Officials review business parks zoning measure

Employment campuses would raise industry base

`Aesthetically pleasing'

Planning commission would decide specifics

Carroll County

October 04, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Hoping to attract light industry and provide professional job opportunities, the county commissioners moved forward yesterday on a plan to create zoning for business parks throughout Carroll.

The "employment campuses," as they are described in an ordinance the commissioners reviewed yesterday, could be centers for high-tech businesses, satellite college classes or office parks designed to mesh with their surroundings.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said the goal is "to have these blend in, not stand out."

The zoning under consideration would apply to industrial, residential, conservation or agricultural land of at least 25 acres that meets strict standards set by the county planning commission.

The campuses would be "aesthetically pleasing and well-designed," the ordinance says.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge called the ordinance too general. She wanted specific language, particularly on the standards.

Timothy Burke, a county attorney, said the ordinance leaves the specifics to the planning commission.

"The planning commission will have guidelines for such things as highway access and the availability of water and sewer," he said. "But, this is not a laundry list by any means. The commission will have to consider the big picture and whether this is the right place for this type facility."

Among the prospective users would be computer services, engineering and research companies, light-manufacturing facilities and business and professional offices. Commercial enterprises, such as coffee shops and dry cleaners, could not exceed 15 percent of the campus and would for the most part serve those working there.

The ordinance calls for brick and glass buildings with limited signs and extensive landscaping. Warehouses, auto sales and repair businesses and cell-phone towers would be prohibited.

"We are looking for businesses that are clean and unobtrusive to surrounding properties," said Jeanne Joiner, county director of planning.

Carroll is striving to increase its industrial revenues, now at about 12 percent of the county's tax base, the lowest in the metropolitan area. Officials also want to provide more high-paying jobs to the work force. Nearly 60 percent of the county's workers commute daily to jobs outside the area.

"Maybe this zoning will give the county more opportunity for these businesses," said Burke.

All three commissioners said they favored the ordinance but they insisted on public input. They included a provision for a public hearing before the planning commission votes on a concept plan.

"You can't put a shopping center in the ag zone, but you could drop an employment campus in there," said Gouge. "If a use totally changes, people have the right to know and an opportunity to speak. The hearing will give the planning commission something to work from."

A committee of business owners and residents drafted the ordinance over 14 months.

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