Hampstead Town Manager John A. Riley proposed a zoning ordinance change at Monday night's Town Council meeting that would allow larger decks in Hampstead -- and legalize many oversize decks already built.
Under the town's current zoning ordinance, decks may extend into 25 percent of the minimum required depth of the yard.
For example, a house with a 36-foot back yard may have a 9-foot deck, Arthur Moler, chairman of the town's Planning and Zoning Commission, said yesterday.
Residents who want to build larger decks are supposed to apply for a zoning variance, at a cost of $190, said Councilman Wayne Thomas.
Mr. Riley's proposal would allow decks to extend into 40 percent of the depth of the back yard.
Under the plan, Mr. Moler said, a house with a 35-foot back yard would be allowed to have a 14-foot deck.
The ordinance would also grandfather an unknown number of existing decks that are larger than is currently allowed.
Mr. Thomas said Monday that he had no objection to allowing larger decks, but that it was wrong to grandfather existing decks that are in violation of the town code.
"What does it say to the homeowner who lives next door, who paid for the variance?" he asked yesterday.
In response to earlier complaints that some residents had built decks without the necessary county permits, county inspectors investigated part of the Roberts Field area of Hampstead, said Ralph E. Green, chief of Carroll's Bureau of Permits and Inspections, yesterday.
Initially, he said, the investigators thought they had found about 50 decks that had been built without permits.
However, he said some of the owners were later found to have proper permits. That investigation is continuing.
Many of the decks identified by the county are also in violation of Hampstead law.
Mayor Clint Becker said Tuesday that unless the law is changed, about 50 people will have to go to the town Board of Zoning Appeals to obtain variances for their decks.
"That's just the ones that we know about," he said. "I would venture to say that it's a lot more than that."
"The way I see it," Mr. Becker said, "is that perhaps the law was a little too strict."
The proposed ordinance will be sent to the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission for comment at its meeting Monday.
The Town Council is likely to take up the ordinance again at its next meeting Aug. 16.