Planning Zoning Changes Maryland: What does it mean

We have just such an opportunity right now in Anne Arundel County.  The Office of Planning & Zoning has divided the County into 9 regions and is pursuing comprehensive planning – including re-zoning throughout the County
Zoning Planning Changes Anne Arundel County

Planning Zoning Changes Maryland:

Under State law, every local jurisdiction in Maryland is required to review and update their comprehensive plan on a periodic basis.  These planning documents are referred to by different names: Comp Plan, Comprehensive Development Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Plan, General Plan, General Development Plan, Long Range, etc., depending upon custom and tradition for individual jurisdictions.  Regardless of their title, all essentially are the same in terms of composition and general contents, and all perform the same task.  In this instance, local jurisdiction means all counties and incorporated municipalities, ie., towns and cities.  Also, in accordance with the Land Use Article, Maryland Annotated Code, each local jurisdiction is supposed to use this plan update as the basis to conduct a comprehensive zoning revision. (for personal assistance navigating the quagmire of rules and regs Contact Phil Hager)

These Planning Zoning Changes in Maryland are required to be performed at least once every ten years but may be conducted on a more frequent cycle.  The geographical area associated with the plan can vary; it can cover the entire jurisdiction or it may be limited to a specific area, such as when a local government conducts small area planning and produces region or subregion plans, watershed-based plans, or some other type of geographic-specific planning.  Regardless of how the jurisdiction is parceled for planning purposes, the entire county or municipality must somehow be addressed by a comprehensive planning process on a decennial basis.

These plans are called “comprehensive” because they are comprehensive in scope.  Most plans include a dozen or so “Elements”.  Elements are what professional planners call “Chapters”.  A comprehensive plan’s elements will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but will typically have Elements devoted to: Land Use, Transportation, Housing, Water Resources, Public Facilities, Sensitive Areas, Mineral Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Economic Development, and Implementation.  The Land Use Article mandates the inclusion of certain Elements, and the Maryland Department of Planning provides considerable resources and guidance on the topic of Elements. 

The Elements are of critical importance in terms of making these plans “comprehensive”.  In producing these plans, the local government through staff, the planning commission, a consultant, or combinations thereof, will specifically analyze the jurisdiction in terms of the various disciples associated with each Element.  They will break each discipline down into its individual pieces.  Once these building blocks are formed, the jurisdiction-wide analysis is completed using these blocks and the blocks created through the simultaneous analysis of the disciplines of which the other Elements are comprised.  Through this detailed analysis, the various components are assessed in a vacuum and in a combined manner.  The result is a thorough analysis where many different factors are evaluated individually and “in toto” to produce a plan that is more resilient and more likely to respond to the tests to which it will be subjected during the 10 years until the next cycle.

During these comprehensive processes, the local jurisdictions typically look at existing land use patterns, development trends, public infrastructure (roads, wastewater, schools, etc.) and combine them with public sentiment and community engagement to produce a Future Land Use Map that reflects the best possible compromise merging of all of these sometimes-competing inputs.  This Future Land Use Map then forms the basis for the comprehensive re-zoning phase.

The next step is for staff to overlay the Future Land Use Map and existing zoning to identify inconsistencies and areas where further analysis may be appropriate.  Adding greatly to the difficulty of this process is the fact that property owners are making requests for change and interested parties and stakeholder groups are weighing in on requests and recommendations. 

This is one of those Made in the U.S.A. sausage grinding situations where sometimes it is best not to watch.  But guess what?  It is an audience participation opportunity not to be missed…after all, it only comes around once every 10 years. 

As ugly as this process can be, it is part of the land use decision-making process in Maryland and it is an incredible right and privilege that we enjoy as residents of this great state.  Best of all, it is provided free of charge – courtesy of our counties, towns and cities – every 10 years.

We have just such an opportunity right now in Anne Arundel County.  The Office of Planning & Zoning has divided the County into 9 regions and is pursuing comprehensive planning – including re-zoning throughout the County, by region.  If you have an interest in re-zoning a property, Hager Land stands ready to assist you.  We have successfully aided a number of landowners and are working on several more.  Please contact us to discuss.  This is something you don’t want to miss – after all, it only comes around every 10 years.

Feel free to Contact Phil for assistance.

Phil Hager
Phil Hager

Philip R. Hager has enjoyed a diverse career in planning, zoning, land use, environmental restoration, and
public policy analysis.


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