The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday voted to approve the concepts behind an ongoing comprehensive rezoning review, bylaws for the Long Term Advisory Council and designated 553 acres of Finksburg as a “County Designated Sustainable Community.”

Not all of those votes were without some expressed skepticism and intense discussion, however.


County staff are currently in the process of a comprehensive rezoning project, stemming from the passage of the 2014 Carroll County Master Plan, which will review and amend the county’s zoning code.

That process, Bureau of Comprehensive Planning Chief Lynda Eisenberg explained, is being driven by a concept team, made up of members of the county staff, and focus groups, made of up expert citizens. While currently looking at the industrial and commercial portions of the zoning code, she said, a draft proposal is sent to say, the legislative group of the Carroll County Association of Realtors or the Carroll County Bar Association for review and feedback.

After the concept team reviews feedback from the focus groups, proposals will be forwarded to the planning and zoning commission to begin a public process of discussion there, Eisenberg told the commissioners.

“We would then do some some citizen outreach through that body and then make some recommendations to the board for your eventual consideration,” she said. “If all goes well at the planning commission, we are hoping to have five public outreach meetings, by commissioner district. We’re hoping maybe late January, early February, to begin to get this out to the public.”

Eisenberg was asking the board Thursday to vote to approve a list of 10 concepts to act as guidance during the rezoning process, “the rules of engagement,” as she described them. These included concepts such eliminated outdated uses to reflect current market trends, and moving to a table format for explaining the uses in each zoning district to the public.

“I have actually worked with other zoning codes that use tables, it is infinitely simpler,” Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, noted.

But Rothschild, as well as Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, had concerns about the amount of public feedback in the rezoning process.

“It looks like it is staff driven only at this point,” Weaver said. “I would like to have some input, as we’re developing this, from the community.”

Rothschild said he would like to see more “checks and balances on either the concept team or the focus groups.”

“Going to the realtors is good, going to industry is good, developers, but they all have narrow agendas,” he said. “An argument could be made that other people could be added to the panel with a broader Carroll County perspective, in terms of the county’s culture and heritage and preserving that.”

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, disagreed, arguing that citizen input is baked into the public rezoning process, the planning and zoning commission, and eventual consideration, with public hearings, by the board of commissioners.

“Isn’t that why it goes through the planning commission and we have public hearings?” he asked. “This notion that there is someone out there who is an unaffiliated person that represents the core and essence of Carroll County, I believe is a myth.”

Rothschild remained skeptical.

“When we make decisions on who to send to these things for a review, they automatically become special citizens or special groups,” he said. “And he who decides which group gets to provide the input, decides the outcome.”


The commissioners ultimately voted, 3-1, to approve the 10 concepts to guide the comprehensive rezoning process, with Rothschild voting against and Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, not present.

The commissioners also voted, 3-1, to approve the bylaws of the Long Term Advisory Council. Rothschild was the dissenting vote.

The council is an advisory body created in January to provide the board of commissioners with forward thinking planning recommendations on the 25-plus year timescale, beyond that normally considered in formal budgeting and planning processes. The council consists of 15 core members representing different Carroll industries and the five commissioner districts, as well as representatives of seven clusters of agencies and organizations, such as “public safety” and “education.”

The council chairman, Bruce Holstein, spoke in public comment prior to the vote saying that the version of the bylaws the commissioners were voting on did not reflect the bylaws as drawn up by the council. In particular, he said, the bylaws limited the council to quarterly meetings rather than monthly meetings, which could slow them down, and certain changes would prevent the council from being a “check and balance on growing government.”

That was a view shared by Rothschild.

“I think one of the recommendations from [Long Term Advisory Council] itself is that the core group would review the input from the cluster and serve as a check and balance since the clusters tend to be, generally speaking, more oriented in general, toward groups that are funded by government,” he said. “That was stripped out.”

Howard disagreed and County Administrator Roberta Windham read the “Purpose” section of the bylaws up for a vote: “The [Board of County Commissioners] established a Long-Term Advisory Council (LTAC) whose purpose is to present recommendations to the BCC for use in developing their long-term goals and objectives for the county. The LTAC will develop and present these recommendations based on identified long-term trends and after review and discussion of the Cluster Subcommittee reports.”

Weaver also noted that the council, through a three-quarters vote, can amend the bylaws, subject to approval by the commissioners, and that the group is not precluded from meeting more frequently than once per quarter.

The board also voted, 3-0 with Rothschild abstaining, to designate a portion of the Finksburg Corridor Area as a “Designated Sustainable Community.” This designation, as Eisenberg and Comprehensive Planner Nokomis Ford explained, will allow property owners to apply for state revitalization funds to improve their properties.

Diana Fraser, a member of the Finksburg Planning and Citizens Council citizens group, testified in favor of the designation on behalf of the group.

“If you’ve driven through Finksburg, it’s a great place to live, but it could use some help to make it look a little bit better,” she said. “The Finksburg corridor is one of the main gateways into the county and should provide a more welcoming and pleasant appearance.”


Weaver, who represents the Finksburg area, agreed.

“This is a positive for the area,” he said.