Nonconforming Use

A nonconforming use is 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. Examples of such uses include an apartment in single family dwellings, two dwellings on one lot, or a commercial business operating in a district zoned residential. The use must have been legally established at one time but through zoning or code change the use has become not permitted.

Article 18 of the Anne Arundel County code requires property owners to register a nonconforming use with the Office of Planning and Zoning. This process enables the Office to determine a property’s lawful use and the extent of that use. 

If your property is not registered, you may be cited for a zoning violation and subsequently fined. Or you may be denied a building permit on the site, or have difficulty buying or selling the property. 

The Letter of Explanation should describe each specific use that is on the property, the date when each use began, the character and extent of each use, and any enforcement actions related to the property including the outcome. Be sure to list, in square feet, the floor area of all structures, land activities such as outdoor storage and parking, and water area related to maritime use.

All administrative site plans must be drawn at an engineering scale no smaller than 1”=40’ showing the entire property in question. This plan must show all existing improvements, their dimensions and their distance (setbacks) from all property lines. It must also indicate the height and floor area of each structure and facility located on the property.

Floor plans to scale for all structures including a notation for the USE of the floor area.

To confirm the ownership of the subject property. A copy can be obtained from Provide a copy of the recorded subdivision plat or a signed and sealed survey of the property if the deed does not provide a metes and bounds description.

List of names and mailing addresses of all property owners within 175 feet of the subject property lines in all directions, including across a road.

Use the Property Details Viewer to generate a list of nearby property owners:

Click "OK" button

Envelope Icon

Click the envelope icon

In the Public Notification box start typing the address or tax ID number (12 digits) 

Click the box beside “Apply a search distance”

Verify or enter the search distance required

Change the Format to “PDF label 1 x 4 inches; 20 per page”

Click Download button (a PDF of the properties within the specified distance will be generated)

Evidence to support the continuous operation of the use(s) since inception.
This evidence may include sales receipts, bills, rental leases, licenses, building permits and certificates of occupancy. Other records or affidavits that support should also be included in your packet. Affidavits may be utilized as supporting evidence but will not be accepted as the sole source of evidence to approve the application.

Historic Tax Assessment records and worksheets for the subject property.

You may secure these documents in person from the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation at 45 Calvert Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. Phone 410-974-5709.

Signs:$35 per sign
For sites with frontage on more than one road or on the water, additional signs are required for each road and water frontage. It is the responsibility of the applicant to post the required sign(s) on the subject property for a minimum of fourteen (14) days. The Research & GIS Section of the Office of Planning and Zoning will provide all applicable signs.