A variance is a deviation to a zoning regulation or to certain critical area regulations. Variances are not granted automatically. A property owner may make an application for a variance with the Zoning Administration Section of the Office of Planning and Zoning. The process includes a pre-file in some cases, an application form and supporting documents, and a public hearing. The Office of Administrative Hearings schedules the public hearing, and the County Administrative Hearing Officer decides whether to grant or deny the request based on all of the testimony and evidence provided at the hearing by the applicant, the County, and attending members of the public.
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 topographical conditions) or that there are exceptional circumstances 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 or development of adjacent property, or be detrimental to the public welfare.
Apply for a Variance
A special exception is a use that is potentially 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. There is a heavy burden on 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 or contract purchaser may apply for a special exception with the Zoning Administration Section of the Office of Planning and Zoning. The process includes a pre-file, an application form and supporting documents, and a public hearing. The Office of Administrative Hearings will schedule the public hearing, and the County Administrative Hearing Officer will decide whether to grant or deny the request based on all of the testimony and evidence provided at the hearing by the applicant, the County, and attending members of the public.
There are three methods for changing the zoning classification assigned to an individual property; Comprehensive Zoning, Administrative Rezoning, or Administrative Zoning Correction.
Comprehensive Zoning is a process that makes 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 proposes Comprehensive Zoning Maps that are consistent with the Adopted General Development Plan. The Comprehensive Zoning Maps are reviewed and adopted through a legislative process by the County Council for official use. The Long Range Planning section conducts the Comprehensive Zoning review.
Administrative Rezoning is the method by which an individual may request that a portion of their property or an entire property be rezoned if there was a mistake in the zoning map or the character of the neighborhood has changed to such an extent that the zoning map should be changed. A property owner may make an application for an administrative rezoning with the Zoning Administration Section of the Office of Planning and Zoning. The process includes a pre-file, application and supporting documentation, and a public hearing. The Office of Administrative Hearings will schedule the public hearing, and the County Administrative Hearing Officer will decide whether to grant or deny the request based on all of the testimony and evidence provided at the hearing by the applicant, the County, and attending members of the public.
Administrative Zoning Corrections may be made by the Planning and Zoning Officer when it is determined that the change is a correction to the official data. A pre-file is required to determine if the request meets the criteria for an administrative zoning district line correction or if there is a recommended alternative procedure. An application is required.
There is no automatic grandfathering in Anne Arundel County. If the use of a property does not fall within those allowed by the current 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 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. The registration 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; you may be denied a building permit on the site; or you may have difficulty buying or selling the property
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. The use must be operated by the owner of the property since the use commenced. Transfer of ownership may only be to a child of the owner, and the use must not cease operation for more than 12 months. 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.
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. A “Waterfront lot” means a lot that (i) abuts the mean high-water line or (ii) abuts platted land owned by a homeowner's association or the County that abuts the mean high-water line and, through agreements or conveyances, has the right to function as a waterfront lot.
The zoning classification for a property is determined by the official Zoning Maps for Anne Arundel County. To identify the zoning of a particular property, you may use the MyAnneArundel County Map Viewer or contact the Zoning Administration Section at 410-222-7437 with the tax identification number or the property address.
Setbacks are the minimum distance between a lot line and a structure. The zoning classification and possibly the type of development of your property (i.e. regular subdivision, cluster subdivision, or Planned Unit Development) determines your setbacks. The type of development can typically be found in the subdivision plat title block. There are different setback requirements for the principal structure (dwelling or building) and accessory structures (i.e. sheds, detached garages, pools, etc). Once you have determined your zoning classification, you can find your setbacks on the Residential Setback Chart. For setbacks for Planned Unit Developments or if you do not know the type of development or have other questions, Contact the Zoning Administration Section at 410-222-7437 with the tax identification number or the property address.
Mobile homes, also referred to as “manufactured homes” (defined below), are allowed in Licensed Mobile Home parks by an approved Special Exception in most residentially zoned areas of the county (not allowed in the R22 District); in the RA - Rural Agricultural District, a mobile home outside of a mobile home park is permitted on a contiguous lot of at least 60 acres; and individual mobile homes that existed on a property prior to 1966 may apply for registration of a Nonconforming Use.
Under Article 11 of the County Code a "Manufactured home" means a structure that is transportable in one or more sections; that, in the traveling mode, is 8 body feet (2,438 body mm) or more in width or 40 body feet (12,192 body mm) or more in length or that, when located onsite, is 320 square feet (30m2) or more; that is built on a permanent chassis; and that is designed to be used as a dwelling with or without a permanent foundation when connected to the required utilities. The term includes the plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems contained in the home; a mobile home; a structure that meets all the requirements of this definition other than the size requirements and with respect to which the manufacturer has filed the certification required by the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development or, for mobile homes built prior to June 15, 1976, a label certifying compliance to the Standard for Mobile Homes, NFPA501, in effect at the time of manufacture.
The keeping of livestock is permitted in residential, commercial, industrial, and open space districts throughout the County in accordance with § 18-4-104 of the County Code. Horses and ponies are allowed to be kept on a lot of 40,000 square feet or greater at the rate of two (2) horses or four (4) ponies per 40,000 square feet of land area. The type of livestock determines how many may be kept on a property. The keeping of any livestock is not allowed on property under 40,000 square feet of land area.
The County Code allows the keeping of pets for other than commercial purposes in accordance with § 18-4-104 all residential zoning districts and a few select other zoning districts. The keeping of cats is limited to no more than nine per household.
The keeping of dogs as pets is limited by lot size.
|Number of Dogs
|Minimum Lot Size
|1 to 4
|5 to 6
|25,000 square feet
|7 or more
|40,000 square feet, plus 5,000 square feet for each additional dog above 7
Keeping more than four dogs requires a Dog Fancier License. Contact Animal Control at 410-222-8900.
Only the owner(s)/occupant(s) of the property, owner(s)/occupant(s) with a recorded agreement, or guests of the owner(s)/occupant(s) may moor or dock their boat(s) at a private pier. Guests who are visiting the owners or occupants may dock for no more than 30 days in a six-month period.
The County 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 as home occupations. Some of these businesses include hair and nail salons, a professional or general office, a pet care business, and child care for up to 12 children. (See the complete list of allowed home occupations in the regulations link below.) The operator of the home occupation shall be a resident of the dwelling unit where the occupation is located. The home occupation may not exceed 25% of the total floor area. No more than one nonresident may be employed in the home occupation. The sale or rental of goods or products other than those produced on the premises by the home occupation is prohibited. Outside storage is prohibited. A Certificate of Use is required.
An in-law suite, known as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is allowed in all residential districts, with the exception of the R22 District, subject to certain conditions. An ADU is defined as a smaller dwelling unit located on the same lot as a principal single-family detached dwelling. An accessory dwelling unit may be in a single-family dwelling or in a detached structure but not be a mobile home or a manufactured home as defined in §11-9-101 of the Code. See the County Code Article 18, Title 10 for additional conditions.