A Zoning Regulation Amendment (ZRA) is a petition to amend the text of Zoning Regulations.  A ZRA may be initiated by any interested person, the Department of Planning and Zoning or a member of the County Council. The petition must specify the particular section of the Zoning Regulations to be amended and the proposed new text. The Howard County Council makes decisions on these petitions.

What is the ZRA process?

  1. An application for a ZRA is filed with the County Council.
  2. After receiving a petition to amend the Zoning Regulations, the County Council forwards copies of the petition to the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) for its review and recommendation.
  3. DPZ produces a Technical Staff Report, which includes comments from applicable County and State agencies, an evaluation and a recommendation on the proposal. 
  4. The Howard County Planning Board holds a public meeting on the petition and also makes a recommendation. 
  5. After receiving the Planning Board recommendation and Technical Staff Report, the chairperson of the County Council introduces a Council Bill proposing adoption of the text amendment as proposed by the petitioner. 
  6. The Council Bill is introduced and heard in accordance with the Council's normal schedule for proposed legislation.
  7. If the Council approves the Bill, it is sent to the County Executive, who may sign or veto the Bill. If the County Executive signs the bill, it becomes effective 60 days later.  If the  County Executive vetoes the bill. a vote of two-thirds of the County Council, or four of the five members, is necessary in order to override a veto.

How can citizens participate?

In order to make the best decision possible, it is important that the County Council have the benefit of the testimony of all interested parties. Citizens are urged to comment on proposed ZRA, orally or in writing. Community associations interested in a proposal are encouraged to appoint an officer or representative to testify on their behalf. Anyone interested in a proposed text amendment may speak on the amendment at the Planning Board meeting and the County Council's public hearing. In addition, written comments to the Planning Board may be submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning prior to the Board's public meeting. Written comments to the County Council may be submitted to the Council office at any time before the Council's vote on the Bill. Citizens may also discuss the proposed text amendment with a Council member.

How are Zoning Regulations amended?

The County Code (Title 16, Section 16.202) empowers the County Council to adopt Zoning Regulations and maps "for the purpose of promoting the health, safety, morals and general welfare of Howard County." The Council's decision on an amendment to the regulations will be based on this overall purpose. More specifically, the Council will evaluate the proposal's consistency with the Howard County General Plan, with the "Legislative Intent" of the Zoning Regulations (Section 100.A of the Zoning Regulations) and with the purpose stated in the Zoning Regulations for the particular zoning district(s) that would be affected by the ZRA. The Council will also consider how the amendment interacts with other provisions of the Zoning Regulations and other County laws and regulations.