County Executive Barry Glassman has announced that Harford County will be updating its Master Land Use Plan and thereafter launching into Harford County-wide comprehensive rezoning. The Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan was last updated in 2012. Maryland law requires that the Master Land Use Plan be updated every ten years. Rather than waiting, County Executive Glassman will be beginning the update to the Plan in 2015.
The Master Plan forms the basis for the comprehensive zoning of the County. Therefore, it is important that property owners pay close attention to the early plan updates as the classification of their properties and the surrounding areas of their property may dictate what zoning classifications are available during the comprehensive process. For example, the redesignation of an area from “high intensity” to “medium intensity” in the Master Land Use Plan could be used as a basis for denying a requested rezoning to a more intensive commercial designation.
Once the Master Plan has been updated, the County will begin accepting rezoning applications. It is anticipated that applications will start being accepted in 2016. Property owners who are interested in investigating the possibility of rezoning their property would be wise to contact SMLH as early as possible as it is often necessary to perform research on the zoning history of properties as well as retaining the services of engineers, planners and other experts to construct an argument for the rezoning and determine if any changes to the Master Land Use Plan are necessary to effectuate such a change.
The Master Plan is a guide or recommended policy for future action by the County Council for County-wide land use issues. Comprehensive rezoning is a form of legislation which places the zoning district designation on a particular piece of property. Of particular importance in the Master Land Use Plan process is the expansion of Harford County’s development envelope. The development envelope conceived in 1977 is the so-called “inverted T” which allows for development to be served by public water and sewer along US Route 40 from Joppatowne to Havre de Grace and north along Maryland Route 24 through Abingdon, Bel Air and Forrest Hill. Property owners outside the development envelope should pay particular attention to including their properties in the update to the Master Land Use Plan.
In theory, in comprehensive rezoning, every property in Harford County is considered for rezoning. Applications are made to the County to rezone a property by individual property owners. The applications are reviewed by the executive branch of government and forwarded to the County Council for final passage. The County Council has the final say in which properties are rezoned. The legislative process requires 4 votes to rezone a property (or a majority of the 7 member County Council).
The lawyers at Snee, Mahoney, Lutche & Helmlinger, P.A. have thirty years of Master Land Use Plan and Comprehensive Rezoning Experience.