Panel backs plans to alter zoning of land

Officials seek to raise tax base by attracting industry to the area

Keeping workers also a goal

Hearing on proposals to be held Wednesday

Carroll County

March 01, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's Economic Development Commission has endorsed several proposed zoning changes and a new campus zone that members say would safeguard industrial land from commercial development and bring high-paying jobs to the county.

The county's industrial tax base is about 12 percent, the lowest percentage in the metropolitan area. Nearly 60 percent of the county work force commutes daily to jobs outside of Carroll.

"We need to employ the work force of Carroll County that leaves here every day," said Sue Chambers, chairwoman of the EDC.

John T. "Jack" Lyburn, county director of economic development, said Carroll must reserve its industrial land for companies that can enhance the industrial tax base and provide high-paying jobs. The county also must find new areas that would be suitable for commercial development, he said.

"These proposals for industrial use are a good chance to do the right thing," Lyburn said. "Our strategy will be business parks, not free-standing industry popping up throughout the county."

In the past, the county has allowed shopping centers and big-box stores to gobble up valuable industrial land.

"We are losing too much land to conditional uses," Lyburn said. "The types of companies we are going after now don't want to be next to the strip malls and big-box stores."

The proposed zoning changes would eliminate more than 40 conditional uses that have allowed commercial enterprises to be built on land reserved for industry. But, Lyburn said, the population would continue to demand the shopping centers and small businesses.

"Without commercial land, this proposal will fail," Lyburn said. "We have to have places to put commercial development."

William Dulany, an attorney who served on the county's Conditional Use Task Force, said the new zoning could hamper small business, which he called the backbone of the county.

"You can bring in a big company that will employ 1,000 people," Dulany said. "But if they get a better offer from Ohio or out of the country, they will leave and it will be a disaster. We have to have both industry and small business."

Dulany added that the county must have current zoning maps that show "where we can have commercial and industrial uses."

To give the planning staff time to review and amend industrial zoning, the county commissioners imposed a nine-month freeze on commercial development. The freeze expires March 10.

The commissioners are expected to deliberate on the proposed zoning changes this week after a public hearing last week. They will tackle the employment campus zone at Wednesday's public hearing.

Lyburn said he favors the campus zoning, but wants it imposed in specific areas, such as the Warfield Complex in Sykesville. The town plans to restore Warfield's dozen former state hospital buildings into a business and academic complex.

"Put the campus zoning on a piece of dirt and let it stay," said Lyburn. "We have to have this zoning. It is a really important tool. But it has to be where there is a market and the infrastructure."

The public hearing on campus zoning is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster. Information: 410-386-2043.

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