and recommend changes to the planning commission. The planning panel would review the committee's suggestions, then forward its list of recommended changes to the commissioners for approval.

"I think now's the time to do it," Frazier said of the review. "I would hate to rezone somebody's land and then change the definition of the zoning. I don't think that would be fair to the property owner."

The commissioners decided in April to move forward with a comprehensive countywide rezoning to expand Carroll's short supply of marketable industrial land. Forty-seven property owners applied for consideration.

Carroll has fewer than 1,000 acres of industrial land, 800 acres of which is not marketable because it lacks access to public water or sewer service.

To encourage commercial and industrial growth - the kind of projects that generate substantial revenue - the commissioners hope to carve industrial parks out of land that is mostly rural.

As zoning administrator Robert "Max" A. Bair and planning director Steven C. Horn review county zoning laws, they will consider a new zoning designation that would ban department stores and recreational facilities on industrial sites.

Today, developers can establish about 50 types of businesses - anything from a clothing store to an athletic club - on Carroll's industrial properties. Ideally, the land should be used for heavy industry or light manufacturing and distribution.

In South Carroll, the county's most populous area with 28,000 residents, land zoned for industrial use has been lost to a Merritt athletic club, a Wal-Mart and Eldersburg Marketplace, a $35 million shopping center.

The new industrial zone would resemble employment campuses, which combine light manufacturing and commercial uses that support industry. Howard and Baltimore counties for many years have encouraged and strongly supported such development.

But Carroll has not been attractive to high-tech employers in the electronics, computers and service industries that typically occupy campus-style properties. Though economic development officials and county planners worked on an employment campus zoning ordinance from 1993 to 1995, it was never adopted by the commissioners.

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