September 18, 2015



            What should you do if you get a zoning violation notice in Howard County?  First, some background on the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning ("DPZ") is useful. DPZ's stated mission is: "To create collaborative, innovative plans and implement strategies that effectively address growth and redevelopment challenges. DPZ seeks to enhance Howard County's high quality of life, prosperity and stewardship of natural and cultural resources." As part of this mission, DPZ issues various zoning regulations contained in the Code of Ordinances and Municipal Code. These can be found online at  The Howard County Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and their delegates are designated to enforce these zoning regulations.  If you received a zoning violation notice, the complaint could have been made by these zoning  authorities or by a private citizen, even anonymously.

            Once a complaint is made, it will be investigated by county zoning authorities. Action
may or may not be taken, depending on what the investigation shows. Investigations can
result in inspections of property, emergency remedies, and denial of access to property. The 
DPZ, upon becoming aware of a zoning violation, may institute an injunction, mandamus (court
order to correct a public record or title), abatement, or any other action to prevent or stop the
violation.  A notice may be issued ordering a stop to the violation within 10 days or within a
reasonable time specified. Such notice must be served personally or by registered mail. If the
violation is not timely remedied, DPZ can take whatever action is necessary to end the violation.
DPZ may enforce zoning regulations by issuing citations. These citations can be heard in court or
in administrative proceedings.

            If a violation notice is not issued, an aggrieved person may request that DPZ issue
a written notice, fairly describing the property and alleged violation. This must be done within
60 days of receiving the written request. If no notice is issued during this time period, it means
DPZ has decided that the violation does not exist. Thereafter, the complainant has appeal rights.
If an appeal is taken, DPZ must send a copy of the appeal to the owner and occupant of the
premises where the alleged violation exists.  
            If a violation is found, failure to remedy the violation is a misdemeanor with a monetary
fine of up to $500 per day that the violation continues. There are also other civil penalties and
enforcement remedies available to DPZ under the Howard County Code.

            There are many types of potential zoning violations including for example prohibited
placement of a structure, sign, improvement, or change of land use; failure to obtain a permit for
improvements or land use; or prohibited use of land. Zoning violations and hearings are often
complicated and time consuming. An attorney can be help a person facing an alleged zoning 
violation navigate this process. Katherine Taylor and Andrea LeWinter have assisted many clients who have received zoning violation notices, and those who sought to ensure that violation notices were issued to other landowners who were violating the zoning regulations. 

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