Howard County officials announced their support Wednesday for a County Council bill tailored to help one of Howard's largest employers, Coastal Sunbelt Produce, remain in the county.

Coastal Sunbelt, a Savage-based food service distributor for the Mid-Atlantic region, is hoping to move its headquarters to a larger location in order to expand operations.


The business, founded in 1992, employs more than 900 people, according to its website, and could add several hundred more after the expansion, according to a county press release.

County Executive Ken Ulman and the Howard County Economic Development Authority helped Coastal Sunbelt find a suitable spot in North Laurel, near the Laurel Race Track, according to a county press release.

Before discovering the site, Coastal Sunbelt had considered relocating outside the county, officials said.

But in order to move its operations to the North Laurel site, the county needs to expand its transit-oriented development zoning regulations, which do not currently allow light industrial uses, such as those at the Coastal Sunbelt facility, as a matter of right.

A bill before the council amends TOD regulations to permit light industrial uses as well as single-family attached dwellings, on the periphery of the TOD zone, which was designed to encourage high-density residential development on land within 3,500 feet of MARC stations in the county.

"It takes a hands-on approach to preserve and grow jobs," Ulman said in the release. "Coastal Sunbelt is a terrific business, and we need them to stay and prosper in Howard County. I'm glad we were able to figure out a way that allows this expansion to go forward."

"It took a lot of work to get to this point, and the Economic Development Authority is thrilled that this deal is going to get done," HCEDA CEO Larry Twele said in a statement.

The Council will take a vote on the zoning amendment Monday.