Types of Zones

Two types of zones are in use in Prince George's County conventional zones and floating zones. There is a large variety of individual zoning classifications within each of these types. Most properties are in conventional zones. However, an increasing number of properties are being placed in floating zones. Each of these types of zones is described below.

(a) Conventional (Euclidean) Zones
Conventional zones fall into three categories: residential, commercial and industrial. In a conventional zone, permitted land uses and densities are specifically listed. Each land use is permitted subject to strict requirements regarding lot size, lot coverage, street frontage, building setbacks and height limits.

There is a broad spectrum of residential zones covering all types of residential development from single-family detached to high-rise apartments. Densities range from a maximum of 1 dwelling unit per 20 acres at one end of the spectrum to 48+ dwelling units per acre at the other.

The commercial zones provide for development which is either predominantly retail, office or service-commercial in nature. There are also specialized commercial zones which provide for such things as upscale regional malls or small neighborhood commercial centers.

The industrial zones provide for both light and heavy industrial areas as well as for planned employment parks in campus-like settings. There are also two specialized industrial zones.

(b) Floating Zones
The purpose of floating zones is to encourage creativity of design and permit specialized land development. Accordingly, the number of uses allowed is quite broad, but proposals are subject to an in-depth review process. Certain development regulations, such as lot size and coverage, are not specified in the Zoning Ordinance and are instead established during the review process. Floating zones include comprehensive design, mixed use/planned community and overlay zones:

(c) Comprehensive Design Zones
Comprehensive design zones differ from conventional zones in that a mix of land uses and/or densities is permitted. Comprehensive design zones also allow an increase in residential density or commercial intensity, in exchange for the provision of public benefit features, such as a community park or neighborhood bike path, that improve the quality of the project.

In conventional zones, development must conform to strict regulations regarding the location, height and density of proposed structures. In a comprehensive design zone, these and other development regulations are approved on a case-by-case basis. However, once approved, these regulations carry the full force of law and are not easily changed.

Development proposals in a comprehensive design zone are approved via a three-phase review process:
  • Phase 1 (Basic Plan): Sets forth proposed land uses and general land use relationships, including the approximate number of dwelling units and building intensity. A determination must be made that public facilities are adequate to serve the proposed development.
  • Phase II (Comprehensive Design Plan): Refines the approved basic plan. Establishes the general location, distribution, and size of proposed structures and includes various standards and guidelines. Proposed public benefit features are described, and a determination must be made that the development will not be an unreasonable burden on public facilities.
  • Phase III (Specific Design Plan): A precise site plan that includes architectural plans, exterior building elevations and detailed landscaping plans. A determination must also be made that the development will be adequately served by public facilities.
(d) Mixed-Use & Planned Community Zones
There are several mixed-use/planned community zones. Each zone contains its own unique regulations which are designed to provide for a variety of compatible uses and create a particular character of development. The M-X-T Zone is transportation-oriented, intended to create a 24-hour environment in the immediate vicinity of major transportation facilities.

The M-X-C Zone encourages a balanced mix of residential, commercial, recreational and public uses. It also requires the finding that transportation facilities will be adequate to carry anticipated traffic. The M-U-TC Zone promotes redevelopment, preservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings in older commercial areas. The R-P-C Zone accommodates large-scale community development such as found in Greenbelt and Marlton. The R-M-H Zone provides for mobile home communities.

(e) Overlay Zones
Overlay zones are superimposed over existing zoning classifications in a designated area and are used to modify certain requirements of the underlying zones, such as permitted uses, parking regulations, sign requirements and the location and height of buildings. There are four types of overlay zones:
  • The Transit District Overlay Zone encourages intensive land development in the vicinity of Metro stations to maximize transit ridership and reduce automobile use. It is intended to take advantage of the unique development opportunities provided by mass transit and other public facilities. It is used to implement a transit district development plan, and development is subject to site plan approval.
  • The Development District Overlay Zone is used to ensure that development meets the goals established in a master plan, master plan amendment or sector plan. Development districts may be designated for town centers, Metro areas, commercial corridors, employment centers, revitalization areas, historic areas and other special areas as identified in approved plans. Development is subject to site plan approval.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Overlay Zone protects environmentally sensitive areas. It ensures that development conforms with State and County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area policies to preserve and enhance the quality of water entering the Chesapeake Bay, protect wildlife resources and enhance recreational opportunities. Concurrently with or prior to approval of development in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, a conservation plan and agreement must be approved. Development is subject to both the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and the regulations set forth in the Prince George's County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program Conservation Manual.
  • The Revitalization Overlay Zone provides a mechanism for the county to delegate full authority to local municipalities to approve departures from parking, landscaping and sign standards. In addition, limited authority is delegated for the approval of variances from building setbacks, lot coverage, yards and other dimensional requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.