One resident answers commission's invitation

County sought opinions on 170 ordinances as laws are condensed

July 02, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

As part of an effort to make county laws more user-friendly, the county commissioners invited residents last night to voice their opinions on a batch of ordinances regulating everything from the cost of a marriage license to the preservation of farmland.

One resident spoke.

During a brief workshop at the county office building, James Harris, a Westminster landscaper, suggested several changes to the county's forest conservation law.

The law requires developers to preserve or plant trees on part of the land used for construction. Harris said a number of improvements -- such as not requiring fencing around trees -- could make the law better.

"Somehow we came up with an ordinance that is more strict than other counties'," Harris said.

The workshop also solicited public comments on laws governing mobile home parks, private streets, parking, controlled access highways, marriage license fees and the agricultural preservation program.

Although none of these laws drew comments, the county commissioners said they were pleased with the second of many public hearings to be held on the 170 ordinances. The first hearing was held last fall by the previous board of commissioners.

"This is trial and error tonight," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "We just wanted to give everybody an opportunity to speak."

The commissioners are seeking comment on county laws as part of a continuing project to streamline the county's law books. Over the years, many of the ordinances have been amended dozens of times, making it difficult for the public to understand them.

In a fit of legal housekeeping, the county is also organizing them under subject headings with an index and table of contents.

The new system is expected to reduce the number of documents by at least 33 percent.

None of the reorganization will change the substance of the laws, but workshops such as the one held last night could lead to changes in the future.

Much of the work is being done by General Code Services of Rochester, N.Y., which is being paid $18,000.

The reorganized book of county laws will be printed and published on the Internet.

Bill Powel, coordinator of the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Program, said the land preservation ordinance has become too cumbersome for people to read. Residents were forced to wade through a lot of paperwork to understand changes that had been made to the ordinance.

Now, he said, "it's readable."

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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