Whether you're the builder of a 200-home development or a two-story addition to the back of the house, chances are you're going to come in contact with the county's voluminous zoning ordinance.

The hundreds of pages in that 26-year-old document are the bible of planners, zoning officials, developers and weekend carpenters, regulating where, when and how buildings, businesses or other structures can be built.

While the zoning ordinance has been around since 1965, a pair of committees has been looking at ways to simplify it for the last six years.

The County Planning Commission endorsed last week the work done by those committees, sending nearly 45 pages of recommended changes in the ordinance to the County Commissioners for their approval.

Those recommendations -- finalized by the 11-member Zoning Ordinance Oversight Committee -- are designed to make zoning in Carroll "moreunderstandable," said Solveig L. Smith, the county's zoning administrator.

"In an ideal situation, we would want the clarity of the ordinance such that anybody on the street could understand it and read it," she said last week. "I think that is impossible; but, hopefully,this process will make the ordinance better."

Included in the recommendations forwarded to the commissioners are changes and additionsto zoning definitions, an addition of "industrial campus" zoning districts, and shifts in the types of buildings or businesses that can be built in certain types of zoning districts.

"What the ZOO committee was to do is examine all zoning," Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. said. "What they have done is polish it up, fleshing it out in places, fixing it up in others and eliminating ambiguous areas."

For instance, adult entertainment establishments should be regulated just as any other business, the report says.

Other recommendations include the listing of prohibited uses, the creation of newzoning classifications as the need arises and the reworking of current mobile home regulations.

The report, which was originally expected to take six months from January 1989 to complete, was the result of analysis of a citizens committee's responses to the zoning ordinance. That committee, which worked from 1985 to 1989, came up with nearly 200 recommendations for changes in the zoning ordinance; the Zoning Ordinance Oversight Committee pared that number down considerably.

In addition to simplifying the zoning ordinance, the two committees sought mechanisms to reduce the amount of Board of Zoning Appeals cases handled each year.

Between 1980 and 1985, the Board of ZoningAppeals heard 712 cases.

The oversight committee outlines severalways to handle some cases before they reach the board, including some additional training for board members and the preparation of technical reports by county planners before a case comes before the board.

What this all means to an average developer or any other builder in Carroll is a simplification of the rules associated with construction.

"The committee finds no basis for abandoning the basic structure of the Carroll County zoning ordinance," the report reads, "but agrees that comprehensive amendment is needed."

Now that the planning commission has approved the oversight committee's report, the commissioners will decide how much of it they will include in revisions tothe zoning ordinance. That process -- which involves at least one public hearing -- is expected to be completed by the end of next year, Smith said.

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