CEDS has the highest success rate in the nation when it comes to helping people protect their homes from the impact of poorly-planned land-development projects. Much of this success is due to research conducted here in our home area - Baltimore County, MD. We found that the conventional approach of just hiring a lawyer and contesting permits rarely produced success even though citizens spent thousands of dollars. This research prompted us to develop two new approaches which combined triple the likelihood citizens will win land use-zoning cases and these victories come at a fraction of the usual cost. We call this approach Equitable Solutions and Smart Legal Strategies.
So if your home or neighborhood is threatened by development impacts, contact us at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. After learning the specifics of your case we'll offer initial thoughts on strategy options. The remainder of this website provides an example of the many ways we can help you win development issues in Baltimore County.
CEDS is nationwide network of more than 135 attorneys and dozens of other professionals including planners, environmental scientists, traffic engineers, political strategists, and fundraisers, to name but a few. A number of these attorneys and other professionals routinely assist our Baltimore County clients.WHO'S THE BEST ATTORNEY FOR YOUR CASE
There are a dozen attorneys who will represent Baltimore County citizens in land use, zoning, or environmental cases. These attorneys vary considerably with respect to areas of specialization, fees, access to experts, and the many other factors which determine the likelihood that they can win your case at an affordable cost.
CEDS works with all of these attorneys, plus many more who practice in other parts of Maryland. We've also won more cases on behalf of citizens then anyone else in Baltimore County or the rest of Maryland. Because of both factors CEDS is in a unique position to help you find THE BEST ATTORNEY and THE BEST STRATEGY to win your case.
If you wish we can discuss your case with several attorneys well suited to win your case. We'll get their opinion on the likelihood of success and anticipated costs. We'll then share the results of these conversations with you and offer our recommendation.
Baltimore County actually has two processes for the review of development proposals: the Community Input Meeting-Hearing Officer Hearing (CIM-HOH) process and the Development Review Committee (DRC) process.
Most residential development goes through the CIM-HOH process while most nonresidential development (commercial, industrial, offices, etc.) is reviewed through the DRC. While Baltimore County's CIM-HOH process provides citizens with considerable opportunity to resolve concern, this is not true for the DRC process.
If the project of concern to you is going through the CIM-HOH process then click the following: Go To CIM-HOH.
If you do not have a copy of the project plan then visit the PAI office in Room 123, 111 West Chesapeake Avenue, in Towson. Request a copy of the plan plus any agency comments.
Carefully review the plan for any part of the development project which may adversely affect your home, neighborhood, etc. The CEDS Project Evaluation Checklist will help you consider each factor that could potentially affect your quality of life. Additionally, Chapters 3 - 26 of our free 300-page book, How To Win Land Development Issues, has further detail on each factor. If you wish, we can look over the plan too. To learn more about this service click the following text: Free Plans Review.
If you identify potential impacts then try discussing each with the appropriate Baltimore County staff person. To identify this person look at the agency comments orcontact PAI at 410-887-3321. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 38: Working With Regulatory Staff in How To Win Land Development Issues.
Citizens have a very limited opportunity to present concerns at the Baltimore County Development Review Committee meeting. However, if you are dissatisfied with the DRC action on the project then you do have the right to appeal. While legal representation is not a necessity at the DRC, the need is much greater if you decide to appeal the DRC decision. For a referral to an attorney who has represented citizens successfully in cases similar to yours contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 40: Legal Action in How To Win Land Development Issues.
Community Input Meeting
If you received notice of a Community Input Meeting and you have a copy of the Concept Plan then carefully review the plan for any part of the development project which may adversely affect your home, neighborhood, etc. The CEDS Project Evaluation Checklist will help you consider each factor that could potentially affect your quality of life. Chapters 3-26 of our free 300-page book, How To Win Land Development Issues, has further detail on each factor. If you wish, we can do a no-cost review of the plans to identify negative effects which might be missed by those new to development issues. To learn more about this service click the following text: Free Plans Review.
If you do not have a copy of the Concept Plan then visit the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals & Inspections (PAI) office - Room 123, 111 West Chesapeake Avenue, in Towson. Request a copy of the plan plus agency comments. For questions about Community Input Meetings contact PAI at 410-887-3321
Baltimore County law clearly intends the Community Input Meeting to be an opportunity for you to ask questions about a project and to identify specific concerns along with solutions. At least one County employee (usually a PAI project manager) and the applicant will be present at the Community Input Meeting.
If all of your questions are not answered at the first meeting or a solution is not found to all of your concerns, then CEDS urges you to request a second Community Input Meeting. You should also request that the Baltimore County's expert on the issues of concern to you attend the second Community Input Meeting.
If your request for a second Community Input Meeting is not granted or it ends without full resolution of your concerns, then we urge you to immediately begin formulating a strategy for ensuring that the project is not approved until your concerns are fully resolved. Please do not sit back and wait for the next phase of the process, the development plan hearing. For advice on how to formulate a strategy contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. You should also review Chapter 35: Researching Strategy Options in How To Win Land Development Issues.
Issues common to many projects and solutions are presented in the CEDS study: A Citizens Perspective on the Baltimore County Development Review Process. This study also contains a detailed description of the process and other advice on how to win the adoption of solutions to each of your concerns. Additional advice is provided in Part I of How To Win Land Development Issues.
For further advice on Baltimore County community input meetings click the following title: CIMs.
If you attended the Community Input Meeting (and you signed in) then you should receive a copy of the Development Plan and agency comments. If you did not receive the plan and comments then contact PAI at 410-887-3321.
As with the Concept Plan, you should thoroughly review the Development Plan for how it may affect your quality of life. Again, the CEDS Project Evaluation Checklist will help you consider each factor that could potentially affect your home, neighborhood, favorite stream, etc. Specific guidance on two dozen common development impacts is provided in Part I of How To Win Land Development Issues.
Once you have identified potential impacts then discuss each with the Baltimore County staff person responsible for reviewing the project for the impact. This staffer can be identified by looking through the Development Plan comments or by contacting CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 38: Working With Regulatory Staff in How To Win Land Development Issues.
If your concerns are not fully resolved after speaking with staff, then you must begin preparing to present testimony on each issue at the Baltimore County Hearing Officer's Hearing.
The Hearing Officer's Hearing is a rather formal legal proceeding. While it is not mandatory that you be represented by an attorney, it does definitely increase your chances of success. CEDS has a nationwide network of 135 attorneys who specialize in representing citizens in land use, zoning, and environmental cases. Eight of these attorneys practice in Baltimore County. For a referral to an attorney who has represented citizens successfully in cases similar to yours contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 40: Legal Action in How To Win Land Development Issues.
Citizens resolve their concerns in three basic ways through the Hearing Officer's Hearing phase of the process:
the most common method of resolving citizen concerns is through conditions the Hearing Officer adds to development plan approval, such as requiring more visual buffering;
17% of citizen concerns are resolved through a settlement agreement negotiated with the applicant prior to the hearing; or
3% of development plans are so flawed that they are not approved by the Hearing Officer.
Generally, an agreement is more likely if you hire an attorney, but there are plenty of examples of good settlements where citizens did not have legal counsel. For advice on how to negotiate with an applicant see Chapter 37: Negotiate with the Applicant in How To Win Land Development Issues. For help with the negotiation, including referral to an attorney, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
To add a condition to a development plan you must provide the Baltimore County Hearing Officer with the following:
evidence demonstrating that the issue of concern to you is likely to occur;
a proposed condition of plan approval that will reliably resolve the issue; and
show that the Hearing Officer has the authority to impose the solution as a condition of approving the development plan.
While it might seem difficult to provide these three critical items, two tools constructed by CEDS make this actually rather easy. These tools are the Decisions Database and the Law & Policy Database.
what evidence was needed to convince the Hearing Officer that an issue was valid;
what condition(s) were considered to resolve the issue; and
the legal authority cited by the Hearing Officer as providing the basis for the condition.
Click the following title to see an example of a CEDS Decisions Database analysis: Preventing Cul-De-Sac Streets from Becoming Through Roads.
We can also help you determine how reliable various conditions have been for those projects which have actually broken ground. You can access the database by contacting CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
If you feel a project is so poorly conceived that no set of conditions can reduce adverse effects to a tolerable level, then you may have no choice but to attempt to convince the Baltimore County Hearing Officer to deny development plan approval. To accomplish this very difficult task, you must provide the Hearing Officer with:
"evidence" demonstrating that the issue of concern to you is likely to occur;
facts showing why it is not possible to resolve the issue by adding conditions to plan approval; and
specifics as to how the development plan fails to comply with a Baltimore County law, regulation or policy applicable to the issue.
The Decisions Database and the Law & Policy Database will ease the task of providing the three essential items listed above. The likelihood of success will be higher if you can convince the Baltimore County agency that oversees the applicable law, regulation, or policy to agree that the plan is not in compliance.
Defeating a fatally flawed project is not easy. This is why we urge you to first exhaustively search for conditions to resolve each of your concerns.
Defeating a project is not cheap. While citizens have won a denial of plan approval without an attorney, the chances of success are much better with legal counsel. Additionally, there's a good chance you will need at least one expert witness, possibly more. For help in identifying expert witnesses and a referral to an attorney, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
Following is a brief review of the options for preserving a property in a partially or totally undeveloped state. For further detail on each option and how to conduct the research needed to determine which options are viable see Chapter 16: Open Space Preservation in How To Win Land Development Issues. For help with land preservation, including researching options with respect to a specific property, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
Purchasing a proposed development site is viewed as an option of last resort since the amount paid per acre is usually quite high. In the instances where purchases have occurred it has always resulted from a massive citizen campaign to mobilize widespread public support. For advice on how to mobilize this level of support see Chapter 36: Mobilizing Support For Your Strategy in How To Win Land Development Issues.
If you would like to preserve a portion of a potential development site then consider the merits of negotiating an agreement with the owner to cluster building elsewhere on the property. The owner will likely need something is return such as a payment from you, your neighbors, or others in compensation for whatever value they might lose. But in some cases this may not be necessary. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 37: Negotiate with the Applicant in How To Win Land Development Issues.
The likelihood of winning such an agreement will be higher with the assistance of an attorney and other professionals. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 37: Negotiate with the Applicant in How To Win Land Development Issues. For help with the negotiation, including referral to an attorney, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
In 2012, Baltimore County will enter into the once every four-years Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. This could be an extremely important opportunity to ensure that lands you cherish are assigned to zoning districts which will preserve key features.
A typical Planned Unit Development (PUD) consists of a relatively large site with several zoning classifications. The PUD option allows the developer to locate any of the uses permitted on the zones anywhere on the site provided the total number of units doesn't exceed that permitted by the underlying zones. PUDs offer the potential for developing a property in a way that increases benefits with fewer adverse effects on nearby residents. However, this potential is not always realized and citizens should very carefully scrutinize PUD proposals. Unlike other development projects, the PUD review process does not include a hearing before the Baltimore County Zoning Commissioner. Instead a less formal hearing is held by the Baltimore County Planning Board with a review of the Board's decision by the Zoning Commissioner. For further detail on PUDs click the following title: Galloway Creek Planned Unit Development: Initial Strategy Analysis Results. This strategy was instrumental in the recent defeat of this poorly conceived PUD.
CEDS has a nationwide network of 135 attorneys who specialize in representing citizens in land use, zoning, and environmental cases. Eight of these attorneys practice in Baltimore County. For a referral to an attorney who has represented citizens successfully in cases similar to yours contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. For further advice on this topic see Chapter 40: Legal Action in How To Win Land Development Issues.
The Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) is THE BEST opportunity for Baltimore County citizens to preserve their neighborhood from the impact of incompatible growth. This opportunity comes only once every four years with the next set for 2012.
In early 2012, CEDS will be holding a series of workshops for citizens on how to ensure that property is not rezoned in a way that harms neighborhood quality of life. To schedule a workshop for your area contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.If you just received a copy of a concept plan or development plan and would like help interpreting it, then just drop it in the mail to: CEDS, 21300 Heathcote Road, Freeland, MD 21053. Include a note letting us know how to contact you and why you are interested in the project. After doing a brief review we'll give you a call to share our advice on how to resolve the impacts you identified along with any others we see. There will not be any charge for this service. For further detail contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.