Ordinance Development

A military compatibility ordinance is developed much like other zoning regulations. The impetus may come from elected officials, military stakeholders, state leaders, committees tasked with planning or economic development, or from private groups, such as a local chamber of commerce. Many compatibility ordinances result from a Compatible Use Study​ (CUS), sometimes called a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS). A CUS is a cooperative land use planning effort that is requested by a local government and is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Compatibility ordinances should consider long-term resiliency initiatives that serve to protect both the installation and community.

Implementing a military compatibility ordinance ideally occurs under the following conditions:

  • Local government and installation leaders are aware of compatibility concerns and agree to develop an ordinance. Sometimes the impetus for an ordinance comes not from leadership, but from the community, often particular stakeholders and interested organizations. Government and military leaders often can better understand issues when briefed by such groups and community planners. Organizations such as veteran and military affairs commissions and elected officials who focus on military-related issues are also potential advocates.

  • Staff charged with drafting an ordinance understand an installation's compatibility concerns and potential solutions. Ordinances should be based on technical documents provided by an installation that describe compatible use impacts and depicts them on a map. Examples of such technical documents include an AICUZ study, an Army Noise Management Plan, or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The National Environmental Policy Act may require an EIS when a large mission change occurs, such as when a new unit moves into an installation, or when aircraft are upgraded. The staff of the installation and local jurisdiction should closely coordinate their efforts to focus on local priorities. Regional, county, and municipal planning staffs and those with expertise in real estate are best suited for this work.

    All military installations have a community planner. On Army installations, the natural resource manager often addresses compatibility issues, while Navy and Marine Corps installations have a Community Planning Liaison Officer who is responsible for supporting compatibility initiatives. Facility planners should also work with an installation's public affairs office, since they typically have a good understanding of community concerns and can serve as a valuable resource for ongoing community relations.

  • Support of other critical stakeholders. Stakeholder groups can be helpful in the adoption of military compatibility ordinances; they can include local military alliances, chambers of commerce, and economic and community development organizations familiar with the economic benefits an installation brings to a community. Local representatives in the Maryland General Assembly or Congress can also be key proponents and should be kept well-informed about a compatible use ordinance. Land use strategies in a compatibility ordinance can also complement broader comprehensive plan goals, such as environmental protection measures, garnering support from interest groups that may not be directly focused on military matters. Organizations that represent farmers, ranchers, foresters, environmentalists, outdoor recreationalists, and hunters have at times joined military advocates when objectives are shared.

Prior to initiating a compatibility ordinance, planning staff should examine pending development projects that, should they move forward, could negatively affect facility operations. Depending upon the urgency and the nature of potential impacts, a jurisdiction may also wish to carefully consider interim actions. A targeted development moratorium is one way to restrict development on an interim basis, allowing time for the local jurisdiction to study the issues and craft regulations that minimize development impacts on military operations. Moratoria are controversial, however, and must be specific and of limited duration to withstand judicial review. For example, in 2014, Prince George's County Council passed an interim moratorium while its Military Installation Overlay Zone was being developed.

One method to prepare an ordinance is to divide the work between a technical committee and a policy committee. The technical committee should include community and installation staff with expertise in planning, infrastructure, facilities, and other fields critical to ordinance development. The technical committee works to translate identified military and community impacts into possible solutions that are reflected in a draft ordinance. The policy committee should include installation leadership, elected officials, and other community leaders. The policy committee works to ensure that political momentum to prepare the ordinance is maintained and the public is involved. They also serve as a sounding board for potential solutions and can review draft documents to anticipate difficulties with adoption. Once completed, the policy committee forwards the draft to local government for its consideration and adoption.

Local jurisdictions often consider bringing in a consultant as part of this process. Hiring a consultant with expertise in compatible use ordinances can bring added expertise and facilitate the process by reducing the workload on busy local staff. The technical committee should work closely with the consultant, provide critical background information and guidance, and review draft documents before they go to the policy committee. Installation and community partners should closely coordinate with the consultant team to ensure that the ordinance addresses local priorities and concerns.

>> Next: Examples of Process and Partnerships

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