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Board of Appeals

Pursuant to §4-301 of the Land Use Article the local legislative body, the Commissioners of St. Mary's County, must appoint a Board of Appeals consisting of at least three members who serve a term of three years. The local legislative body must also designate one alternate member for the Board of Appeals who may sit on the Board in the absence of another Board member or when a Board member is recused.

St. Mary's County Board of Appeals consists of five members who serve one, three-year term and who may be reappointed for one additional three-year term following the expiration of their first term. Board terms are staggered to insure consistency in the Board of Appeals process.

All meetings of the Board of Appeals are open to the public. All cases before the Board of Appeals are advertised in accordance with Maryland and County public hearing laws.


The Board of Appeals has the authority to hear and decide appeals from decisions made by an administrative officer or unit; hear and decide requests to vary a regulation of the Zoning Ordinance; hear and decide requests for conditional use approval; and hear and decide a request to expand a nonconforming use or structure by up to 50 percent. All decisions and findings of the Board must be rendered in writing and are deemed final administrative decisions.


An appeal to the Board of Appeals may be filed by:

  1. a person aggrieved by a decision of the administrative officer or unit; or
  2. an officer or unit of St. Mary's County Government affected by a decision of the administrative officer or unit.

An appeal to the Board stays all proceedings in furtherance of the action appealed. (See CAG 44.)


Variances fall into two categories:

  1. a standard variance
  2. a Critical Area variance

The allowable modifications in a standard variance are limited under the Land Use Article to those of density, bulk, dimensional, or area requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. A Critical Area variance is a modification to a specific Critical Area regulation of the Zoning Ordinance.

The Board of Appeals must make findings that an applicant has met the standards for granting a variance before approving a variance request. CAG 43 identifies the standards specific to a standard or general variance and the standards specific to a Critical Area variance. The Maryland Critical Area Commission must review all variance requests to modify a regulation of the County's Critical Area program.

Conditional Uses

A conditional use is considered a permitted use subject to meeting specific conditions as determined in Section 51.3 of the Zoning Ordinance. Additionally, a conditional use must be approved by the Board of Appeals who must make findings that the standards for granting a conditional use have been met. Examples of conditional uses include a golf course, an extractive industry, and a commercial communication tower. Some uses such as a maintenance repair facility, a conference facility, and a long-term care facility are conditional in certain zoning districts and permitted by right in other zoning districts.

Expansion of Nonconforming Uses and Structures

Chapter 52 of the Ordinance defines a nonconforming use and a nonconforming structure and specifies regulations for expanding this type of use and structure. The Planning Director has the authority to expand or enlarge a nonconforming use or structure constituting up to 25 percent of the existing use or structure. Any expansion or enlargement greater than 25 percent and up to 50 percent must be approved by the Board of Appeals.

Administrative Variances

The Planning Director has approval authority to apply the standards for variance to requests to relax:

  1. the minimum lot dimensions or minimum setback standards of Schedule 32.1 of the Zoning Ordinance and
  2. the provisions of Chapter 75 of the Ordinance pertaining to forest conservation

The process for obtaining an administrative variance is the same as that for a Board of Appeals public hearing.