Zoning change curtails land use

Commissioners reduce commercial options for areas slated for industry

Officials `stepped up to the plate'

Restrictions will not apply to existing conditional use or land 5 acres or smaller

Carroll County

March 05, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners approved zoning changes yesterday that would curtail strip malls and big-box stores from gobbling up valuable industrial land.

The action by the three officials was the first set of revisions approved as part of their continuing efforts to control growth. The changes become effective Monday.

In the past year, the commissioners implemented freezes on significant portions of residential and commercial development to give them time to consider ways to better manage county growth. One of the freezes halted commercial development on land zoned for industrial use for nine months. That freeze expires Wednesday.

"We chipped away industrial land with retail and big-box stores for 20 years," said the county's zoning administrator, Neil Ridgely. The commissioners "stepped up to the plate and did something about it."

Carroll's industrial zoning allows 70 conditional uses, letting developers put shopping centers and large-box stores on land intended for heavy industry.

Under amendments approved yesterday, the county will pare the list to about 20 uses, including trade schools, professional offices, and hotels and motels, as well as accessory uses, such as banks, salons and day care centers.

Accessory uses can not exceed 15 percent of the total lot, and a single accessory use can not exceed 3,000 square feet.

The new restrictions on conditional uses will not apply to land 5 acres or smaller. Existing conditional uses on industrial land will not be affected by the changes.

The commissioners said yesterday that the county considered several of the concerns and comments raised by residents during last week's public hearing.

One was a fear that getting rid of many conditional uses would hurt small businesses and landowners. William Dulany, a member of the Conditional Uses Task Force, asked the commissioners to consider exempting land 5 acres or smaller from the zoning changes.

"This is an accommodation based on information and comment received at the public hearing," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

But Westminster developer Dick Hull said yesterday that the county should have designated more land for commercial and business use before the commissioners approved changes to the industrial zoning.

The county is "putting the cart before the horse," Hull said.

When the commissioners implemented the freeze on most commercial development on industrial land, they appointed the Conditional Uses Task Force to study ways to preserve the county's industrial land for enterprises that could bring high-paying jobs to the county.

More than 50 percent of Carroll's work force commutes to jobs outside the county. Its industrial tax base is about 12 percent, the lowest among the counties in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

In the past 20 years, about 13 percent of the county's 2,700 acres zoned for industrial development were used for commercial or business ventures.

The commissioners will also consider changes to the county's adequate public facilities law and other growth-related ordinances.

County officials imposed a yearlong freeze on residential development so that continuing growth would not overwhelm schools, fire, police, emergency services, and water and sewer facilities. That freeze is scheduled to expire in June.

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