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Frequently Asked Questions

General Zoning

  • Why do I need a variance?

    A variance is a deviation to a zoning regulation. Zoning variances are not granted as of right. The applicant must demonstrate that there are unique physical conditions inherent to the property such as irregularity, narrowness, shallowness of lot size and shape or exceptional circumstance other than financial considerations that the variance is necessary to avoid practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship.  The property owner must present valid reasons for the variance and show that the variance will not alter the character of the neighborhood, interfere with the use and enjoyment of adjacent property or be detrimental to the public welfare.  A property owner may apply for a zoning variance with the Office of Planning and Zoning. After receiving the application, the Office of Administrative Hearings will schedule a public hearing, receive testimony and decide whether to grant or deny the request.

  • What is a special exception?

    A special exception is a use allowed within a zoning district subject to certain conditions. The applicant must demonstrate compliance with the specific and general conditions during a public hearing before the County Administrative Hearing Officer. Recently, legislation was passed which places a heavier burden upon the applicant to demonstrate to the Hearing Officer that the use at the location proposed, will not have any adverse effects above and beyond those inherently associated with the use irrespective of its location within the zoning district.  A property owner may apply for a special exception with the Office of Planning and Zoning. After receiving the application, the Office of Administrative Hearings will schedule a public hearing, receive testimony and decide whether to grant or deny the request.

  • How can I get my property reclassified (rezoned)?

    There are two methods for changing the zoning classification assigned to an individual property. One is called “Comprehensive Zoning” and the other is “Administrative Zoning”.  Comprehensive Zoning is a process that occurs to make changes in the County’s Official Zoning Maps in accordance with the policies and recommendations in the General Development Plan or other adopted master plans.  The Office of Planning and Zoning will propose Comprehensive Zoning Maps that are consistent with the Adopted General Development Plan.  The Comprehensive Zoning Maps will be reviewed and adopted through a legislative process by the County Council for official use. 

    Administrative Zoning is the method by which an individual may request that a property be reclassified to correct any mistakes made by the County Council during the last comprehensive process or to recognize a change in the character of the neighborhood that would necessitate a change in the zoning. A property owner may make an application for an administrative rezoning with the Zoning Division of the Office of Planning and Zoning. After receiving the application, the Office of Administrative Hearings will mail notices and schedule a public hearing.  The Administrative Hearing Officer conducts hearings on administrative zoning requests and renders a decision.

    Note: As of July 15, 2018 there is a moratorium on piecemeal rezoning applications per Bill 17-18.

  • If my use existed before the zoning laws, is it automatically grandfathered?

    There is no automatic grandfathering in Anne Arundel County. If the use of a property does not fall within those allowed by the Zoning Ordinance, the property owner must apply to register as either a Nonconforming Use or a Twenty-Year Registered Use with the Office of Planning and Zoning. A Nonconforming Use as a use that was allowed when it came into existence but that is no longer allowed under the law in effect in the zoning district in which the use is located. 

    Twenty-Year Registered Use means a use not allowed as a permitted, conditional or special exception use under the law in effect for the zone in which the use is located when commenced, and for which no enforcement action has been initiated within 20 years of the date the use commenced. 

  • Which lot line is considered the front lot line of my waterfront property?
    The front lot line for a waterfront lot is the boundary that abuts the mean high-water line. As such, the front yard of a waterfront lot is the yard that faces the shoreline. If more than one yard faces the shoreline, the rear yard is the one that provides access to a road and the front yard is determined accordingly.
  • What is the zoning classification for my property?

    The zoning classification for your property is determined by the official Zoning Maps for Anne Arundel County. To identify the zoning of a particular property, you may use the County Zoning Map Viewer or contact the Zoning Division at (410) 222-7437. Please be prepared to provide the tax identification number or the property address.

  • What are my setbacks?
    The zoning classification of your property determines your setbacks. There are different setback requirements for the dwelling (principal structure) or principal use (if non- residential) and for accessory structures (sheds, detached garages). Setbacks may vary depending on the type of development (if your subdivision is a cluster development or a Planned Unit Development). Once you have determined your zoning classification, you can find your setbacks on the Residential Setback Chart (contact the Zoning Division for Planned Unit Developments) or by calling the Zoning Division at (410) 222-7437
  • Where are mobile homes permitted?

    Mobile homes are only allowed in Licensed Mobile Home parks. Establishment of a mobile home park is by Special Exception in most residentially zoned areas of the county. Individual mobile homes that existed on the property prior to 1966 may apply for Registration of a Non-conforming Use.

  • Can I or can my neighbor have horses?

    Horses are allowed to be kept on a lot of 40,000 square feet or greater in a residential district at the rate of two horses per 40,000 square feet of land area. Ponies may be kept at the rate of four ponies per 40,000 square feet of land area. Keeping any livestock is not allowed in a residential district on property under 40,000 square feet of land area.

  • How many pets, such as dogs, can I have in my home?
    The zoning ordinance allows the keeping of pets for other than commercial purposes. The keeping of cats is limited to no more than nine per household. The keeping of dogs as pets is limited by lot size. You may keep up to four dogs with no minimum land area requirement. For five or six dogs, at least 25,000 square feet of land area is required, and for seven or more dogs, 40,000 square feet is required, with 5,000 square feet for each additional dog over seven. Keeping more than four dogs requires a Dog Fancier License. Contact Animal Control at (410) 222-8900. To request a letter of zoning approval contact Zoning Enforcement at  (410) 222-7446.
  • Can I keep chickens on my property?

    Chickens (hens only) are allowed to be kept in residential districts on a lot of at least 10,000 square feet or greater.

  • Can I allow my friends to dry/wet store their boats at my residential pier for the summer?

    Only the property owner/tenant may store/dock their boat(s) at a private pier. Guests who are visiting the owner or occupant may dock for no more than 30 days in a six month period.

  • Can I run a business from my home?

    The Code allows the operation of a “home occupation” from your dwelling in all zoning districts. The Code specifies a list of businesses that have been deemed to be suitable. Some of these businesses include hair and nail salons, a professional or general office, pet care business and child care.

  • Can I have a second dwelling unit (in-law suite) in my single family detached dwelling?

    An Accessory Dwelling Unit (in-law suite) is allowed in all residential districts with the exception of the R22 District and is defined as a second dwelling unit in an owner-occupied, single-family detached dwelling that occupies the lesser of a maximum of 1,000 square feet of floor area or one-third of the floor area of the dwelling. An accessory dwelling unit shall be located in a principal dwelling unit that is located on a lot of at least 14,000 square feet. No more than one accessory dwelling unit is allowed. The accessory dwelling unit may not be separated from the principal dwelling by an attached garage or by a breezeway, open or enclosed.