Allegheny Energy says new zoning may attract new tenants

September 23, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

Allegheny Energy officials want the Washington County Planning Commission to create a new type of zoning for technology companies, which may help draw tenants to the utility company's undeveloped business park.

The company is hoping it can more easily attract businesses to the technology park - which lies immediately south of Interstate 70 and straddles Downsville Pike - if it gets the new zoning, Washington County Senior Planner Timothy Lung said Friday.

Allegheny is asking the county to both create a new zoning classification called the Office, Research and Technology District and to rezone the 452-acre Friendship Technology property to the new classification, Lung said.


The Planning Commission will hold public hearings on both requests during a joint meeting Monday with the Washington County Commissioners.

The technology park was a prior candidate for the University System of Maryland, Hagerstown Education Center, and is one of three sites being considered for a new Washington County Hospital.

Currently, 244 of the acres are zoned planned industrial and 208 acres are zoned agricultural, Lung said. The 452 acres includes the Allegheny Energy corporate headquarters.

Despite its attempts, Allegheny Energy has not drawn other businesses to the technology park, which opened in 1988. The company has been targeting the park toward specific uses rather than just any business, Debbie Beck, Allegheny Energy spokeswoman, said Friday.

While the company could develop the park with the current zoning, it could do better with the proposed new designation, targeted at drawing companies from the technology sector, Beck said.

The company saw a need in Washington County - not just on the company's property but elsewhere as well - for a zoning designation geared for technology companies, Beck said.

The purpose of the Office, Research and Technology district, according to the proposed text amendment, is to "support the county's economic development by providing an environment that will attract medical, corporate offices, technology and research and development-based businesses and institution.

Maryland law requires the applicant to provide convincing evidence showing there has been a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood since the last zoning or that the current zoning is a mistake.

Allegheny Energy, in its application for the rezoning, says changes in the neighborhood include construction of the Downsville Pike-Interstate 70 interchange and construction of a fiber-optic and broadband network system along 70 and Downsville Pike.

The current zoning is also a mistake, the company says in its application.

"Research and development and technology companies have not been drawn to either the agricultural district or the planned industrial district because certain principal permitted uses in those districts, e.g. farming in the agricultural district and heavy manufacturing and truck terminals in the planned industrial district, are not compatible with the work performed by research and development and technology based companies," the application said.

There was a mistaken belief that those types of companies would come under the current zoning but that has not been the case, the company says.

Most of the property is currently used for agricultural purposes or is in forest cover, Lung said.

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