Zoning is a system of land use regulation that controls the physical development of land. It is a legal mechanism by which local government is able to regulate an owner’s right to use privately owned land for the sake of protecting the public health, safety or general welfare.
Land is mapped into different zones with the primary purpose of promoting compatible land uses and to separate incompatible uses.
Decisions regarding how land is zoned are determined, in part, by the County’s master plan, which lays out broad policies to implement a shared vision for the future, and adopted community plans.
My Neighborhood Interactive Map
The My Neighborhood Interactive Map allows users to search for properties, view the zoning, view aerial photography, create custom printable maps and obtain owner information.
A Citizen's Guide to Zoning
A guide created to assist in developing a basic understanding of the various processes and documents related to zoning and other land use regulations. View zoning guide.
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 2020 CZMP was concluded by the County Council on August 25, 2020. Below are the Logs of Issues reflecting decisions made in previous CZMP:
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.
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.
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.
Zoning Terms and Classifications
A list of the zoning classifications used in Baltimore County with short descriptions are shown below. A Citizen's Guide to Planning and Zoning includes an illustrated description of each of the county's zones. There are general types of zones such as rural, density residential, office, business, industrial and mixed use. Districts may be superimposed onto a zone to provide additional detailed regulation. Currently, there are nine zoning districts.