Zoning Appeals & Zoning Use Changes

As a homeowner, when you want to remodel your home or even a build an addition, you must obtain permission from the local government. That is understandable in that the government assesses boundaries, environment impacts, and building regulations.  

The same requirements also apply to new land use. Without clearing the way through zoning ordinances and regulations, a planned project can stall.

Zoning plans establish agreed upon standards of a community while zoning ordinances and regulations define how the property will be used, whether mixed residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, or rural.   

At the Law Office of Matthew S. Evans, we understand local zoning restrictions and ordinances and we will represent your interest before planning boards and explain the land use restrictions imposed by local, county and state governments. We can also assist clients by researching special exemptions or variances. We are skilled at negotiating solutions and can help you clear the legal hurdles that might otherwise block your plans.

Land Use Development

Let’s presume you are a land developer in Maryland and have acquired property with the goal of developing it into usable lots for local builders. Every parcel of land is governed by zoning requirements. These laws determine how the property can be used and what can be set upon it.

When the zoning code does not allow your purposes for the intended parcel, you will need to understand the options you have available in order to move ahead.

The first step is to explore the land use ordinance established by the county zoning code. Generally, its purpose is to promote public health and safety and the general good of residents.

Zoning encourages the most appropriate use of land, such as:

*Historic preservation

*To promote appropriate use of waterfront properties

* To provide for adequate parking and loading areas

*To protect building standards and conformation

*To ensure there is adequate drainage, a reduction of flood damage and erosion 

*To protect residential communities and business areas

*To avoid concentration of population and street congestion

*To avoid harmful encroachment by incompatible uses and promote health and welfare of residents

Any appeal of the zoning code must comport with those requirements. Neighborhoods change over time. We frequently find that zoning codes are decades old and need updating, especially in industrial and commercial districts and their encroachment on land use.

Zoning Appeals

Let’s say that part of your development is close to the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.  That area is defined as any property within 1,000 feet of tidal waters. In order to appeal for a zoning reclassification, you have the burden of proof.

First you must submit a Critical Area report. It needs to include the rezoning application and finding and address the impact of the proposed reclassification.  

Your success likely depends on whether you are asking for a Zoning Variance, which is a modification of a specific requirement contained in the county zoning ordinance that seeks a relaxation of regulation.

If you are seeking a variance, you want to meet less than the full zoning requirements.

Another type of appeal might be seeking new Conditional Use, which allows certain use of the property.

The first step is to apply for a zoning variance of with the county Office of Planning and Zoning.

After filling out the paperwork, the Office of Administrative Hearings will set a date for a public hearing. During that public hearing, testimony will be received and the office will ultimately decide whether to grant or deny your request.

Evans Law will help you with your presentation, including the efforts you plan to make to eliminate any negative impacts. We will represent your rezoning application before the county government administrative hearing, which will review the applications and issue findings.

Zoning Use Changes

Any zoning variance application must be very specific and must adhere to the demands of the zoning division of your county.

Besides an application form, you will most likely need to provide multiple copies of a letter of explanation. It must include dimensions and the square footage of all existing and proposed buildings, topography, and information about the surrounding neighborhood.  Information on the locally environmentally sensitive area will also weigh heavily in their decision.

We will need to be very specific in the changes that are requested and thorough in the information that is submitted including:

*Zoning boundaries

*Bog protection areas

*Setbacks and parking

*Road circulation

*Utilities and drainage structure

*Forested areas and high water lines

*Natural features and required buffers

*Impact on environmentally sensitive areas

*Easement and right of way agreements

When appealing zoning requirements or zoning use changes, we must establish that our changes conform with the County Development Plan.

Zoning Use Changes

On occasion, a resident may seek a zoning use change. That request asks that the area be rezoned and reclassified from one zoning district to another.  This can be done as a comprehensive reassigning or piecemeal.

The County Council will review and update all of the zoning maps in a comprehensive zoning. In piecemeal, property may be reclassified to correct any mistake undertaken by the last comprehensive process. In some cases, there may be a change in the character of the neighborhood that will require a change in the zoning.

Contact the Law Office of Matthew S. Evans for Further Assistance with Zoning Appeals and Zoning Use Changes

If you need legal guidance with zoning and land use issues in Maryland, call our office today at (410) 431-2599 or message us online to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.