Planners support rezoning 100 acres for economic use

78% of land proposed is in watershed area

March 21, 2001|By Jamie Manfuso | Jamie Manfuso,SUN STAFF

The county planning commission got its first glimpse yesterday of a report that suggests what to do with 928 acres, much of it land within the watershed of three reservoirs, that owners want rezoned for commercial or industrial use.

County planners recommended in their review of the properties that 100 of the 928 acres be rezoned for commercial or industrial development. Sixty-eight of those 100 acres are in areas designated for Smart Growth.

In addition, 78 of the 100 acres are within the Prettyboy, Liberty or Piney Run reservoirs watershed area, which covers 40 percent of Carroll County.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and leaders in Baltimore City and Baltimore County have opposed industrial development in the watershed, fearing it would pollute Liberty Reservoir, the region's chief source of drinking water.

Commission Chairman Edward M. Beard said he thought development, if done sensitively, could proceed without harming water quality.

"We use 3 million gallons a day and we're going to continue to do that," Beard said yesterday. "We can have development within the broadly defined watershed and still protect the water."

Carroll commissioners have said the countywide rezoning, coupled with an accelerated approval process for small-scale business developments and reduced building permit fees, would help attract industrial and commercial growth. The county's business tax base of 12 percent is the lowest in the Baltimore region and third-lowest in the state.

"The county being in the Baltimore metro area and being the third-lowest in the state is pretty significant," said county Planning Director Steven C. Horn.

The Economic Development Commission and the Department of Economic Development, which also had input on the proposals, recommended rezoning 192 acres.

The five-member planning commission is planning visits to nine or 10 properties as a group. Members would visit during the day and hold public work sessions to discuss specific properties in the evening. The panel hopes to begin the process in the next two or three weeks.

After it has reviewed the sites, the panel will submit its recommendations to the county commissioners, who will hold a public hearing on the proposed rezonings before acting on the requests.

The commissioners decided in March 2000 to begin a comprehensive rezoning of the county, a process planners had hoped would take six months. Yesterday, Horn said the first step of the process was nearly complete.

Sun staff writer Brenda J. Buote contributed to this article.

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