In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
Year 2020 Comprehensive Zoning Process (CZMP)
Every four years in Baltimore County property owners are eligible to request a change in zoning whether it is classified as residential, commercial, manufacturing or industrial. This is an important time for property or business owners who are looking to enhance the value of their property by changing its zoning to permit other acceptable uses. Property owners who believe that their property would have greater market value if it were zoned for other uses now have the opportunity to capitalize on that opportunity. Owners who want to convert residential property to permit business uses, to create greater density for development or who want to convert older unused buildings to permit manufacturing uses now have a limited window to pursue these possibilities. Importantly, even the County often uses this opportunity to attempt to “down zone” properties to allow a more restricted commercial use or a fewer number of houses to be developed.
By the same token, impacted property owners where a zoning change is sought should be aware of the process and their ability to obtain information and express their opinion in favor of or against changes which may impact them. WC&S’ Neil Lanzi has leveraged his relationships and legal knowledge to shepherd many property owners through the process.
The process is basically as follows:
First, there is a public pre-filing online period (8/19-8/30/2019) for the general public to file zoning change requests. This allows public applicants to get an early start on the application process and early access to scheduling an appointment to map the issue from September 3 through October 15, 2019. From October 1 to October 30, 2019, the Baltimore County Planning Board and the Baltimore County Department of Planning can file an application for a zoning change. Finally, from November 1, 2019 to November 29, 2019, members of the Baltimore County Council can file an application. All filings for zoning changes must be completed by November 29, 2019.
Second, the Baltimore County Department of Planning reviews all filed zoning issues and each property owner impacted or adjacent to a zoning request is notified by mail and a sign is posted on the property. Preliminary recommendations by the County Planning office are published in a “log of issues” on the Baltimore County website.
Third, public hearings are scheduled and held before the Planning Board in March, 2020. The Planning Board holds work sessions in April open to the public, usually in local high schools, then votes and makes recommendations to the County Council. At these hearings, any interested citizen may speak on any of the zoning issues.
Fourth, public hearings are held beginning in June, 2020 before the Baltimore County Council. The final vote is held by the Baltimore County Council no later than September 16, 2020.
If you or your community association are aware of an issue that may affect your business or neighborhood, now is the time to monitor and consider taking action. Baltimore County Planning Staff and County Council members are often willing to meet with individual property owners and community associations to discuss any re-zoning issues. It is important for your views and the views of your community to be made known to the Planning Office, Planning Board and County Council. It is recommended that you begin any inquiries regarding your property early in the process.
After representing various clients with zoning issues for the past 25 plus years, J. Neil Lanzi, Esquire, and Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP can assist you with either filing a zoning change application, opposing or monitoring a zoning change application filed by others.
#MarylandToo – Maryland Legislature Drastically Changes State Anti-Harassment Law
With so much attention focused on the “Fight for Fifteen” and the impact of the scheduled increases to the minimum wage in Maryland, another significant piece of legislation in the 2019 session got very little attention. House Bill 679, which goes into effect on October 1, 2019, drastically changes how claims of harassment are treated under Maryland’s anti-discrimination law. Although harassment had already been prohibited by implication under Maryland’s anti-discrimination law, the revisions explicitly codify that harassment is prohibited under the statute. Unfortunately for employers, that’s not all that has changed.
Currently, Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The law’s new anti-harassment provisions apply to all employers, even if they employ only a single employee. The definition of employee has also been expanded and now includes independent contractors. The law also sets standards for employer liability paralleling Supreme Court precedents under Title VII, providing that an employer will be liable (1) if its negligence led to the harassment or its continuation or (2) if the harasser was an individual with supervisory authority.
Beyond the substantive changes, the law creates significant procedural changes. Under the new law, the time period for filing a complaint of harassment with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (the “MCCR”) or a local human relations commission is extended from six months to two years. It also expands the time period for filing a civil lawsuit alleging harassment in violation of the Maryland anti-discrimination statute from two years to three years. While these changes only apply to harassment claims, the extended liability period increases the risk that stale claims will be filed against employers.
It is imperative that employers of all sizes who conduct business in Maryland familiarize themselves with this new law and implement workplace policies and practices to ensure that their employees are not engaged in harassment. Handbook policies, employee and supervisor training are just a few ways that employers can protect themselves.
For more information or questions about how to protect your business, please contact our Employment & Labor Law practice group.
Want more? Visit the Weekly Wright Report page to browse past issues.