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Get Involved in the Development Review Process

Have your neighbors told you that someone is developing that property down the street? Have you seen a sign advertising a meeting about a proposed development in your neighborhood? Did you get a notice in the mail saying a plan has been filed to develop the property across the street or next door?

We encourage community participation in the development review process.

How You Can Get Involved

You have the opportunity to voice your concerns and opinions. Don’t miss your chance to have your say about what’s going on in your community!
  • Find out about the development review process
    Determine the type of plan submitted, what issues will be addressed in the plan’s review, and the most effective way to present your concerns.
  • Coordinate with others
    Talk to your neighbors, your homeowners association, and your civic association to coordinate your responses.
  • Voice your opinion
    Comment in a letter, by email, or in person at the Planning Board hearing.
  • Read our brochure
    How to Participate Effectively in Reviewing Development Applications (PDF)

Address Relevant Issues

The area master plans and the Zoning Ordinance determine whether and how a property can be developed. For a specific project, your comments should address issues such as:

  • The development’s effect on adjacent properties and the neighborhood
  • The adequacy of existing and planned public infrastructure to serve the proposed development (school capacity decisions are made by the County Council, not by the Planning Board)
  • The development’s effect on traffic, circulation, and access
  • The development’s environmental impacts and adherence to development regulations.

How to Find Out About Development Proposals

The Board has developed specific procedures for notifying the public about proposed development. You can contact Information Counter staff for information at 301-495-4610.

  • Pre-submission meeting
    Anyone who wants to develop or redevelop land must post signs on the site and hold pre-submission meetings. Contact information must be posted, and anyone interested in the development of the site can attend the meetings. The applicant also must send written notice to abutting and confronting property owners, and to homeowners associations and civic associations within a one-half- to one-mile radius, depending on application type.
  • Written notice
    When an application is filed, the applicant sends written notice to those who received the pre-submission notice and others who have emailed or written to indicate their interest. New signs also are posted on the site.
  • Development Review Committee meeting
    After a plan is filed, the applicant meets with the DRC, an interagency task force consisting of Park and Planning staff and representatives of other public agencies. The public can attend, but not speak, at DRC meetings. The schedule is posted two weeks in advance at on the development review website.
  • Public Hearing Notice
    When the Planning Board public hearing is scheduled, the Planning Department notifies interested parties.
  • Online Agenda and Staff Reports
    The Planning Board agenda is posted online two weeks in advance, along with relevant staff reports.

The Process

  1. The Montgomery County Planning Board administers the development review process in accordance with the Zoning Ordinance, the recommendations in the master plan, and other applicable regulations and guidelines.
  2. The applicant submits a proposal for development. The type of plan submitted—Sketch Plan, Preliminary Plan of Subdivision, or Site Plan—depends on what is being proposed, how the property is zoned, and the zone’s requirements. Even before a proposal is submitted, an applicant is required to post signs on the property and hold meetings with the community to discuss the proposal.
  3. Planners in the Area Team Divisions review the proposal and issue a staff report. Based on an analysis of the proposal’s compliance with applicable regulations and guidelines, staff may recommend approval—usually with a list of required conditions—or denial.
  4. Staff schedules the proposal for a Planning Board public hearing. Staff reports are posted online with the Board meeting agendas 10 days in advance of the hearing online.
  5. The Planning Board holds a public hearing to receive testimony from staff, the applicant, and interested parties, and takes action on the proposal. The Planning Board’s decisions on Sketch Plans, Preliminary Plans of Subdivision, and Site Plans are binding.
  6. Throughout this process, the public is encouraged to evaluate the effects of a proposed development on their neighborhood and to participate in the Planning Board’s review.

The Plans

The process begins when an applicant files a Sketch Plan, a Pre-Preliminary Plan, a Preliminary Plan of Subdivision, or a Site Plan. A planner is assigned to serve as lead reviewer for each proposal and coordinates the review according to the Manual of Development Review Procedures. The lead reviewer is the main point of contact for questions and concerns about submitted plans and can be reached at 301-495-4610.

Sketch Plan: required in certain zones where an applicant is requesting additional density in exchange for additional public open space or amenities.

  • Primarily required in Central Business Districts and areas where increased density warrants the provision of additional public facilities and amenities
  • Expected to show conformance with applicable master plans
  • Approved, approved with conditions, or denied by the Planning Board.

Pre-Preliminary or Concept Plan: an optional application to determine whether a site is suitable for a certain type and/or scale of development or whether specific elements, such as the location of a driveway, are acceptable.

  • Contains a generalized layout of streets and lots
  • May be reviewed by the Planning Board at a public hearing at the applicant’s request—depending on the type of submission, the Board’s decision may or may not be binding
  • Makes a property eligible for septic testing

Preliminary Plan of Subdivision: divides a tract of land into building lots, streets, and open space and is required in all zones. It shows a proposed development’s relationship to its neighbors.

  • Contains specific lot and street layout and includes details such as utilities and the adequacy of public infrastructure
  • Must conform with environmental and transportation regulations
  • Can be approved, approved with conditions, or denied by the Planning Board—approval is required before the lots can be recorded in the land records or a building permit can be issued

Site Plan: detailed review of building location, landscaping, lighting, and other elements of a proposed development.

  • Only required in certain zones or when exceptions to regulations are requested
  • Approved, approved with conditions, or denied by the Planning Board—approval is required before a Record Plat can be filed or a building permit can be issued.

See the Development Applications page for more information on submitting development applications.

The Review

The lead reviewer analyzes the application based on the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and other applicable regulations and guidelines and receives input from the Planning Department’s master planning, environmental, transportation, and historic preservation staffs, other agencies, and the community.

The lead reviewer arranges for the Development Review Committee (DRC) to review the plan and meet with the applicant. The DRC is an interagency task force of representatives from public agencies and utilities such as WSSC, PEPCO, the State Highway Administration, and the County departments of Permitting Services, Environmental Protection, and Public Works and Transportation.

To address concerns received from the staff, DRC, or the community, an applicant will often submit a revised plan that must be analyzed again by staff.

Individuals or community representatives are encouraged to work with staff and the applicant throughout the review process to resolve issues. You can meet with the lead reviewer to discuss relevant issues. You can submit written or e-mailed comments to the lead reviewer at any time during the plan review process and they will become part of the official record.

Last Updated: October 27, 2016