Critical Area Reclassification, Declassification, Process
A Critical Area Reclassification or Declassification is the changing of the Critical Area land use classification(s) of a parcel of land to another Critical Area land use classification(s). There are three Critical Area classifications: IDA-Intensely Developed Area, LDA-Limited Development Area and RCA-Resource Conservation Area. See the following link for Applications and Instructions
Time to Process Applications
An application for a Critical Area Reclassification submitted during the months of January, February or March will be accepted for filing only in the month of April; applications submitted in the months of April, May or June will be accepted for filing in the month of July; applications submitted in the months of July, August or September will be accepted for filing in the month of October and applications submitted during the months of October, November and December will be accepted for filing in the month of January.
Once an application has been accepted by the Zoning Division of the Office of Planning and Zoning, a case number is assigned to the application. It is then transmitted to the following agencies for their review and comments: Health Department, Office of the Fire Marshall, Soil Conservation District, Recreation and Parks, State Highway Administration, Public Schools, Department of Natural Resources and Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission.
Several weeks are allotted for the agencies to review the application and provide written comments to the Office of Planning and Zoning. The Zoning Division of the Office of Planning and Zoning will then review the application and the agencies comments in order to formulate its’ Findings and Recommendations.
Hearing dates are assigned by the Office of Administrative Hearings and are scheduled in chronological order as the applications are received by that office. Applicants for a reclassification should generally allow a minimum of ten to twelve weeks from the date the application is accepted by the Zoning Division of the Office of Planning and Zoning to the date of the hearing.
Posting of Signs
It is the responsibility of applicant to post the subject property with the appropriate number of signs for which a reclassification or declassification has been requested. The sign(s) are to be posted no more than 10 feet from the boundary of the property where it abuts a public street or a body of water. The sign(s) must be posted on the property a minimum of thirty (30) days prior to the date of the hearing. It is the applicant's responsibility to maintain said sign(s) and to make sure it remains posted for the required thirty days.
Written Notice of Hearing
The Office of Administrative Hearings will mail a written notice of the date and time of the public hearing to all property owners within 175 feet of the property which is the subject of the reclassification.
Withdrawal of Request by Applicant, Resubmission of Request
A withdrawal of a reclassification or declassification will result in denial of the request by the Administrative Hearing Officer.
An application for a reclassification or declassification which has been denied by the Administrative Hearing Officer cannot be reconsidered within 18 months of the date of final action by the Administrative Hearing Office, the County Board of Appeals or a Court, which ever action is the latest.
Postponement of Hearings
After the hearing date has been set a hearing may not be postponed unless a written request specifying compelling circumstances is received in the Office of Administrative Hearings no later than ten (10) days prior to the hearing.
If a postponement is granted and the delay was not caused by the County or by an error, the applicant shall be required to pay all costs incurred by virtue of the requested postponement. This shall include, but not be limited to all re-advertising costs and the Temporary Hearing Officer fee, if any. Note: A case will not be rescheduled until the fees have been received by the Office of Administrative Hearings.
The Reclassification or Declassification Hearing
A reclassification or declassification hearing is a public hearing presided over by the Administrative Hearing Officer and attended by a representative of the Office of Planning and Zoning, the applicant and any other persons interested in the case (e.g., neighbors, community associations, etc.).
The hearing is conducted in the following order: the Office of Planning and Zoning presents its findings and recommendations, the applicant presents testimony as to why the application should be granted, and any persons opposing or supporting the applicant's request then present their views. The applicant may call witnesses to testify at the hearing.
Any person testifying at the hearing does so under oath and may be cross-examined by the representative of the Office of Planning and Zoning, the applicant or any persons opposing or supporting the request.
Representation at the Hearing
An individual may appear on his or her own behalf. A member of a partnership may represent the partnership. A bona fide officer of a corporation, trust or association may represent the corporation, trust or association. An officer or employee of a municipal corporation, political subdivision, body or department may represent the municipal corporation, political subdivision, body or department.
A representative of a community or civic association may testify or represent the association provided:
- The association by resolution gives authority to the individual
- The resolution specifies the views of the association and the name of the representative
Forms of resolution for the above may be obtained from the Office of Administrative Hearings.
A person may be represented by an attorney at law who is admitted to practice before the Court of Appeals of Maryland. An attorney acting in a representative capacity must file a written notice of appearance with the Office of Administrative Hearings. The notice of appearance shall state:
- The attorney's name, office address and telephone number
- The names and addresses of the person(s) represented.
Marking of Exhibits
In addition to other supporting evidence, the applicant is encouraged to bring photographs of the subject property and the area to be affected by the proposed reclassification. This gives the Administrative Hearing Officer a clearer understanding of the area to be impacted by the request.
If more than three (3) exhibits are to be introduced by the applicant, it is the responsibility of the applicant to pre-mark all exhibits in the following manner:
Exhibit Number, Title of Exhibit, Case Number, Case Name, Date of Hearing.
This information must be boxed in red or an index card attached to the exhibit. When there are more than three exhibits involved, the applicant should submit a list summarizing the exhibits.
Findings Required for Granting a Reclassification or Declassification
A Critical Area Reclassification or Declassification shall be granted or denied in accordance with compatibility with the underlying zoning district, but a reclassification may not be granted except on the basis of an affirmative finding that:
- There was a mistake in the approved Chesapeake Bay Critical Area map based on land uses in existence on December 1, 1985 .
- The proposed Critical Area classification conforms to the state and County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area mapping criteria.
- The proposed Critical Area classification conforms to the environmental goals and standards of the general development plan.
- There is compatibility between the uses of the property as reclassified and surrounding land uses, so as to promote the health, safety and welfare of present and future residents of the County and to promote effective environmental land use management.
- The applicant has notified the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission of the proposed Critical Area Reclassification in writing and with a copy of the application at least 30 days prior to any hearing.
An applicant for a Critical Area Reclassification has the burden of proof, including the burden of going forward with the evidence and the burden of persuasion, with respect to any question of fact.
Decision of the Hearing Officer
The Administrative Hearing Officer has thirty (30) days from the close of the hearing to render a decision in the case. Persons interested in obtaining a copy of the written decision in a rezoning case may contact the Office of Administrative Hearings at (410) 222-1266. Individuals who were in attendance at the public hearing and who have signed the “sign in” sheet will receive a copy of the Hearing Officer's decision.
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Administrative Hearing Officer may appeal the decision to the County Board of Appeals. An appeal must be filed in writing with the Board of Appeals within thirty (30) days of the date of the Administrative Hearing Officer's written decision. A person(s) wishing to file an appeal should contact the Board of Appeals at (410) 222-1119.
Appeals from a decision of the County Board of Appeals are made to the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County.
For further information regarding this process or if you need an application package, please telephone (410) 222-7437.