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The Board of County Commissioners intends to adopt changes to Carroll County zoning for commercial, industrial, and employment campus districts Dec. 12, according to the county planning director.

That would close the first chapter of the comprehensive rezoning process, which the county has been undertaking in order to update a nearly 40-year-old zoning code.

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The proposed changes have been posted online and, on Oct. 3, the county held two public hearings to hear comments from citizens. The record then remained open for 10 days. Lynda Eisenberg, director of planning, presented an 85-page packet summarizing the public comments and staff responses to the commissioners Oct. 17.

The commissioners and county staff involved in the rezoning process have held public work sessions to polish the proposed changes after hearing from the public, according to Eisenberg.

“We’re just circling back around and fine-tuning based on additional comments during that public comment period," she said.

This is the first time the county is going through comprehensive rezoning, Eisenberg said, and the county is seeking feedback from the community on how it handled the process. A survey will be posted until Dec. 15 and is available on the county website under the planning department page.

The most recent work session focused mostly on the business/industrial park development style, Eisenberg said in an interview. The Liberty Exchange shopping plaza in Eldersburg is the only property classified as a business/industrial park in the county, she said, and under the new zoning, business park and industrial park will be separate. Liberty Exchange will be grandfathered into the updated zoning code as a business/industrial park, according to Eisenberg.

Moving forward, county staff and commissioners thought separating the business and industrial park development styles would be better and more specific, Eisenberg said.

A business park is defined in the proposal as “a self-contained development area of primarily business uses that is cohesive, with a common development scheme, and developed as a standalone entity." An industrial park is defined as “a self-contained development area of primarily industrial uses that is cohesive, with a common development scheme, and developed as a stand-alone entity," according to the proposal.

“I don’t see that really affecting anyone," Eisenberg said. “If your business doesn’t fit in that model that may not be where you should be."

Eisenberg said she hopes the changes to business parks will help attract businesses — beyond retail stores — that offer higher-paying jobs.

Even if the commissioners adopt the proposed zoning changes Dec. 12, there is still more rezoning work to be done. Eisenberg said code amendments for residential, agricultural and conservation districts are still on the to-do list. Because rezoning is such an intense process, it is being broken up into phases, she said.

According to the meeting summary posted on the county website, some of the actions at the Nov. 12 work session included:

  • Changed the definitions of both the business park and the industrial park to allow for subdivision of lots when the park larger than 20 acres. When between 10 and 20 acres, the park may not be subdivided, and must remain under common ownership and control.
  • Clarified the grandfathering language for business/industrial park to specify that revisions and amendments to the development plan are permitted.
  • Changed the references to “general retail and service uses” in the business/industrial park to “uses permitted in the commercial districts, not including residential and retirement communities."
  • Increased the size limitation for commercial uses in the business/industrial park from 6,000 to 25,000 square feet.
  • Removed the phasing requirement for the business/industrial park.
  • Allowed three of the uses currently prohibited in the business/industrial park: antique shop, consignment shop and automobile service center.

According to the meeting summary posted on the county website, some of the actions at the Nov. 21 work session included:

  • Corrected the language discussed on Nov. 12 regarding the business park and the industrial park that specifies that when between ten and twenty acres, the park may not be subdivided, and must remain under common ownership.
  • Specified that in a business/industrial park, a medical or dental clinic would not count against the commercial percentage limitation.
  • Specified that hotel/motel and conference center may be included in a business/industrial park.
  • Allowed interior yards of zero in the business park, the business/industrial park, and the industrial park, and allowed the planning commission to reduce the other yard requirements in these parks.
  • Allowed the three types of parks to have more than one sign when fronting on more than one street.
  • Deleted antique shops and consignment stores from the list of prohibited uses in the industrial park.
  • Increased the allowable size of retail stores in the industrial park to 10,000 square feet.

None of the proposed changes will be effective until after the commissioners adopt the rezoning.

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