Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

"What is my property zoned?"

The Office of Zoning Administration (OZA) will help you identify the zoning for your property.  You will need to provide the street address, or the tax map and parcel number, or a tax ID for the property, which can be found on your most recent property tax statement.  You can find this information for your property by using the State Department of Assessments and Taxation Real Property Search at

"What are the uses allowed on my property?"

There are many uses that could be allowed on any given property. The Office of Zoning Administration will help you determine what is allowed on the property in any zoning district. The uses allowed in each zoning district are outlined in Chapter 158 of the County Code.  While the exact uses allowed in each zoning district are too numerous to list, you may either stop by the office or call to review the lists of uses or view them online at the Code of Public Local Laws.

"What is the difference between a principal permitted use, a conditional use, and an accessory use? "

Principal permitted uses are those allowed as a matter of right.


Conditional uses are those that may be permitted only after a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).


Accessory uses are those which are customarily incidental and secondary to the principal use on a property: for example, a garage or a pool.

"I don't see the use I want on my property listed."

It is impossible to list every imaginable land use in the County Code. It is the job of the OZA to interpret the zoning ordinance.  Contact OZA to discuss your proposed use.  In many instances, if a use is not listed within a zoning district, it is inferred that the use is not allowed within that district, particularly if that use is listed in another category.  There are a few cases in which the Board of Zoning Appeals determines if a use is appropriate within a zoning district.

"What are the zoning categories in Carroll County?"

The zoning districts in Carroll County are:

  • C Conservation:
  • A Agricultural:
  • C-1 Commercial Low Intensity
  • C-2 Commercial Medium Intensity
  • C-3 Commercial High Intensity
  • I-1 Light Industrial
  • I-2 Heavy Industrial
  • Employment Campus
  • Heritage
  • Historic District Overlay
  • R-40,000
  • R-20,000
  • R-10,000
  • R-7,500.
  • Mobile Home Park
  • Mineral Resource Overlay

Review Chapter 158 Zoning of the Carroll County Code for specific information about each zoning district or for permitted uses.

"Does Carroll County regulate the zoning in the municipalities?"

No, each of the eight municipalities in Carroll County has its own zoning regulations. Contact the city or town office for information on properties that are in the municipal boundaries.

"What are "setbacks"?"

Setbacks are the distances required between structures or uses and property lines. These distances vary within each zoning district. Administrative Adjustments can be made to some setbacks by submitting a request to the Zoning Administrator.

"How do I apply for an Administrative Adjustment for my property?"

The Administrative Adjustment Application downloaded, or you may contact our office by telephone (410-386-2980) or email ( for the appropriate forms.  The forms must be completed in detail so that all of the legal requirements are met.

Administrative Adjustment Requests are generally heard on the first Wednesday of each month in the County Office Building if they are scheduled.  While Administrative Adjustment cases before the Zoning Administrator are informal hearings, requests cannot be automatically granted.  Each applicant must be able to substantiate that their property is unique or different and that there would be a practical difficulty or unreasonable hardship that is not self-imposed if the request is granted.

"Where do I get the information I need about adjoining property owners that must be notified of my request for a variance?"

This information is available from the State Office of Assessments & Taxation at 410-857-0600.  You also can find this information by using the State Department of Assessments and Taxation Real Property Search at

"What is a utility easement (D.U.E.)?"

Utility easements are encountered on many properties in the county which have been created by the subdivision process. Generally, these easements are there to accommodate the placement of water, sewer, gas, or communication lines, or to allow for the free flow of stormwater across properties so it is properly managed. No permanent structure is allowed in any utility easement because of the potential that stormwater could be misdirected to affect another person's property or discombobulate the overall stormwater plan for the area. The County also maintains the legal right to enter a utility easement area in case any underground utility requires service.

"I want to operate a business from my home. What permits do I need?"

You should consult with the Carroll County Health Department and/or other agencies, depending on the type and size operation you intend. If you want to operate a simple office from the home, as many individuals do these days, a zoning certificate is required and may be permitted after the submittal of an Affidavit or an Administrative Adjustment Request.  There should be no outside appearance of an office or business operating there, and no additional traffic may be generated.

Simple home usage, such as craft and art operations, are also considered Accessory uses to the Principal use(s).  However, the home office must be listed as an allowable Accessory use, and the definition of home occupation must be met (See the definition of Home Occupation in §158.002 of the County Code).

The OZA will require more detail on other types of business operations to determine if they are permitted in specific zoning categories. Contact the office at 410-386-2980 for more information. Keep in mind that there are residential and business zoning categories are distinctly different, as these two types of uses are intended to be kept separate.

" I intend to start a new business. Where do I find information on where I can locate it? What permits do I need?"

Office of Zoning Administration can tell you which zoning districts are appropriate for the type of business you are starting or relocating, and we can give you information regarding where each of these zoning districts are in the county.

You will need to consult with various agencies to determine specific permits needed, which will vary depending on the type and size of operation you intend.  Other agencies/offices you should consult with before moving forward include (but are not limited to):

The first step for obtaining any information for a non-residential project on your property (i.e. a new building, a building addition, a change of use) is to contact the Office of Zoning Administration to confirm that it complies with the zoning for your property.  You can call, email, or submit the Site Development Process - Citizen Inquiry form online for non-residential projects, and a staff person will respond with guidance for your project.

"What are the regulations on fences and walls?"

Fences and walls do not need to meet the required setback and/or minimum building line requirements.  However, if a fence or wall placed in a utility easement has to be removed, it must be done so at the owner's expense.  

Additionally, §158.042 of the County Code stipulates that fences, walls, and plantings on corner lots cannot interfere with traffic visibility and shall not be erected within 20 feet of the intersection of the road right-of-way.  We urge you to contact Miss Utility at 1-800-257-7777 before setting any footers or posts to assure you that you do not strike an underground utility line.

"How many dogs, cats, llamas, etc. can I keep on my property?"

Much of Carroll County is zoned "Agricultural" and the maintenance of herds of farm animals in these areas is a priority. Carroll County has a Right-to-Farm law, Chapter 160 of the County Code, which deals with conflicts between traditional agricultural uses and the new residential areas. The number of animal units as defined in §158.002 that is allowed on the property would depend on the zoning district and the lot size.  Requirements related to commercial kennels can also be found in the Zoning Code.

"Where are Mobile Homes Permitted?"

While there are numerous individual mobile homes and mobile home parks in Carroll County, most of these parks or individual units pre-date the establishment of zoning in the county and are allowed to continue as non-conforming uses. Although there is a provision in the County Code (§158.076 and §158.150) for mobile homes and parks, there currently are no parcels designated for this use in the county.

"What are the County sign regulations?"

The numerous requirements for business signs are contained in Chapter 158.110 through Chapter 158.115 of the Zoning Code.  The requirements vary for on-premises and off-premises businesses.  Most signs require zoning certificates, so it is best to check with OZA for your specific needs.

"What is the most frequent complaint filed with OZA?"

The two most common complaints received are too many unlicensed vehicles and junkyard-like conditions on a property.  Often both violations are alleged about the same property. 

The OZA urges citizens to try to resolve differences with their neighbors on a personal basis before filing a complaint.  While the OZA only investigates potential violations if a complaint has been made, complaints cannot be anonymous.

"Can I file an anonymous complaint? "

The OZA will take complaints on various issues such as: junkyard conditions, unlicensed vehicles, unauthorized business, excessive number of farm animals, fowl, commercial vehicles, etc.

The OZA is a complaint-based operation, meaning that the OZA enforcement staff only investigate issues when a complaint is filed rather than seek out violations. The OZA can open a case and investigate the alleged violation.  However, anonymous complaints are not taken.

The OZA urges citizens to try to resolve differences with their neighbors on a personal basis before filing a complaint.

"What is OZA's process for handling violations?"

Complaints are taken by phone, e-mail, or in person at the OZA office. An investigation number is created, and an inspector is assigned to investigate the complaint, generally within 48 hours of receipt.

If the complaint proves to be a violation of the zoning ordinance, the inspector may discuss it on-site with the property owner. If the complaint is not resolved at that initial point of contact, a 10-Day Letter is then sent to the property owner, giving them ten days to contact the OZA to discuss how and when the violation should be resolved. If the property owner is uncooperative, a formal Notice of Violation is issued, giving the owner 30 days to bring the property into compliance or appeal the Notice of Violation to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).

If the violation is neither appealed nor abated within the 30 days, the file is turned over to the County Attorney for legal action. The Court may impose fines and issue orders directing the property owner or the County to abate the violation. In matters where the County is authorized to abate the violation, competitive bids are sought to perform the cleanup, removal, or other action.  As of October 1, 2004, the property owner will be assessed the costs by adding the costs to the annual property tax bill.

"How can I get my property re-zoned?"

There are two ways in which a property owner can seek a rezoning.  

The first is called a "piecemeal" rezoning, where only a single property or small area is considered.  The Board of County Commissioners holds a public hearing and makes the determination on piecemeal rezonings.  Applicants must be able to satisfactorily prove that there has been a substantial change to the neighborhood in which the property is located in, or that a mistake was made in the initial zoning of the property.   Carroll County requirements related to piecemeal rezoning requests can be found in the Zoning Code §158.134 Amendments.

The second rezoning technique most frequently used for rezonings is through the County Comprehensive Plan Review process, which occurs approximately every ten years.  

For more information about either rezoning process, visit the Comprehensive Planning Rezoning webpage and/or contact the Bureau of Comprehensive Planning at 410-386-5145.

"I want to subdivide my property. Where do I start?"

You must first determine the potential for subdividing your property. Lot yield, if any, is determined by the property's zoning classification. In many instances, parcels that were created by a previous subdivision plan may not be further subdivided regardless of the lot size. The OZA can help you determine your zoning district and provide you with minimum lot sizes for that zoning district. 

Review the information on the Bureau of Development Review website to learn more about the subdivision process.  To determine the actual lot yield and find out more about the subdivision process for your property, contact the Bureau of Development Review by calling 410-386-2722, or emailing

"Can you provide me with a plat of my property?"

The OZA does not maintain copies of record plats. In some instances, the Bureau of Development Review may be able to provide a copy of a plat, but generally plats are only obtainable from the Office of Land Records or the Maryland State Archives.  Many Carroll County subdivision plats are available on the Maryland Archives website at,  Use the username "plato" and the password "plato#" to access the plats.

"Does zoning address issues like flood plains and streams?"

No, zoning is strictly a matter of the use of land. However, there are several County regulations governing the use of environmentally sensitive areas.

For these regulations, review the County Code Chapters under TITLE XV:  LAND USE.  More information is also available on the Bureau of Resource Management website or contact them by telephone at 410-386-2506.

"What are the penalties for zoning violations? Do zoning cases ever wind up in court?"

If OZA issues a Civil Citation for a zoning violation, the penalties are $50.00 for the first offense, $100.00 for the second offense, $200.00 for the third offense and $500 for each subsequent offense. It is important to note that a fine may be imposed for each day a violation exists and that each day a violation exists is a separate offense. The failure to correct a violation after the expiration of the time period for correction stated in a citation is a separate offense. Some zoning cases are resolved in the courts when OZA cannot achieve voluntary compliance, or when OZA actions are first affirmed by the Board of Zoning Appeals, but later appealed to the courts.