Newsletters

The Real Deal - May 2017

Date: May 16, 2017

Howard County's Zoning Code and Development Regulations Rewrite Process Has Begun
By: Jennifer Busse

For the first time since the 1970’s, Howard County is undertaking an assessment and rewrite of its zoning and development regulations, and associated development manuals.  No doubt Howard County’s Department of Planning and Zoning has set in place an organized process for this comprehensive undertaking, but it promises to be slow.  The process is comprised of two phases and will likely take three (3) years to complete.

At the Community Engagement Meetings held in March, residents identified a myriad of problems with the existing regulations and a wish list of things they want to see changed.  Public notification procedures, ability to locate information on the County’s website, redevelopment, school overcrowding, locations for solar and telecommunications uses, and the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances were just a few of the issues raised.  Minutes from those meetings will be available sometime this summer.  

Speaking at the March 28th Community Engagement Meeting, County Executive Alan Kittleman said revisions to these regulations were a “long time coming”, in that residents have frequently complained that the zoning and development regulations are too complicated and difficult to understand.  Stating that the County’s “land use challenges have evolved and our regulations haven’t”, Kittleman said the goal is to create a better zoning and development process which citizens and the development industry alike will find easy to follow.  To provide guidance throughout the re-write process, County Executive Kittleman appointed 13 citizens to a Steering Committee.  The list of Steering Committee members can be found on the County’s website, here.

To manage Phase 1 of the re-write process, Howard County has retained a national land-use consultant, Clarion Associates.  Based out of Denver with offices in five states, the firm has produced over 100 comprehensive code updates nationwide.  One of Clarion Associates’ Directors, Don Elliott, moderated the March Community Engagement Meetings.  In response to a question as to whether he will consider the importance of issues raised by citizens based on the quantity of comments, Mr. Elliott stated he welcomes and encourages everyone’s input but doesn’t take votes.  The full version of Clarion Associates’ Public Engagement Plan can also be found on the County’s website, here

Timing wise, Phase I of the re-write process will occur over the next 12 months and is focused on gathering input and drafting an assessment of the current regulations.  Phase II involves the drafting of a new code or set of codes which will take place after a Phase II Request for Proposals (RFP) for that work is released sometime in 2018.  

Additional input and informational meetings will occur this summer.  Comments are encouraged and can be submitted via the Howard County website at https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning/Development-Regulation-Assessment/Land-Development-Regulations-Comment-Form.

There is a difference of opinion amongst those in the development community as to what portions, if any, of the existing regulations should be changed.  Certainly there will also be differences of opinion between the development community and the citizens.  We look forward to monitoring this process.  Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.


Baltimore City's New Zoning Code Set To Go Into Effect On June 5, 2017
By: Adam Baker & Joe Mezzanotte

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 (http://planning.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/DesignGuidelinesManual.pdf); (2) Landscape Manual (http://planning.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/LandscapeManual.pdf)  ; and (3) Site Plan Review Manual (http://planning.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/SitePlanReviewManual.pdf).  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: http://legislativereference.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/Art%2032%20-%20Zoning%20%28As%20Enacted%29%20%282%29.pdf

The new maps can be found here: http://planning.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/cb12-0152-3rdMaps.pdf and http://baltplanning.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=ee6d6724178f44898dd546decfbdd0b2