Officials may soon be cutting the red tape that's caused barbed wire to jam Salt Lake City's zoning appeal system.

City officials say so many businesses are using barbed wire these days, particularly in the city's industrial areas, that a change in the city's ordinances wouldn't make much difference. A lot of businesses fear they would become regular targets for criminals without the wire."Aesthetically, it won't make a difference," said Craig Spangenberg, the city's housing and zoning supervisor. "It's amazing how much barbed wire there is out there."

The City Council soon will be considering whether to relax its stance against barbed wire around businesses. A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

Years ago, Salt Lake City officials decided they didn't want barbed wire surrounding business all over town.

"The reasoning in the past was that we didn't want it to look like we were trying to fortify our city," said Brad Stewart, the city's assistant public works director.

City ordinances allow barbed wire only in places where it is necessary to protect people, such as surrounding electrical transformer stations or construction sites. Business owners can't use barbed wire to protect their property.

To get around that, a business owner must ask the city's Board of Adjustment for a waiver and must pay a $50 filing fee.

When someone applies for a business license, city zoning officers inspect the property that will be used. Often they find barbed wire already installed, particularly if the property was used previously by another business.

"We approve the business license but send them a letter saying they have to get rid of this zoning violation," said Randy Taylor, the city's Board of Adjustment administrator. "We generally give them one year."

During that time, the business owners usually ask the Board of Adjustment for permission to keep the wire. Consequently, the board has a tremendous backlog.

"I have been getting about three calls a week about barbed wire," Taylor said.

If the City Council approves the new ordinance, business owners simply would obtain a building permit to install barbed wire. Some restrictions still would apply. Barbed wire would not be allowed along certain streets or near homes. So-called razor wire would not be allowed under any circumstances.

Still, city officials say people driving through the city never will notice the difference.

"We're just cutting some of the red tape," Spangenberg said.