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Icon Information on BRG53 - (Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals)

Series Information
(Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals)

Series Description

The present board is an outgrowth of a long municipal concern with the problems of the city's development and expansion. In the two decades following the 1904 Baltimore fire, the municipal government became acutely aware of the effects of uncontrolled and unregulated growth on stable, particularly residential, areas. A zoning commission, created in 1921, embodied the first attempt to solve these problems. The city council established this commission for dividing the city into districts according to allowable building height and usage. Once this was accomplished and a draft ordinance prepared, the commission ceased to exist. In 1923 the board of zoning appeals was established to rule on appeals of decisions by this commission. However, this board and two others between 1923 and 1925 were short-lived when the Maryland Courts of Appeals declared them unconstitutional.

The Maryland General Assembly passed a state enabling act in 1927 authorizing the mayor and city council to pass a zoning ordinance. In the same year the city council created a thirteen member zoning commission to again divide the city into zones and draft regulations. Four years later the city council passed Baltimore's first comprehensive zoning law based on the efforts of thi3 commission. This ordinance re-established a five-member board of zoning appeals with broader powers than the original board. This body was authorized to "study zoning, its development, application and relation to public and private municipal development... and submit amendments to this ordinance...."

The next major change in the administration and regulation of zoning occurred in 1946 with several municipal charter amendments. One established a department of municipal and zoning appeals headed by a five-member board of municipal and zoning appeals (BMZA). This board became a reality with the adoption of the revised charter in 1949.

The BMZA assumed the functions and powers of the old appeal tax court and the board of zoning appeals, both of which ceased to exist. The functions and powers of the commissioners for opening streets, which was also dissolved, passed to the bureau of assessments. The BMZA became the appellate body for zoning tax and condemnation appeals, and continues as such at the present time. The board hears and decides all pertinent appeals from the state department of assessments, refunds and abatements from the department of finance, footway and alley paving cases from the department of public works, and other miscellaneous appeals.

For further information concerning zoning and the BMZA see ord. 615 (1921); ord. 922 (1923); ord. 522 (1925); Laws of Maryland, 1927, ch. 705; art. 66B, 1927, Maryland Annotated Code; ord. 1247 (1931); res. 18 (1946); Baltimore City Charter of 1949; ord. 711 (1953); ord. 1051 (1971); Baltimore City Code, 1976 ed., art. 30.

Note that only one series of the records described here is available at the Baltimore City Archives. The BMZA is required by law to maintain its records within its own office so as to make them available for public inspection. Only the older correspondence files (series 5) have been transferred to the archives. All other records here described may be examined by contacting the board. Please note also that this record group includes materials from the predecessors to the BMZA which have been so identified where they appear.

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DateSeries NameDescriptionMSA Citation

Minutes of the weekly meetings of the board of municipal and zoning appeals and its predecessor, the board of zoning appeals. These are primarily a record of their decisions concerning appeals. Two sets of minutes are maintained, one for zoning appeals and one for real estate and miscellaneous appeals.

These materials must be maintained for public inspection in the offices of the board.

  Details1949Annual ReportsAnnual reports recording statistics on both zoning and real estate appeals. The zoning reports include information on the number of appeals heard and pending, the types of questions appealed, conventional uses, and the appeals carried beyond the board into the Baltimore City Court. Real estate reports, covering all non-zoning appeals (assessments, condemnation of streets, and paving refunds), primarily provide a statistical breakdown for the types of appeals considered by the board.BRG53-2
  Details1931-2010Zoning Appeal Case Files

Records relating to each individual appeal heard by the board and its predecessor, the board of zoning appeals, from its reconstitution in 1931 to the present time. A typical file contains a notice of appeal filed; a copy of the actual appeal; data and status sheets; a copy of the permit application and the disapproval of the permit; blueprints, plats, and/or drawings; segments of zoning maps; copies of newspaper clippings; photographs; correspondence; petitions concerning the changes desired by the appellant; an order to post a notice of public hearing; a copy of the notice of the hearing which was sent to the appellant; transcripts of testimony; and notes and other miscellaneous documents relating to the individual case.

These files chronicle only zoning appeals. The records for all other appeals are discarded after five years or the completion of any subsequent appeals or audit, whichever is later.

Reference access to the case files is provided by an index in card form which is arranged by street address. A card is prepared for each case heard and provides the name of the appellant, the appeal number, a description of the nature of the appeal, whether or not the appeal was approved, and the date of this action. The index thereby serves as a permanent record of all zoning cases heard by the board concerning a particular piece of property.

  Details1923Ordinance Reports

Files maintained on proposed ordinances sent by the city council to the board of municipal and zoning appeals and the board of zoning appeals for review and comment. The materials retained concerning each bill, assigned a file number when it is received by the BMZA, include correspondence, a copy of the proposed ordinance itself, plats and drawings, statements of interest, segments of zoning maps, preliminary examination reports, and copies of any other documents relevant to the evaluation of the proposed ordinance. These reports constitute a comprehensive view of all zoning legislation proposed in Baltimore city since the creaton of the board of zoning appeals.

The BMZA also maintains copies of all zoning-related ordinances and amendments to them as well as copies of zoning maps, dating from 1923 to the present.

  Details1923Correspondence Files

Newspaper clippings, correspondence, audit reports, memos, transcripts of related proceedings (such as condemnation), publications, schedules of hearings, photographs, reports, drawings and plats, notes and working papers, and other miscellaneous adminstrative materials generated by the board of zoning appeals and the BMZA. This is primarily a subject file with the addition of correspondence to and from various agencies.

Files created within the last five years are maintained in the offices of the board. All others are housed in the Baltimore City Archives.

  Details1958-1959Land Use AtlasSeries of four atlases showing existing land use, showing every property in the City. Alterations are pasted on. Atlas begins in Northwest corner of the City in rows from west to east, and ends in the Southeast corner.BRG53-6
  Details1962-1968Zoning Ordinance RecommendationsRecommendations on different new zoning ordinancesBRG53-7
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