NFCCA

Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ June 2011

Protecting Our ’Hoods

Montgomery County Zoning Law Revisions

By Linda S. Perlman

Montgomery County has enacted new zoning restrictions limiting the total area of your front yard that can be paved, prohibiting parking on front lawns, regulating the parking of heavy commercial and recreational vehicles in residential zones, and imposing new requirements on home-based businesses.  These zoning law charges became effective on 24 April 2011 and are intended to preserve the residential nature of our neighborhoods.

Parking and Front Yard Paving Restrictions

The new law limits the paved surface of your front lawn to no more than 35 percent of the yard or 320 square feet, whichever is greater, in the R-40 and R-60 zones (which encompass most of the NFCCA area).  You do not have to remove existing paving in your front lawn, even if your entire front lawn is paved — provided the paving was in place before 26 October 2010 — but you cannot increase the paved area.

The new front yard paving restrictions apply only to the front yard.  Paved areas on the side or backyard of a house, including side or rear yard garages or carports, do not count as paved areas in determining the percentage of the lot that can be covered with pavement.

Vehicles in a front yard must be parked on a surfaced area only and no more than one vehicle is allowed for every 160 square feet of front driveway or lawn surfaced area.  Cautionary note:  this part of the law change — i.e., prohibiting parking on nonsurfaced areas or on surfaced areas of less than 160 square feet per vehicle — does not take effect until 24 October 2011.  Current law already prohibits (1) a vehicle from blocking a public sidewalk while parked in a driveway, and (2) inoperable or unregistered vehicles from being stored anywhere on residential property for more than 30 days.  Inoperable or unregistered vehicles may never be parked on a public roadway.

Large commercial and recreational vehicles are no longer allowed to be parked in residential neighborhoods, except for temporary parking for purposes of loading and unloading.  Effective 24 April 2011, only one light commercial vehicle, such as a tow truck, and one recreational vehicle per household can be parked off-street on surfaced areas in residential neighborhoods.  (“Heavy commercial vehicles” are those with a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds, vehicles with a capacity of more than one ton, or vehicles that are more than eight feet high.  “Recreational vehicles” include motor homes and trailers.)

Those metal storage containers commonly known as PODS (“portable on-demand storage”) can remain on private property — on driveways or yards — for up to seven days without a permit.  For PODS on residential property for eight days or more, a building permit is needed.  The building permit will require the PODS to be placed on the rear of the residential property and also to comply with the setback requirements for accessory structures (such as sheds).

Home-Based Businesses

Montgomery County allows you to operate your business from your home, subject to various restrictions.  There are three types of home businesses allowed:  (1) no impact [no registration is required]; (2) registered [a permit from the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) is required]; and (3) medical practitioners [registration is required].  Contact Montgomery County at 311 to determine which type of home occupation applies to your business.

In general, a homeowner who operates a home-based business employing at least one nonresidential employee and receiving at least 20 customers or clients per week must register the home business with DPS.  Home day care facilities and medical practitioners may be subject to other regulatory laws.

A general requirement for all home-based businesses is that the person who performs the occupation must live in the home.  Only one nonresidential employee is allowed per day.  For “no impact” home businesses, visits are restricted to five customers or clients per week.  Registered home businesses are allowed up to five customer or client visits per day or 20 per week.  The on-site parking for home occupations is limited to two spaces for customers or clients on your property, but parking is also allowed on the street.  Lawn maintenance companies, operating as home occupations, are permitted one single-axle trailer or truck at any one time.

Owners of home-based businesses must now verify that the business owner actually lives in the residence (such as by a letter or other piece of mail to the residence bearing the owner’s name).

Enforcement

Enforcement of these Montgomery County Code laws is primarily by complaint.  Home-based businesses, the paving of front yards, and off-street parking violations are the primary responsibility of the Department of Permitting Services (DPS).  Unregistered/inoperative vehicle complaints are handled by the County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCD) — unless the vehicle is on the street, in which case the complaint is handled by the Police Department.  Complaints can be filed anonymously or, if you wish to hear back on a complaint, confidentially.  Call the County’s Customer Service Center at 311 or 240.777.0311 or visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/goodneighbors.

Upon receiving a complaint, DPS or DHCD will assign an inspector to investigate the complaint.  A Notice of Violation (NOV) will be issued if cause is found.  Generally, violators are given 30 days to correct the violation.  If the violation is not corrected or dismissed during this time period, then a citation — with a $500 fine — may be issued.  On-street parking violators can be ticketed by the County Police Department.   ■


   © 2011 NFCCA  [Source: https://nfcca.org/news/nn201106h.html]