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The Industrial Land Supply in Frederick County: A Few Thoughts

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been updating my research for clients on the industrial real estate market in Frederick County, Maryland, including the City of Frederick.  

Industrial Land Supply in Frederick County Maryland

Without getting into a long explanation of the definitions of and differences among the Limited/Light Industrial zones of the County’s “LI” and the City’s “M1”, and the General/Heavy Industrial zones “GI” and “M2” respectively, let me provide the definitions here from the respective ordinances:

County:  The Limited Industrial district (LI) is intended to provide adequate area for development of industrial uses whose operations have a relatively minor nuisance value and provides a healthful operating environment secure from the encroachment of residential uses and protected from adverse effects of incompatible industries. Uses are permitted subject to site development plan approval.

City:  The Light Industrial M1 district is intended to provide for offices and those industrial activities which do not require special measures to control odor, dust or noise and which do not involve hazardous materials and whose environmental impacts are contained within the property limits.  

County:  The General Industrial district (GI) is intended to provide areas for industries involving manufacturing or processing and for those industrial uses which cannot meet the performance criteria of the Limited Industrial District.

City:  The Heavy Industrial M2 district is intended to permit general or heavy industrial activities not able to meet the criteria applicable in M1 districts. 

With all this stated the county is quite a bit more restrictive on what it will allow in its Limited Industrial zone compared to the M1 district in the City.  A specific example is on how the County deals with outside storage of a business’s equipment and materials – very restrictive and frankly onerous in many cases after the County’s Planning Commission gets done with a sometimes public whipping of the site development plan for an LI zoned project.

I think that it is fair to say that much of the LI and M1 zoned real estate in and around Frederick City is either built out with or planned for flex office/warehouse product, and when outside of the City there is generally has no to little outside storage component with it.

When one looks deeper into the quantity of Limited/Light Industrial compared to that of Heavy/General Industrial zoned and/or comprehensively planned for land, the choices are extremely parse for the latter.

Therein lies an interesting dilemma for many businesses that don’t really need to locate in a General or Heavy Industrial district, but find that due to the restrictions on outside storage in other districts they must look go the GI or M2 route.

The pickings are very slim and for larger tracts over 3 to 5 acres of real estate for sale or for lease, it is practically impossible.  With GI and M1 land being so scarce, the prices for such are also often much higher than that of LI and M2 real estate.

Of course the real estate market is in a “bit of a slump” to say the least, but even in this market industrial businesses are moving to and expanding within Frederick.  They know with its excellent proximity to the major metropolitan areas of Baltimore and Washington, as well as easy interstate highway access to all points west.

So with the new administration of Frederick County Commissioners about to take their oath of office within the next three weeks, it may be time to revisit the industrial zoning districts and rethink the important part that this use can play in providing a balanced business climate for Frederick County.

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