Real Estate Report

(July 26, 2019) Local zoning laws affect how a property can be utilized, and therefore, affect a property’s value.

When purchasing a property, it is important to understand the zoning classification so you can research which uses are inherently allowed, and which uses would require a special exemption.

Zoning is divided into industrial, commercial, residential and agricultural development. In Worcester County, the zoning is prepared in accordance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

The county states that zoning is prepared “with reasonable consideration, among other things, to the character of the land, its suitability for particular uses and orderly development.”

You can check a property’s zoning classification by accessing the property on the state’s department of assessments and taxation website at sdat.dat.maryland.gov.

You can further verify a property’s zoning classification by requesting a copy of a zoning map from the local municipality.

And, if you would like to research the details of zoning ordinances for Worcester County, you can access everything online now at https://ecode360.com/WO1426. But, it is always a good idea to make sure you understand the code language and how it applies to the particular property you are interested in or already own but want to alter.

Various uses for a property might be restricted based on its zoning, such as operating a home-based business. And, zoning laws can also restrict what kind of improvements can be made to a home, as well as square footage requirements for accessory structures.

For simple questions, you can probably obtain the answers you need with a simple phone call to the zoning department, but if you have numerous questions about a property, you should probably schedule to meet in person.

Especially if your questions expand beyond just zoning, as they often do, spilling over into other departments such as forestry, environmental programs (well and septic), and stormwater management.

In addition to verifying a property’s current permitted use, buyers should also research meeting minutes to determine whether the county has any future plans for changes to a property’s permitted use since local government can amend zoning ordinances.

— Lauren Bunting is a licensed Associate Broker with Bunting Realty, Inc. in Berlin.

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