(Read A Citizen's Guide to the Harford County Property Development Process by Friends of Harford to see how the parts of land use planning and the development process come together.)
A major revision of the Harford County Zoning Code was completed on October 22, 2008, when the County Council unanimously approved Bill 08-44, Zoning Code, and Bill 08-45, Subdivision Regulations. This update could greatly affect our quality of life and environment.
A draft code was developed in-house by Harford's Department of Planning and Zoning, dated May 2007. County officials then appointed a Work Group of 23 people, representing various interests from developers and real estate agents to town representatives, community councils and citizen groups, to review selected sections of the draft code and propose new language. The first meeting was held on June 25, 2007, and completed on April 28, 2008.
Meeting summaries and links to relevant documents are posted on the Harford County government web site: Harford County Zoning Code Update.
Three Public Workshops (June 25, 26 and July 10) were held by the County Executive. Final proposed legislation was presented to the County Council on August 19. The Council held public hearings on the new proposed Zoning Code on Sep 16 and Sep 23. The Council then drafted and voted on numerous amendments, after which they voted on and passed both bills.
Friends of Harford Perspective
Though the process lasted over two years, replacing a 25+ year old code, the new Zoning Code resulting is not a new document nor is it a positive model for 21 st Century land use planning. It does not appear that innovation and progressive solutions to old problems were goals of the rewrite process. The new code is a restructuring and rehash of the old code. Some significant improvements were made, many opportunities were ignored, and some negative changes were included. Considerable changes will be required in the new laws just to undo regressive language.
While Friends of Harford was pleased to be chosen as a member of the ZCU Work Group, it was but one of 23 total members, a large majority of whom were members of the development and real estate industries. Changes to the draft code were made by majority rule, not consensus. Minority positions (usually ours) were not generally recorded. After the Work Group completed its effort, Friends of Harford worked with other community groups to develop proposed amendments for the Council to consider in order to try to salvage the Code. We had some success, for which we thank the Council for listening to us and trying to accomodate some changes. In the end, the 45 day deadline for approval of the over 400 page code was far too short for the Council to adequately review the legislation. They passed it with about 100 amendments in lieu of keeping the old code.
Friends of Harford will continue to advocate for needed changes to the Zoning Code when shortcomings surface as it is applied. Perhaps some day in the future Harford County will try to write a truly new code, based on strategic thinking and Smart Growth principles. We will be there to help.
Friends of Harford Products During the Building of the Draft Code (historical reference)
For well over a year Friends of Harford worked to recommend the best possible new Zoning Code available from the process selected by the County Executive. Earlier products we generated, many in great detail, covering problems with the May 2007 draft code and the efforts of the work group can be found below.
- A brief summary of our concerns with the ZCU process and these products.
- ZONING CODE TEXT MARK UP Comparison of the May 2007 draft with the current approved Zoning Code, along with Friends of Harford's specific recommendations can be found on this page.
- Prior to the start of the work group, Friends of Harford provided a letter with our initial recommendations to the County Executive and Council. These recommendations are reproduced in our Winter 2007 Newsletter. See further comments in our Fall 2007 and Spring 2008 Newsletters.
Published Plans, Reports and Links
- Harford County Zoning Code (effective Dec 22, 2008, as amended)
- Harford County Zoning Code Update All the relevant information needed on the current and draft codes, work group meeting schedules and minutes of past meetings are posted at this county government site.
- Table of Contents: the County's draft Zoning Code does not have a Table of Contents, so Friends of Harford has created one to help you naviigate its 380+ pages.
- Permitted Uses list. A table of permitted uses (Special Exceptions, Temporary, Special Development) by Zoning Category (AG, R1, B1, ... ) derived from the current Zoning Code.
- Model Zoning Codes and other useful publications. Several are found here. They are the product of Smart Growth Online.
- County Code and Ordinances The National Assn of Counties County (NACO) Research Division collects examples of various county codes and ordinances from throughout the country to be used as examples.