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Land Use and Zoning

In Montgomery County, every piece of land is subject to zoning laws that determine how the land can be used and what public facilities and amenities are needed to provide service to the community. The County Council is the final authority on land use matters. The Council approves changes in the Zoning Ordinance.

The Council is assisted in making zoning decisions by the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings. Zoning cases are first heard by the Hearing Examiner who compiles an official record for review by the Council. Councilmembers are not allowed to read or hear communications about a zoning case from the public. This is known as the ex parte rule.

The Board of Appeals is composed of five citizen members appointed by the Council. When theZoning Ordinance provides that a land use is allowed only by "special exception," it is the task of the Board to determine whether the applicant meets the requirements stated in the law.

Zoning Rewrite Process

The Council's Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committee is holding worksessions during the summer and early fall to review the draft zoning code and map.

Find PHED committee packets and other relavant information about the process at: Zoning Rewrite Home.

Zoning, Special Exceptions, Subdivision Processes

Three phases of development process allow public participation:

  • Local Zoning Map Amendment
  • Special Exception
  • Development Review
Each of these processes involves different decision-makers and has different procedures for getting involved.

Zoning determines the land use, lot size, building height, and setbacks for property. A Local Zoning Map Amendment is the process a property owner may use to try to change the property’s zoning. The Council decides zoning map changes in a process that is close to a court proceeding. The Council is prohibited from off-the-record communication on these matters (the “ex parte” rule) .

A Special Exception is an allowed use in a zone that requires subjective findings of compatibility after a public hearing. The Board of Appeals and, sometimes, the Hearing Examiner, decides whether a special exception should be granted.

Development Review is the responsibility of the Planning Board. The Board has approval authority for project plans, sketch plans, preliminary plans, site plans, record plats, and forest conservation plans.

The following links will provide some detail on each process.




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