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Zoning Review

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.

Rezoning Processes

There are a number of ways to rezone land in Baltimore County.

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.

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 A Citizen's Guide to Zoning

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 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.

Contact Us

Zoning Review Office

County Office Building
111 West Chesapeake Avenue
Room 124
Towson, Maryland 21204