Baltimore, MD, City Code

Updated October 2020


Table of Contents

Complete Streets

The city’s surveys, streets, and highways code establishes a commitment to complete streets (§26-40). Provisions address definitions and applicability, complete streets transportation system, complete streets advisory committee, design standards, complete streets manual, and annual report and public accountability.

Home Occupations

The city’s zoning code permits home occupations by right, subject to use-specific standards. Home occupations must comply with location and space, employee, customer/client visitation, traffic, advertising, vehicle, delivery, nuisance, dwelling modification, sign, and specific use prohibition standards (§32.15-507).

Inclusionary Housing

The housing and urban renewal title of the city’s code of ordinances addresses inclusionary housing (Art. 13, 2B). The code provides general and affordability level definitions, as well as a detailed findings and policy statement.

Inclusionary requirements apply to several categories of residential development: for projects of 30 or more units that receive a major public subsidy, 20 percent of units must be affordable, with affordability levels specified; for projects of 30 or more units that have benefitted from significant land use authorization or rezoning, 10 percent of units must be affordable, with density bonuses and waivers available; and for other projects of 30 or more units, 10% of units must be affordable, with density bonuses and waivers available. Projects of fewer than 30 units may request cost offsets if affordable housing is voluntarily provided.

Costs to developers must be offset by the incentives offered. The ordinance establishes an inclusionary housing board that reports annually on affordable housing units constructed under the ordinance, and prohibits income discrimination in renting or selling affordable units. It also lists standards for affordable units that require comparable design, dispersed placement, and simultaneous completion with market-rate units. The code also provides for off-site affordable unit construction, addresses affordability requirements (30 years for rental units), and establishes an inclusionary housing offset fund. 

Rethinking Off-Street Parking Requirements

The city’s zoning code includes multiple types of policy-driven off-street parking requirements. It exempts all uses in several zoning districts from minimum off-street parking requirements and includes other blanket exemptions for certain types of development (§16-601). It authorizes parking reductions for affordable housing, small dwellings, and elderly housing (§16-602). And it includes parking reductions for shared parking facilities based on the mix of uses (§16-501).

Social Equity

The city’s codified ordinances include an Equity Assessment Program that seeks to build the capacity of city agencies to address equity issues. Subtitle 39 of Article 1 requires each agency to elect an equity coordinator, to include an equity assessment of all proposals before City Council, and to submit an annual equity report to the Mayor and City Council.

Transit-Oriented Development

The city’s zoning code includes four types of mapped transit-oriented development (TOD) districts for heavy and light rail station areas (§12-401 et seq.). The TOD 1–4 districts vary by permissible intensity and uses. The vision for all districts is a pedestrian-friendly mix of uses at higher intensities than surrounding areas (§12-202). Separate tables detail use permissions (Table 12-402) and development standards (Table 12-403) for each district.

Urban Agriculture

The city's zoning code addresses urban agriculture. It defines "community-managed open-space garden" and "community-managed open-space farm" (§1-304.h), as well as "urban agriculture" (§1-314.h).

It establishes standards for these uses (§14-307). Standards address soil testing, structures, and, additionally for farms, farmstands, composting, and animal-keeping. The code also establishes standards for urban agriculture that address management plans for certain practices, greenhouses, soil testing, accessory structures, farmstands, and composting (§14-339).

Zoning tables indicate that community gardens are permitted uses in all districts, and community farms and urban agriculture are conditional uses in most districts and permitted by right in others. The minimum lot size for these uses is 2 acres in the R-1A district, but there is no minimum lot size in any other district (Table 8-401).

The parking requirement for urban agriculture is one per company vehicle maintained on the premises (Table 16-406).

Zoning Reform and Code Writing

The city adopted a new zoning code in 2016 (Article 32). It defines and regulates uses based on broad categories, with select specific use types, and includes use-specific standards to minimize reliance on discretionary use permits. It uses tables to organize use permissions and dimensional standards.

Its purpose statements address promoting and protecting public health, welfare, and quality of life for current and future generations; implementing the comprehensive plan; promoting the principles and standards of the city’s sustainability plan; protecting the physical environment and public natural resources for all residents; preserving and enhancing the value of structures, communities, and neighborhoods; preserving, protecting, and promoting the employment base; and sustaining the healthy growth of employment centers (§32-2-101).

Zoning Variances

The city’s zoning code regulates administrative and quasi-judicial variances (§5-301 et seq.). Specific provisions address distinctions between minor (administrative) and major (quasi-judicial) variances, review of applications, minor variance procedures, major variance procedures, conditions of approval, granting less variance than requested, approval standards, and expiration of approval.

Baltimore, MD

2010 Population: 620,961

2010 Population Density: 7,671.49/square mile