Appealing a zoning board decision in Maryland

Structural changes and exterior improvements to real property in Maryland often require a variance. A variance is an approval to build or improve on property that does not strictly adhere to zoning laws. Generally, a site can receive a variance if failure to do so would result in unwarranted hardship to the property owner. The exact requirements for obtaining a variance in Maryland differ by county.

Appearing before a zoning board is less formal than a court appearance but still requires the person or organization requesting a variance to provide extensive documentation and proof that the variance or land use should be granted. In order to obtain a variance, it is helpful to show that the proposal will benefit the community, has the support of neighboring homes and businesses, and otherwise meets the zoning board's requirements to obtain a variance.

A rejection of a request for variance or special exception is not necessarily the end of a building project or event site in Maryland. Local zoning boards generally allow appeals if they reject an application for a zoning variance. If necessary, a request for variance can go to Circuit Court. In an appeal to the Circuit Court, a judge will review the zoning board decision and has the ability to overturn a decision.

The specific nature of an appeal, and where to appeal to, depends on the city and county in which the project or event is occurring.

How to win on appeal

There are several ways to successfully appeal an initial rejection of a variance or special exception. One way is to prove the rejection of a variance will result undue harm to the owner of private property. Another is to argue that the proposal does in fact meet zoning requirements and the zoning board misinterpreted the law.

Zoning appeals can be a complex area of the law. Zoning appeals usually have strict deadlines and local rules and procedures that must be followed. That is why obtaining the help of an experienced land use attorney is integral to appealing a zoning board decision.

How an attorney can help

An attorney can help on an appeal in a variety of ways. A knowledgeable real estate law firm can prepare documents needed for the appeal, prepare and review arguments for granting the variance, and appear before the zoning board or Circuit Court judge to present evidence and reply to questions. An experienced land use attorney will also be familiar with what a zoning board is looking for and what the board members are likely to ask at a hearing.

People in Maryland looking to appeal to a zoning board or Circuit Court should contact an experienced real estate attorney to discuss their options.