Commercial real estate brokers asked Charles County commissioners Tuesday to approve a 94-acre, campus-style business park that would replace the Hamilton family turf farm, a green swath familiar to commuters who use Berry Road.
Backers asked commissioners to approve a zoning change to clear the way for the project on one of the most prominent farms remaining in the county's rapidly developing northern end.
The request was among more than 50 proposals for zoning changes that were presented to commissioners at a public hearing. The elected officials made few comments and no immediate decisions about the proposals, which came to them after review by the appointed Planning Commission.
Commissioners have final say on changes to zoning, a legal designation that controls what property owners may do with their land. Tuesday's hearing began the commissioners' formal role in a so-called comprehensive rezoning, a periodic review of the land-use regulations on numerous tracts.
* A request by the Economic Development Commission to allow 10-story buildings in the development district, the northern portion of the county that is designated to accept most of the business and residential growth.
The taxpayer-funded commission said it wants the change in part because it has "a project" that could be affected. Officials declined to provide details. The current limit is five stories.
* Requests by the Economic Development Commission to change residential zoning to commercial and industrial zoning in several areas, including land near the private Maryland Airport in Pomonkey and along Maryland Route 205 in northern Waldorf.
* A Planning Commission recommendation to delete 5,000 acres in Marbury from the development district. The change would forestall most large development proposals in the area between Maryland Route 425 and the Mattawoman Creek.
The Hamilton family farm is on the north side of Maryland Route 228, also known as Berry Road. It sits amid a rapidly growing portion of the development district, with several large housing developments nearby.
Backers called the proposal an opportunity for Charles County to attract high-paying jobs. Economic consultants last year said the county's relative lack of such jobs contributed to a dip in property values.
Harry Shasho, commercial sales manager for Baldus Real Estate Inc., noted that most workers leave the county each day for jobs elsewhere.
"Companies know this and they are interested in moving where their employees are close to work," Shasho told commissioners. He said three companies are interested in moving into such a park. He presented sketches showing 31 lots on the property.
The proposal evoked mixed reactions.
"It will help the jobs-housing balance. It will bring high-paying jobs," said Barbara Albro, a former president of the homeowners association for the Streamview housing development near the farm. She called the proposal "very interesting and worthwhile."
Another Streamview resident was skeptical.
"I'm concerned that it's like a crack in the dam," Mark Saunders said in a telephone interview. "If you let this professional park come in, it might [lead to] businesses that are not appropriate to the community."
A consultant told commissioners there are no plans for industrial uses on the land. The farm as currently zoned could accommodate 300 or more homes, Shasho said.