Editorial: Kudos to Planning Department for involving public in zoning code updates

As we’ve seen mostly recently with the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan and, a few years prior to that with the Carroll County Master Plan, land-use planning can be complicated and contentious, especially when the public doesn’t feel like they are involved in the process.

That’s why we are thus far pleased with how the Carroll County Department of Planning is handling its latest task, an update to the county’s zoning code that determines how properties are classified. The department sent mailers ahead of public meetings, where officials are asking for residents to provide feedback and ask questions.


Current zoning codes were written more than 50 years ago, so to say they are in need of an update is an understatement. But the process won’t be a quick one, and that’s a good thing.

Interim Director of Planning Lynda Eisenberg said she anticipates it will take roughly two years from start to finish.

During that time, there will be plenty of meetings with the public — like the one last week in Eldersburg, the one scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, Feb. 15, in the Reagan Room of the Carroll County Office Building in Westminster, and another from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Mount Airy Senior Center — to engage with planning officials and ask questions about the plans.

There has also been a website set up,, that includes maps, answers to frequently asked questions, the ability to sign up for email alerts and a dashboard that shows where each part of the rezoning update is in the process.

Right now, the portion before the public is the zoning code or text, and specifically, changes to simplify commercial and industrial zoning categories. Rather than using an alphabet soup of letters like B-NR (Business Neighborhood Retail) or I-G (Industrial General), the proposals would make the codes easier to understand. For example, the county’s two-tiered commercial zoning, which includes BNR and Business General, would now be: C-1, C-2 and C-3, with each number representing a higher level of intensive use. Industrial would be I-1 and I-2.

The Planning Department has also introduced a “use table format” of the different zoning categories that, in Eisenberg’s words, “where you don’t have to be a professional land use attorney or surveyor to be able to understand our code and what you can and can’t do,” on a piece of property.

After these text changes move through the process, next up would be employment campus, followed by residential, agriculture and conservation districts with similar rounds of meetings. If all goes according to schedule, within a year, the maps will come to the forefront with a similar process, soliciting public feedback.

And we encourage you to give that feedback to county employees and ask questions.

Unlike the Freedom Plan, which was focused on only a portion of the county, these zoning code updates will touch nearly every corner of the county that isn’t already part of an incorporated municipality. In many cases, the effects of proposed changes will be minimal; in some areas, there will be greater impact.

An engaged public makes for a far better process and typically better — or a least more-informed — decision-making from county officials.