Commissioners review zoning recommendations

Panel says industrial land being misused in county

Regional

January 21, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County must preserve its industrial land for enterprises that can bring high-paying jobs to the area. It should not allow shopping centers and big-box retailers to gobble up property set aside for manufacturing and office complexes. The county commissioners should hire professional land-use consultants to help in a comprehensive rezoning of land for industrial and commercial uses.

Those three recommendations were among several proposals a Conditional Uses Task Force presented to the commissioners yesterday. The panel, appointed by the commissioners about six months ago, called for rezoning land for industry and for retail that is "compatible with growing neighborhoods and surrounding uses."

While business centers should have amenities to serve employees, those facilities should be limited, the task force recommended.

"We don't want employees to have to run all over the place, but we don't want shopping centers in office parks," said Neil Ridgely, county zoning administrator and task force member.

Professional consultants would be more adept at reviewing land-use policies, according to the report. "We just did not feel we had the expertise to know where it is appropriate to zone land for commercial use," Ridgely said.

In the past, the county has allowed as many as 70 conditional commercial uses on industrial land. The task force pared that list to eight, including offices, light manufacturing and training schools, with the possibility of 15 accessory uses, such as banks, barber shops and day care centers. More than 40 uses should be excluded from industrial zoning, the task force recommended.

Last year the commissioners imposed a nine-month freeze on proposed commercial development on industrial land. The freeze, which expires March 10, allowed the panel to study ways to eliminate the conditional zoning that has allowed strip malls to occupy land ripe for more lucrative industrial development.

"You have to move fast before we lose this land," said Wayne Barnes, who represented the county Chamber of Commerce on the task force. "We are not going to balance our tax base with houses."

Carroll sees more than 50 percent of its work force commute to jobs outside the county. Its industrial tax base is about 12 percent, the lowest percentage in the metropolitan area. In the past 20 years, about 13 percent of the county's 2,700 acres of industrial land was used for commercial ventures.

"The gist of this report is that you want to take most retail out as conditional uses," said Clark R. Shaffer, a Westminster attorney.

The commissioners will review the proposals and schedule a public hearing before voting on them.

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