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.