I have been practicing real estate law in Maryland for over a decade, mostly in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. I was recently contacted by a client with an unusual and fun project. He is interested in storing an Airstream travel trailer in the rear yard of a multi-unit apartment he owns in the Butchers Hill neighborhood in Baltimore City. I agreed to assist with this matter because it is so out of the ordinary and promises to be an interesting challenge.
First I visited the site to see if the proposed placement of the trailer might be objectionable to neighbors in the community. The apartment building is three stories tall and sits on a twenty foot by one hundred and thirty foot lot. There are two story buildings on each side of the rear of the lot and so the visual impact on the immediate neighbors is slight. Additionally, my client informed me that he intends to place the trailer close to the apartment building and construct a six foot tall removable fence to further minimize visibility. The site and his proposed plan struck me as being ideal for the intended use even more so since the travel trailer storage will still allow for four off-street parking spaces, always a hot commodity in the city.
Baltimore City is a great place to live and do business but getting things done the proper way can be a real struggle. The laws, regulations and practices tend to be byzantine and change quickly. I went to the Baltimore City permit office and applied for a permit to store the trailer in the rear yard, made it through that department and was referred to the Zoning Administrator’s Office where I ran into my first roadblock. I was informed that the use proposed was not allowed and that I would have to file an appeal for a variance with the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals (BMZA). The BMZA is composed of five individuals appointed by the Mayor and is primarily responsible for deciding if variances will be granted and conditional uses allowed. Appeals from decisions of the Zoning Administrator end up at the BMZA.
I went to the BMZA to file the appeal and obtain a hearing date and ran into roadblock number two: site plans are required in order for a hearing date to be scheduled. Site plans do not need to be very formal but must be drawn to scale, show property dimensions, describe existing improvements, etc. I fully expected to make two trips and trip number one was calculated just to see how far I could get in the process. Please stay posted for Part Two of this project.