Baltimore City's New Zoning Code Set To Go Into Effect On June 5, 2017

Date: May 15, 2017

On December 5, 2016, after nearly ten years since it was initially proposed, the Baltimore City Council passed, and the then Mayor signed into law, a new zoning code and new zoning maps for the City of Baltimore (Baltimore City Council Bill No. 12-0152). The new zoning code, dubbed “TransForm Baltimore”, replaces the current 1971 Zoning Code.  The new code and maps become effective on June 5, 2017.

The rewrite of the zoning code was initially proposed in 2006, following the release of Baltimore City’s Master Plan.   Between 2006 and the new zoning code’s passage in December 2016, the City held countless hearings and public input meetings through the Planning Commission, the Land Use and Transportation Committee and the City Council.  In addition, the City Council voted on over 700 amendments to the bill prior to its ultimate passage.

The vision behind the overhaul of the zoning code has been to promote a more streamlined, efficient development process.  The current 1971 code, while amended over the years, was drafted at a time when the focus was on automobile-oriented development, separation of individual uses, and preservation of the City’s heavy manufacturing base.  Certainly, these priorities have evolved over the past 40 years. The new zoning code embraces a more 21st century lifestyle and development ethos, promoting redevelopment of existing buildings, mixed use projects, transit oriented development, and walkable neighborhoods tailored to the regime of today’s urbanites.

In addition to the traditional residential, commercial and industrial zones often found in euclidean zoning, the City’s new zoning code introduces a variety of special purpose zones designed to accommodate specific blends of uses.  Zones such as Transit Oriented Development, Office Residential, Educational Campus, Medical Campus, and Port Covington, among others, are intended to provide more appropriate parameters for development and uses in areas of Baltimore City which are defined by particular uses or institutions (e.g. transit hubs, medical campuses).  In addition to these specialized zones, the new zoning code provides for transitional zones to supplement the traditional zoning categories in areas of the Baltimore City where industrial or commercial areas abut residential neighborhoods.  The transitional zones are designed to foster a more diverse mixture of uses which will more seamlessly integrate into areas where diverse zones and uses are adjacent to one another. Another element of the new code is the introduction of new development Manuals, specifically, the (1) Design Guidelines Manual (; (2) Landscape Manual (  ; and (3) Site Plan Review Manual (  These Manuals provide standards for development in Baltimore City which serve as a supplement to the underlying zoning code.  The Manuals are still in draft form, but they have been presented to the Baltimore City Planning Commission for review and approval.  They are scheduled for vote by the Planning Commission on May 23rd.

There is an amendment bill which passed 3rd Reader by the City Council on May 8, 2017 (City Council Bill No. 17-0021).  The bill is intended to fix clerical, non-substantive errors that were contained in the TransForm Baltimore Bill passed in December.  We anticipate more substantive amendments to the new zoning code.  We will be monitoring these bills along with the general transition to the new zoning code.  Please feel free to reach out to us with questions regarding the implementation or application of the new zoning code.       

The current version of the new code can be found here:

The new maps can be found here: and