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A victory for common sense

December 09, 2004

The Washington County Planning Commission this week did what county officials should have been doing for a long time - saying "no" to development that doesn't meet the rules. We hope the County Commissioners are ready to do the same thing.

Monday's 4-1 vote came on a proposal to allow a Planned United Development at Friendship Technology Park.

The problem with that was that in 2002, the commissioners created the Office, Research and Technology (ORT) zoning district and applied it to the park's 452 acres.

Akridge Development had argued that to make the site work, it needed to be able to put housing, restaurants and a hotel there as well as high-tech firms.

Our problem with such a plan is that this is a prime location for high-tech businesses. Visible from Interstate 70, it has what amounts to its own I-70 exit.

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Development of the park has been slow, but up to now so has residential housing growth in Washington County.

The surge in residential building is coming for one main reason - developers and their customers are being priced out of areas closer to metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. It does not make sense, now that developers have discovered this county, to change the rules for the first suitor who comes along.

It has long been said that Washington County cannot draw high-tech businesses because it doesn't have the work force capable of doing those jobs.

This park, with its ORT zoning, is a chance to prove that for the right job, qualified workers will move here and also that, given a chance at good positions, local people will get the education needed to do such jobs.

How long is too long to wait? That's a subject worthy of debate. But the county could probably fill its industrial parks with self-storage units if its goal were to market the land quickly.

It doesn't do that because officials are waiting for something better to come along. That's what they should do in this case.

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