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Nine Things To Know About Baltimore City’s New Zoning Law Impacting Check Cashing Establishments

By:  Dino La Fiandra, Member, Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law)

1. The revised zoning code was passed by the Baltimore City Council on December 5, 2016 and becomes effective on June 5, 2017. Any applications filed prior to June 5th will be evaluated under the existing (“old”) zoning regulations, regardless of whether the application is approved or denied prior to that date. All applications filed on or after June 5th will be evaluated on the basis of the new regulations.

2. Under the new regulations, “check-cashing establishment” means an establishment, other than a financial institution, that provides a check-cashing service, for a fee, to the general public. Under the new zoning regulations, check cashing establishments are only permitted by a special zoning approval called a conditional use.

3. If the existing check cashing establishment was a permitted use under the old code, it becomes a lawful conditional use under the new code, subject to the restrictions previously imposed upon it by law or regulation. Any subsequent change in the use, including addition, expansion, relocation, or structural modification will be subject to the rules applicable to changes in conditional uses under the new code.

4. If the check cashing establishment was a conditional use under the old code, it remains a conditional use under the new code. Any subsequent change in the use, including addition, expansion, relocation, or structural modification will be subject to the rules applicable to changes in conditional uses under the new code.

5. If the existing check cashing establishment was a non-conforming use under the old code, it remains a non-conforming use under the new code. As a non-conforming use, there are significant limitations on expansion (none), maintenance and repair (some).

6. If the existing check cashing establishment was not a lawful use (permitted, conditional or non-conforming), it will remain an unlawful use under the new code, and the operator must acquire a conditional use approval in order to maintain the establishment.

7. Modifications to lawful conditional uses are permitted on the following basis: Minor and insubstantial changes in the use typically do not require a new application for a conditional use. Types of changes that are typically viewed as insubstantial are things like interior renovations and exterior renovations that do not alter the footprint or size of the building. Substantial changes in use will require Baltimore City Council or Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals (BMZA) approval and include things like building expansion and relocation.

8. Non-conforming uses are subject to greater limitation than conditional or permitted uses. Non-conforming uses may not be expanded. Only necessary repairs and maintenance are permitted. No further expansion of the non-conforming use or the non-conformity may be permitted. Non-conforming uses may not be discontinued for a period of greater than 12 months, or the non-conforming will be deemed abandoned and discontinued. A discontinued non-conforming use may not be later resumed.

9. There are no zoning regulations that restrict or limit the ability to sell or transfer ownership of a grandfathered use. The use or business is sold or transferred subject to all regulations and restrictions that applied prior to the sale.

For over 20 years, Dino La Fiandra’s law practice has focused on land use and real estate development – everything from pre-concept planning and analysis to the issuance of occupancy permits. Dino has guided countless real estate developers, business owners, property owners, builders, tenants and other clients through all phases of zoning and planning including assisting with the resolution of many issues which arise during the process. Mr. La Fiandra has secured development approvals for all types of projects, including residential projects (multi-family, minor subdivisions, and major subdivisions), commercial projects (shopping centers, industrial parks, production centers, national big box retailers, office and medical office, car dealerships, fuel service stations, car washes, banks, hotels, catering halls, flex space developments, and similar uses), and institutional projects (large medical / hospital campuses, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living facilities, “mega-churches”, community churches, synagogues, schools, and public utilities).Contact Dino La Fiandra at (410) 938-8705 or dlafiandra@pklaw.com.

Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law) is the eleventh largest law firm in the Baltimore area and has been serving clients for close to thirty years. PK Law maintains full-service offices in Towson, Columbia, and Bel Air and is comprised of more than 60 lawyers, paralegals and law clerks. Practice areas include corporate law, real estate, zoning, education law, estate planning, elder law, labor and employment, litigation, insurance law and medical malpractice defense. For additional information, visit www.PKLaw.com