Planning and Zoning in Maryland

The Land Use Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland authorizes and sets the ground rules for the exercise of local planning and zoning powers. It also outlines the responsibilities, roles, and functions of a local planning commission. It is the planning commission that drafts a comprehensive plan that will address land use and development within a jurisdiction, typically over the next 20 years. Once the planning commission drafts a plan, it must provide copies to adjoining jurisdictions and those governmental units responsible for financing or constructing public improvements necessary to implement the plan. The plan must also be transmitted to the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) for its review and comment. Some of the issues that Planning looks for when reviewing a draft plan are:

  • Consistency with the state's smart growth and growth management laws, in Title 5 of the State Finance & Procurement Article, the Land Use Article, and elsewhere;
  • Whether the plan includes the statutorily required elements, such as a land use, housing, transportation, areas of critical state concern, and water resources; and
  • Consistency with the State Economic Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Policy set forth in Subtitle 5-7A of the State Finance & Procurement Article, commonly known as the 12 Planning Visions.

Planning cannot amend or deny a comprehensive plan; instead, it provides guidance on how local land use decisions may have broader impacts beyond jurisdictional boundaries and how to address those impacts. This is particularly true with respect to military facilities, which are under federal jurisdiction, and thus not subject to local planning and land development regulations. Planning's comments may also include guidance on best practices for demographic analysis and growth and population projections, land use planning, multimodal transportation, infrastructure adequacy, and climate resiliency.

Jurisdictions are required to review their comprehensive plans every 10 years and revise or amend them as necessary. Comprehensive plans should be amended periodically to reflect changes in community conditions and local land use policies. The process for updating a comprehensive plan requires at least one public hearing before the planning commission. At least 60 days prior to that hearing, the draft amendment or plan must be submitted to Planning for its review and comment. Comments from Planning and other state agencies must be included in the public hearing record.

Maryland planning and land use law gives local jurisdictions the flexibility to conduct compatibility discussions with nearby military installations during the comprehensive planning process. Once the plan is in place, local jurisdictions may choose to establish a committee to develop an ordinance focused on supporting compatible development around military installations, consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan. Subsequent development regulations, addressing local compatibility concerns and issues, can then be developed and adopted by elected officials. This process codifies good planning practices into zoning ordinances and land development regulations.

>> Next: Ordinances to Promote Compatibility with Military Missions

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