Skip Navigation

Other Useful Links
Dept Of Permitting Services


Merit Systems Protection Board

Special Exceptions

All the land uses permitted in the various zones in the county are listed in the Zoning Ordinance. By legislation, the County Council has specified which uses are permitted by right and which are permitted by special exception. By enacting such legislation, the County Council has determined that if certain standards are met, a special exception is compatible with the uses permitted by right in the zone. The Zoning Ordinance has tables for each zone that specify the uses permitted by right (P) or permitted by special exception (SE). Any use not listed is simply not permitted at all.

Applying For Special Exceptions 

If you wish to apply for a special exception, you should come to the office of the Board of Appeals for the necessary application forms. The staff will advise you how to complete the application, what fees you must pay, and what documents you need to submit at the time of filing. When you submit your completed application, you will need two checks, payable to Montgomery County, for the filing fee and the sign fee.

The Board needs one original and three copies of all documents. For a small fee, you may make copies on the Board's copying machine. You will need to submit the following documents and information, which are also listed in the Zoning Ordinance (Section 59-A-4.22) and on the back of the application form:

  1. An accurate site plan, showing boundaries, dimensions, area, topography and frontage of the property involved, as well as the location and dimensions of all structures existing and proposed to be erected, and the distances of such structures from the nearest property lines.

  2. Plans, architectural drawings, photographs, elevations, specifications or other detailed information depicting fully the exterior appearance of existing and proposed construction, including signs, involved in the petition.

  3. Statement explaining in detail how the special exception is proposed to be operated, including hours of operation, number of anticipated employees, occupants and clientele, equipment involved, and any special conditions or limitations which the applicant proposes for adoption by the Board.

  4. Complete information concerning the size, type and location of any existing and proposed trees, landscaping and screening and any exterior illumination proposed.

  5. An original, certified copy of official zoning vicinity map of 1,000 foot radius surrounding the subject property and other information to indicate the general conditions of use and existing improvements on adjoining and confronting properties.  Purchase maps from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland, (Phone:  301-495-4610).  The complete, original map (as issued by M-NCPPC) and three (3) copies must accompany the petition.

  6. If petitioner is not the owner of the property involved, lease, rental agreement, or contract to purchase by which petitioner's legal right to prosecute the petition is established.

  7. Applicable master plan maps reflecting proposed land use, zoning, and transportation, together with any other portions of the applicable master plan deemed pertinent by the petitioner.  (Available at M-NCPPC, 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring.)

  8. A preliminary forest conservation plan prepared in accordance with Chapter 22A and an approved natural resources inventory prepared in accordance with technical manual adopted by the Planning Board and in addition:
    • Other natural features, such as rock outcroppings and scenic views; and
    • Historic buildings and structures.
  9. A preliminary and/or final water quality plan if the property lies in a special protection area subject to the provisions of Chapter 19 of the Code.

  10. All additional exhibits which the petitioner intends to introduce.

  11. Summary of what the petitioner intends to prove, including the names of petitioner's witnesses, summaries of the testimonies of expert witnesses, and the estimated time required for presentation of the petitioner's case.

  12. A listing of  the names and mailing addresses of the adjoining and confronting property owners (see Section 59-A-4.46) who are entitled to notice of the filing. This information is available from the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, 51 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Rockville, Maryland, 20850, (Phone:  301-279-1355).  Please also list any local citizens associations and any municipality or special taxing district within which the property is located.  Please use BOA  Form 5.

Once you have assembled all the necessary information, bring it and the application and sign fees to the Office of the Board of Appeals for filing. You have not officially filed for a special exception until the Board has all of this information. Board of Appeals staff will review your application materials.  If they are complete, the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings will schedule a public hearing on your application no sooner than 60 days after you have officially filed.  A Hearing Examiner from the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings will hold the public hearing, and prepare a detailed, written Report and Recommendation on the application, which is referred back to the Board of Appeals for final action.  Staff cannot accept an incomplete application.

Before you file for a special exception, it is advisable for you to speak with all adjoining and confronting property owners to explain the nature of the proposed special exception and the impact it might have on the neighborhood.

If you are an applicant for an accessory apartment, ask the staff to give you a copy of the questions the chairperson will ask you at the hearing.

Staff cannot accept an incomplete application.

The sign - top

Having scheduled your hearing date, the staff will give you a sign and directions for posting it. You must post the sign within three days. You must keep the sign up until you receive the Board's written opinion. If there was opposition to your request, you must keep the sign posted for 30 days after you receive the Board's written opinion.

If you return the sign within 21 days of the date on which you were permitted to remove it, you will receive a partial refund of your sign fee.

Notification of confronting and adjoining property owners

Using the list you submitted, the Board will send notices of the hearing to the confronting and adjoining property owners. The Board will also notify the appropriate civic association and other governmental agencies.

The file - top

When your application has been accepted officially, the staff assigns a number to your case and places all material pertaining to the case in a file. The case file is open to the public, and you should look at the file before the day of the hearing to see if in addition to your own material, other people have submitted letters of support or opposition. Anyone interested may copy material from the file on the Board's copying machine, for a small fee.

Reasons for granting a Special Exception - top

The Zoning Ordinance sets forth the general standards (Section 59-G-1.21) that all special exceptions must meet and the specific standards for each different use (Section 59-G-2). Further standards for some uses are located in the section on definitions (Section 59-A-2).

The Hearing - top

At the public hearing, you must explain how your special exception will operate - what you plan to do, how many employees you will have, what equipment you will use, what hours you will operate, the appearance of the exterior of any buildings on the property, your proposed landscaping, lighting, and parking arrangements. You also must prove that your application meets all of the general standards as well as the specific standards for the use you are requesting.

If there are people opposing your request, they will have an opportunity to explain their position (see section on Opposition). Cross-examination is permitted and the Hearing Examiner will explain the process before the hearing begins. It is not necessary to be represented by an attorney. However, if the case is complicated or there is much opposition, it is advisable to have counsel who is experienced in special exception cases.

After all those attending the hearing and wishing to speak have presented their cases and completed their questioning, the Hearing Examiner usually will close the record.  The Hearing Examiner then has 30 days in which to prepare a detailed, written Report and Recommendation on the application.  This Report and Recommendation is referred back to the Board of Appeals for final action.  There is a ten day opportunity for parties in the special exception hearing to request oral argument on the Report and Recommendation before the Board of Appeals.  Following that ten-day period, the Board will either schedule oral argument or take final action on the application, and issue a written opinion of its decision.

The Board's decision becomes effective on the date indicated on the written opinion.

Meeting Times and Submissions - top

The Board holds hearings every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. 

Worksessions are held every other Wednesday. Items are accepted for the Agenda on a first come, first serve basis and Agendas are limited to a maximum number of items. The deadline for submissions is noon on the Tuesday prior to a hearing or Worksession. Late submissions will be considered on a case by case, space available basis and should consist of 10 copies of all materials requested for inclusion.


(a) In all special exception and special exception modification cases applicants are required to submit duplicate copies of all final plans. Both copies will be entered into the case record, with one copy designated for Department of Permitting Services' use.

(b) Please do not file applications on a Wednesday, as public hearings are being held.


get Adobe Reader Note on Adobe Acrobat Format (PDF):
To view certain files on this page, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed
on your system and you must configure your browser


Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville MD 20850
Phone: (240) 777-7900 (voice) • (240) 777-7888 (fax) • (MD Relay) Dial 711 or 800-201-7165
Contact the County Council and Legislative Branch Offices