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Thread: Maryland planning law

  1. #1
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
    Mar 2005

    Maryland planning law

    Can anyone direct me to a good link or provide a quick summary of the general planning law of Maryland?

    What is the distinction between cities, towns and villages and what planning/zoning rights are delegated to each?

    Does Maryland have any atypical planning/zoning practices or do they tend to be fairly typical? (i.e. Houston no zoning, etc)

    Is there anyone familiar with Montgomery County in particular?

    I was doing some research on Virgina and found they have an interesting county versus city designation in that they are not layered. i.e. you cannot be in a county but also a city. Is this an east coast practice and does Maryland have the same type of separation?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Sep 2003
    near Baltimore, Maryland
    First, courtesy of Google...

    The search page for the Annotated Code of Maryland: http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/
    and the Maryland Department of Planning:

    But before you do, a few words...

    1. Within certain state-imposed limits, most planning and zoning here is broadly controlled by the counties and Baltimore City (more on that in a minute). The only statewide laws I am familiar with are the Smart Growth law that restricts most state funding for things like schools and infrastructure to designated Priority Funding Areas (basically already developed areas targeted for infill, with some generous room for growth at the edges), and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law, which on paper strictly limits development w/in a few hundred feet of the Bay and most tributaries (to minimize any further runoff pollution or erosion) but could use a few more (nice sharp) teeth. Most everything else is county/City dominated.
    Our smart growth law does not have the teeth to prevent local gov's or private developers from investing their own money on stuff outside designated growth areas, although the local's usually don't have the cash to build anything big w/o state help.

    2. Virginia's city/county non-layering thing is utterly unique. In Virginia, the state constitution provides for independant cities, not part of any county, that have somewhat different (generally greater) local powers and responsibilities than the counties, and less dependance on state permission for certain things, at the price of being a bit more on their own in funding. VA has dozens of independant cities, most of them really more like small towns (3k-20k people).
    There are only 3 independant cities in the entire country outside of Virginia:
    a) Baltimore City, MD--entirely seperate from Baltimore County, which wraps around da City on three sides; the City has all the powers, duties and burdens of a county as well as those of a city.
    b) St. Louis, MO--exactly the same situation as Baltimore vis-a-vis wraparound suburban St. Louis County, and similar powers/duties setup. Both setups born around the same time (1850s or so), for same reasons--city complained that county council was dominated by farmers who ignored city needs (b/c there was no redistricting to account for city growth), farmers feared rightly that truly fair redistricting would leave them outvoted and ignored, so the solution was semiamicable divorce.
    c) Carson City, Nevada--because Nevada is weird (so is Md, but in our own special way ).

    3. I know (and to put it bluntly, care) little about MoCo's regs and practices, except that they have a fairly well protected agricultural reserve area upcounty, increasing effort put into infill and redevelopment, one of the first and strongest (but not that strong) affordable housing regs in Md, and much debate over more sprawl vs. infill b/wn a still strong but slowly weakening pro-sprawl old guard and a growing smart growth/sustainability advocate community. The blog Greater Greater Washington (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/) teems with people who can tell you more, some of whom are in the thick of it.

  3. #3
    Jan 2011
    Central PA
    For all of the positive press that Mo Co gets for being smart about growth, that place is really any planner's personal hell. The majority of the county is large lot sprawl, huge congested roadways, and generic big box retail. The schools are severely overcrowded because the housing boom hit the area by "surprise" and the majority of residents commute alone in their cars down 270 to get to D.C. every day. I'm just not sure why planning programs are so fond of the area...

  4. #4
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
    Aug 2006
    Gone to a better place (in my mind)
    Also check out the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), as they are responsible for overseeing planning on the County level in Montgomery County. http://www.mncppc.org/commission_home.html

    However, Mont. is somewhat unique in Maryland as it actually has a lot of incorporated municipal governments. Other counties have few or no incorporated places. Howard County, for example, is the home of Columbia, a place that would be the second-largest city in Maryland if it were incorporated.

    Also, the MD Dept. of Planning has a whole page on planning law, including links to every comp plan in the State: http://planning.maryland.gov/OurWork...planning.shtml

    Note that the state devolved powers for zoning onto local jurisdictions (counties and Balto City), and also grants these powers to certain incorporated municipalities (but not to all of them). See http://planning.maryland.gov/OurWork...ns/Legal.shtml. Note that State planning law inside Mont. County differs from areas outside, mostly in the powers that are delegated to municipalities.

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