Baltimore County, which has been accused of taking too long to approve new developments, is trying to speed up the approval process and is using a 20-acre site near White Marsh to test the accelerated procedure.
Developer Larry Macks of Owings Mills wants to start grading the site by September and begin construction on a 117,000-square-foot building before winter. If all goes as planned, the building, just west of Belair Road and north of Putty Hill, could be occupied and open for business early next year.
That schedule would be a change from the 18-month process most developments have gone through. Mr. Macks appears to be off to a good start. Yesterday, the county's Economic Development Commission sponsored a meeting between Mr. Macks and the county agencies that will consider his project.
"We were told to make this a priority," said Adam Wasserman, deputy director of the commission.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden has said that cutting the time it takes to get county approval for business developments can attract more new businesses and help the county's sagging economy.
"Our goal is that nobody be in the process longer than six months," Mr. Hayden said yesterday.
Mr. Macks' project is a challenge for a county bureaucracy in the process of shifting to a new approval process that will put so-called high profile commercial projects on a fast track. Mr. Macks said his proposed building will provide up to 1,000 jobs just in its planning, engineering and construction phases.
Because previous approval for Mr. Macks' site was granted for a proposal to build four auto dealerships, county zoning officials now must determine if the old zoning is still proper. They also must decide whether the new site proposal is merely a variation of the old plan, said Arnold E. Jablon, county zoning administrator.
Though Mr. Macks would not confirm reports that he trying to get a Wal-Mart outlet on his site, he did say he has enough assurances from "a major user" to justify speeding ahead on the construction.
Kristin Stehben, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart in Arkansas, said she does not know of plans for a company store in White Marsh, but said "it's very possible we're looking for other sites."
Mr. Macks said he wants to take advantage of the planned opening in October of a new section of Whitemarsh Boulevard -- Md. 43. The new road runs just north of his land and will provide access to the site. It will link Interstate 695 to Interstate 95 between Harford and Belair roads.
Mr. Macks met last week with Kenneth C. Nohe, economic
development director, and P. David Fields, county planning director.
"This represents what [developers] have been told," Mr. Macks said after yesterday's meeting. "The county can respond quickly to cut through red tape."