In an effort to boost Carroll's economic development efforts, county planners are pushing for a new zoning designation that would encourage the creation of high-tech employment campuses.
Already a staple of nearby counties, employment campuses would attract "the kinds of businesses compatible with the county's character," said Greg Horner, a county planner who introduced the concept to a South Carroll citizens group last week.
"It would really give us something to market to companies," he said.
The employment campus concept is hardly new. Howard and Baltimore counties have allowed -- and encouraged -- the development of projects that combine light manufacturing, commercial and recreational uses.
But Carroll has yet to prove attractive to the employers in the electronics, computers and service industries that typically occupy campus-style properties.
In the past 18 months, 56 use and occupancy permits have been granted for industrial developments.
But that is only 15 percent of all commercial development between January 1994 and July 1995.
"This would give us an effective tool in the bag," said County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who favors the creation of employment campuses.
For more than two years, Carroll economic development officials and county planners have been drafting an employment campus zoning ordinance.
The proposal now in front of the county commissioners would create a zoning category that would encourage developers and adjacent property owners to work closely with each other.
The zoning designation would not be fixed. Instead, employment campus zoning would be authorized on any property already zoned industrial.
Employment campus zoning would be more restrictive than industrial zoning, Mr. Horner explained Wednesday night to two dozen members of Solutions for a Better South Carroll.
Signs would be severely restricted, extensive landscaping would required, parking would have to be shielded from main streets, and building heights would be limited to 50 feet, he said.
The zones also would restrict commercial uses to no more than 5 percent of the total campus.
The types of businesses that officials hope to attract to employment campuses include biomedical technology; business schools; computer and data processing services; hotels; and light industry, such as pharmaceuticals, radio and television broadcasting facilities and manufacturers of medical instruments.
The county also would require developers of properties in a new zone to provide open space that could be used for recreation and would force occupants to maintain the landscaping and general appearance of the site.
Many who heard Mr. Horner's presentation Wednesday were receptive and hopeful that the proposed change would prevent the kind of development that they say is destroying the Route 26 corridor in Eldersburg.
"I think this is the way to go," said Dan Hughes, a founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll and a slow-growth advocate who has criticized the development of several large grocery and other retail stores along Liberty Road.
Mr. Brown said the adoption of employment campus zoning is months away.