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Changing the Zoning Map

The official zoning map is enacted by the Baltimore County Council. There are two principal ways by which it can be changed—the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process and Cycle Zoning. The zoning map may also be changed through a Zoning Map Correction.

Comprehensive Zoning Map Process

The Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) takes place every four years on an exact schedule specified in the County Code. Any citizen may request a zoning change on any property in the County. The CZMP covers a period of approximately 12 months and results in zoning decisions that are reflected in a final Log of Issues, with the County Council enacting legislation for each issue whether to retain the existing zoning or to enact a different zone(s) or district(s). Generally, each issue is a single property, but an issue may cover many adjoining properties and might even cover many hundreds of acres. The zoning on all properties which were not issues is re-enacted without change. The 2012 CZMP was concluded by the County Council on August 28, 2012. Below are the Logs of Issues reflecting decisions made in previous CZMP:

Cycle Zoning

During the years between the quadrennial "comprehensive" process, the zoning map can be changed through the "cycle" process. This opportunity arises twice a year, on a specified schedule, with the ultimate decision made by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals instead of the County Council. Only the property owner or contract purchaser is entitled to petition in the cycle process.

Out-Of-Cycle

The out-of-cycle variation provides for expedited scheduling of the Board of Appeals hearing and decision. This option is set in motion if the Planning Board and County Council agrees to certify that a quicker decision is in the public interest or because of an emergency.

Distinctions Between Comprehensive and Cycle Zoning

There are two major differences between comprehensive and cycle zoning. The County Council has broad legislative authority to place whatever zone it deems to be appropriate on a particular property. The Board of Appeals, however, is exercising delegated authority and is much more limited in the scope of its decision-making discretion. The Board of Appeals cannot grant a change in zoning unless the record shows that there has been either a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood since the last comprehensive process, or an error in the mapping. As a legal matter, either of these conditions is usually very difficult to prove.

The other principal difference is that, when the Council enacts a map change on a zoning issue, it is not allowed to impose any accompanying limitations on the use of the property. The owner is allowed to use the land in any of the ways permitted by the regulations pertaining to that zone. In the cycle process, the owner can request the same type of decision (called an "open" filing). Alternatively, the owner has the option to submit a documented site plan specifying in great detail the manner in which the property is to be developed and used.

If the zoning map change is approved by the Board of Appeals, compliance with the documented site plan is mandatory even if the property subsequently changes ownership. If the planned use is not developed within three years, the zoning automatically reverts to its prior classification. By improving the predictability about the actual results of a zoning map change, the documented site plan alternative makes it easier for the petitioner to garner support for the request.

Zoning Map Correction

Technical drafting errors on the official zoning map may be corrected upon a certification by the Director of Planning that the map does not accurately reflect the final zoning classification imposed by the Council during a comprehensive zoning process. The Department files a petition to change the zoning map with the County Board of Appeals. The petition is based on one of the following:

  • A technical drafting error made by the Department in transferring the County Council's enacted zoning classification to the comprehensive zoning map.
      
  • A change in the property's zoning that was not within the boundaries of a filed issue.
       
  • A technical drafting error made by the original petitioner for a zoning change, provided the error did not impact on the intent of the County Council to place a particular zoning classification on the particular property.
         
  • The Department may initiate a petition on its own if it discovers a technical error in the zoning map.

Staff Contact

For questions on the allowable uses under each zoning classification, please contact the Zoning Office at 410-887-3391 or paizoning@baltimorecountymd.gov. You can also visit the Zoning Office Web page for more information.

For questions on processing changes to the zoning map, please contact Jeff Mayhew at jmayhew@baltimorecountymd.gov.

Revised October 18, 2013

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