The near-final iteration of Carroll County’s comprehensive rezoning — with significant changes to commercial zoning, in particular — is available for public review, and on Oct. 3, citizens will have two opportunities to make public comments on the proposed changes in front of the commissioners.

The Department of Planning has been working with several other county departments to update the county’s zoning since February 2015, according to Planning Director Lynda Eisenberg. The proposed changes include redistricting industrial and commercial areas, Eisenberg said in an interview.

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Although the rezoning process has been in the works for four years, Eisenberg said the county has pushed particularly hard the last 18 months. The Board of Commissioners recently agreed to schedule a public hearing to receive comments on the rezoning documents. There will be meetings Oct. 3 in the Reagan Room (003) of the County Office Building at 225 N. Center St., Westminster, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. The hearings will include information on the proposed text and map changes, according to a release from the county office.

Updating the zoning code was prompted by the adoption of the Carroll County Master Plan in 2014, Eisenberg said. The plan includes recommendations for a new commercial district, Eisenberg said, so the Department of Planning wanted to update the zoning code to align with that plan and the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan.

“Our zoning code was 40 years old,” Eisenberg said.

The most significant anticipated change is switching from two commercial districts to three.

Currently, there are two commercial districts — Business General and Business Neighborhood Retail, according to Eisenberg. The new zoning would eliminate those districts and in their place would be Commercial 1, 2, and 3, she said.

“All of our commercial activities were really taking places in two primary districts," Eisenberg said.

Having three districts will allow the county to more appropriately classify commercial entities as low, medium, or high density, according to Eisenberg. C-1 would be the lowest while C-3 would be highest, she said. An example of a C-1 business could be a small neighborhood shop, while a C-2 business would be like a restaurant with a drive-thru, and a C-3 would be a large store such as Target, Eisenberg said.

C-1 is for businesses up to 10,000 square feet in size, C-2 is 10,000 to 60,000 square feet, and C-3 is 60,000 square feet and up, according to Eisenberg.

The way commercial zoning operates currently, a little gas station and a large box store could be in the same district, Eisenberg said, and the new code would group businesses more appropriately, she said.

This change, if approved, will only affect new businesses, Eisenberg noted. Commercial entities already in place need not worry about rezoning, she said. They will be able to stay where they are and, if they want to expand, they’ll still have that option, Eisenberg said.

“If you are there, you are fine,” she said.

The Department of Planning has created several drafts of the rezoning plan throughout the years, working with the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, Carroll County Economic Development, the county attorney, zoning administration, the Board of Commissioners, and more, and has taken comments from residents along the way, Eisenberg said.

The final rezoning iteration will be up for comment at the hearing, but it’s not completely final, according to Eisenberg. The comments of citizens may still prompt changes, she said. The public hearing record will be open for 10 days, then the commissioners will meet and consider adopting the comprehensive rezoning, according to Eisenberg.

The proposed text can be viewed online at carrollcountymd.gov under the Department of Planning page. Click on Carroll County Comprehensive Rezoning and scroll down to the Board of County Commissioners Proposed Text. Several hyperlinks to the documents are available there. An interactive zoning map and place to submit comments are also on the web page. Documents can also be reviewed and copies can be obtained at the Department of Planning.

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“Any citizen unable to attend the public hearing is encouraged to send written comments to the Department of Planning, 225 North Center Street, Room 106, Westminster, Maryland, 21157 or ccplanning@carrollcountymd.gov and will be considered if received within 10 calendar days after the close of the hearing. Questions should be addressed to the Department of Planning at ccplanning@carrollcountymd.gov or 410-386-5145,” the release states.

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