The county commissioners moved a step closer yesterday to establishing a new zoning classification to encourage the development of high-tech business parks with well-paying jobs.
After the county planning office presented details of an "employment campus zoning district" - along with an accompanying process for speeding along review of prospective developers' proposals - the commissioners voted to set a public hearing on the proposal.
Steven C. Horn, county planning director, said that when the policy is in place, the county could designate parcels for use as business parks as part of its periodic reviews of zoning throughout the county.
For the past decade, the county has been trying to devise strategies to attract businesses and light manufacturing companies that would increase its tax base and offer better-paying jobs to Carroll residents. Nearly 60 percent of the county's workers commute to jobs outside Carroll every day.
A month ago, the commissioners asked Horn to craft an ordinance that would offer developers a land-use approval process tailored to large business parks while allowing the county to exercise finer control over how its remaining open parcels are used.
The employment campus zoning class would apply to land of at least 50 acres that meets certain criteria, such as having adequate road access and water and sewer capacities. The business parks would be used for computer services, engineering and research facilities, hotel and conference centers, light manufacturing facilities and professional offices. Commercial uses, such as dry cleaners and coffee shops, could not exceed more than 15 percent of the campus.
Auto shops, storage facilities and other uses "that would generate high traffic," as Horn described them, would be prohibited.
The plan also would impose strict design standards for facades, landscaping and signage, and require brick and glass buildings.
Interested developers would apply to the county's planning commission. They would submit a concept plan showing topography, existing and proposed roads, and a general drainage system, Horn said.
From there, the planning commission would hold public hearings and have the final say on whether to allow the development.
Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said the proposal gives the county "a better ability to plan our growth."
A public hearing on the proposal is required before commissioners make a decision.
The hearing could take place as early as next month, according to County Attorney Kimberly Millender.