The Division of Land Development administers the development plan review process in an efficient and consistent manner to ensure that proposed development plans conform to all County regulations.

Plan Review Process
Subdivision Process

All divisions of land, including lot merges, must go through the subdivision process. Subdivisions are classified as either a minor subdivision, major subdivision, or resubdivision.

  • MINOR SUBDIVISION is the division of a residential or agricultural parcel that has not been part of a previously recorded subdivision, into four or fewer residential lots either all at one time or lot by lot. 
  • MAJOR SUBDIVISION is the division of a residential or agricultural parcel into five or more residential lots.
  • RESUBDIVISION is the further division or modification of an existing subdivision previously approved by the County.
Site Development Plan Process

A Site Development Plan (SDP) is a detailed engineered drawing of a commercial, industrial, institutional or residential development project, showing existing site conditions and proposed improvements with sufficient detail for agency review, approval, and subsequent construction. 

  • Residential Development - An SDP is required for all new single-family attached, apartment, and mobile home residential developments and development of most single-family detached dwellings within the Planned Service Area. SDP's are not required for single-family detached dwellings located outside the planned service area.
  • Nonresidential Development - An SDP is required for new and expanded nonresidential development and any establishment of a use or change in use.
Subdivision Review Committee

The Subdivision Review Committee (SRC) is an advisory group of County and State agencies that review and make recommendations concerning subdivision and site development plan projects in Howard County. The SRC includes representatives of the following departments: Public Works, Environmental Health, Public School System, Recreation and Parks, Fire and Rescue Services, Soil Conservation District, Office of Transportation, State Highway Administration, and Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

New Town Development Process

The New Town (NT) Zoning District is a zoning classification for Columbia, an unincorporated, planned community located in Howard County. The Zoning Regulations establish the development planning and review process for the NT District.

Alternative Compliance Process

An applicant may request that the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) grant relief from strict compliance with specific land development regulations through the Alternative Compliance process.

Necessary Disturbance Process

An applicant may request that the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ), in consultation with the Department of Public Works and the Office of Community Sustainability, grant relief from strict compliance with specific land development regulations related to development impacts within the flood plain, wetlands, streams, and steep slopes.

Planning Board

The Planning Board consists of five members appointed by the County Executive and has the following general functions as provided by various sections of Howard County law and regulations.

Decision Making:

  • Comprehensive Sketch/Sketch Plans in the NT, PGCC, MXD, PSC, R-ED, R-H-ED, RR (Tier III) zoning districts
  • Final Development Plans in the NT and PGCC zoning districts
  • Site Development Plans in the R-ED, NT, PGCC, MXD, R-H-ED, OT, CR (Overlay District) zoning districts, and Housing Commission Developments in non-residential zoning districts
  • Street Renaming Petitions


  • Comprehensive Zoning
  • Zoning Regulation Amendments
  • Zoning Map Amendments
  • General Plan and Amendments
  • Capital Projects
  • Preliminary Development Plans in the NT and MXD zoning districts

Rule Making:

  • Changing Board Rules



Pre-Application Meeting Requirements
Pre-Submission Community Meeting

A pre-submission community meeting is required prior to the initial submittal of plans for all new residential development, new non-residential development, and existing non-residential development with a proposed floor area expansion of more than 25%. The pre-submission community meeting is for the developer/petitioner to provide information to the community regarding the proposed initial plan submittal and to allow community residents to ask questions and make comments before the initial plan submittal for the subject property. While the developer/petitioner is encouraged to work with the community to achieve a mutually acceptable solution to any concerns, unless a change is required by the County Code or the Zoning Regulations, the developer/petitioner is not required to change the proposed development in response to comments made at the pre-submission community meeting.

REGISTER TO STAY UPDATED: Would you like to be notified when development is proposed near or around your neighborhood? Use the DPZNotify application to stay updated. When proposed development that requires a pre-submission community meeting occurs in your area, you will receive a notification via email with information regarding the pre-submission community meeting.

Click here for help generating pre-submission meeting mailing lists.

Design Advisory Panel Meeting

The Design Advisory Panel (DAP) process encourages excellence in project architecture and site design to improve design compatibility with surrounding development, promote revitalization, and enhance property values.

The Design Advisory Panel shall review and provide design advice on new development and redevelopment projects:

  • On parcels located the U.S. Route 1 Corridor that are zoned CE, CAC, OR TOD, or that adjoin the Route 1 right-of-way and that are subject to the Route 1 Manual;
  • On parcels located within the Route 40 Corridor as defined in the Route 40 Design Manual;
  • On parcels on which age-restricted adult housing is to be constructed pursuant to a conditional use;
  • On redevelopment parcels located in New Town Village Centers with boundaries proposed by a property owner or established by the Zoning Board or County Council;
  • On parcels included within the boundaries of the Downtown Columbia Plan;
  • On parcels on State Route 108, between Guilford Road and Trotter Road, that are within the boundaries of the Clarksville Pike Streetscape Plan and Design Guidelines;
  • In other areas for which a design manual is adopted by the County Council; and
  • As provided by the zoning regulations, on parcels located in the following zoning districts including, without limitation: R-H-ED, R-APT, CEF, CR, and for non-conforming uses in the CLI district.
Historic Preservation Committee Meeting

Prior to the initial submittal of an application for subdivision or site development plan approval on a site located in a historic district established, adjoining a multi-site historic district, or that contains a historic structure, the applicant shall request a review by the Historic Preservation Commission to identify all historic resources on the site and obtain advice from the Commission regarding the design of the development.

Other Processes & Procedures
Electronic Signature Process

To accelerate and modernize processing of plans, DPZ is excited to begin accepting plan submissions for Electronic Signatures.  The development review process will remain the same up to the Technically Complete (TC) stage.  Plan submissions will be uploaded electronically through ProjectDox (PDox) and routed to all Agency reviewers electronically for signatures. This process anticipates a 3 week turn around for all signatures from date of submission.  DPZ anticipates, in some cases, a savings of 4-6 weeks from the current physical signature process. Electronic Plan Process Document.

Eligible Plans:

The following plans are eligible for electronic signature, so long as they have not received TC status as of September 1, 2021:
Sketch plans | Preliminary Equivalent Sketch plans |Preliminary plans |Final plans | Site Development Plans (SDPs)

Ineligible Plans:

The following plans are NOT eligible for electronic signature at this time:
Plans recorded in Land Records (Plats and Final Development plans) |Environmental Concept Plans (ECPs) | Simplified Environmental Concept Plans (SECPs) | Water & Sewer plans | Redlines

By Request:

Plans that received TC prior to instituting this new electronic signature process on September 1, 2021, may be eligible for this process only if outstanding comments were minor/drafting modifications and do not require plan revisions.   The request for electronic plan submission after TC must be sent to Anthony Cataldo, Chief of the Division of Land Development at [email protected]. If approved, DPZ will issue a formal letter to the applicant outlining the Electronic Submission process and any applicable additional fees. 

Fast Track Process

The Department of Planning and Zoning offers a customized “Fast Track Site Development (SDP) Process” to accelerate the review and approval of critical economic development projects in Howard County. For more information or questions regarding the "Fast Track" process, please contact Julia Sauer at 410-313-2350.

Originals Only Process

An expedient process to review and re-record previously recorded plats with minor revisions or corrections. Minor revisions include, but are not limited to, corrections to drafting errors, changes to building restriction lines to comply with present-day zoning, re-subdividing lots to adjust property lines for land exchanges, and revising easements. 

Redline Revision Process

The redline revision process is used for minor modifications or revisions to active or inactive commercial site development plans, residential site development plans, road construction plans, or public water and sewer plans. For more information or questions regarding the redline process, please contact Jeff Pickett with the Development Engineering Division, by email or at (410) 313-2350.

The Construction Inspection Division of the Department of Public Works/Bureau of Engineering is responsible for all redline revisions during the as-built process after construction is complete.

Simplified Environmental Concept Plan

The simplified ECP process is for projects that do not require a plat or SDP (e.g. building permits in the west, redlines where appropriate). For questions on the simplified ECP process, please contact Jeff Pickett with the Development Engineering Division at 410-313-2350.

Special Subjects

The "Special Subject" process is in response to frequent inquiries this Department receives to determine the appropriate process for obtaining approval to allow a nonresidential change-in-use, to make minor revisions or additions to an existing developed property, additions/changes to communication tower and electric power line facilities, plan revisions and all other general "special subject" inquiries. Find the "Special Subject" form here. For more information or questions regarding the "Special Subject" process, please contact the Division of Land Development Planner-of-the-Day at 410-313-2350.

Street Renaming

The Department of Planning and Zoning is responsible for processing all street renaming or renaming petition requests. For further information or questions, please contact Justin Schleicher at 410-313-2350.

Walk-Thru Redline Revisions & House Model Revisions

The “Walk-Thru Revision” process facilitates the review and approval of minor as-built site revisions for single residential lots on approved site development plans. The revisions are limited to changes that do not affect neighboring lots and include changes to house foundation elevations, architectural options and as-built model changes, minor grading and drainage changes, the addition of retaining walls under three feet in total height, driveway changes, and house location and orientation changes.

The "House Model Revision" process is to make house model or generic house footprint changes on residential lots or footprint changes to a group of townhouse or apartment units on an approved site development plan. Other minor site revision items such as grading, driveway locations, building additions or deletions and retaining walls, etc. must be shown and approved on the House Model Revision plan.

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