Charles County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
A. 
The purpose of this zone is to protect the aesthetic and visual character of land adjacent to major highway corridors and to provide for and promote orderly development. All development proposed within this zone shall be subject to the procedures, standards and guidelines specified in the following sections, in addition to those standards pertaining to the particular base zone in which the development occurs. The following specific purposes will be accomplished through evaluation of whether proposed developments comply with the standards of the Highway Corridor (HC) Zone:
(1) 
To encourage and better articulate positive visual experiences along the County's major existing and proposed highways.
(2) 
To provide for the continued safe and efficient use of these roadways.
(3) 
To maintain natural beauty and scenic, cultural and historic character of the corridors, particularly distinctive views, vistas and visual continuity.
(4) 
To protect existing greenbelts, natural vegetation and wildlife habitats along the corridors.
(5) 
To prohibit indiscriminate clearing, excessive grading and clear-cutting along the corridors.
(6) 
Minimize cut-and-fill operations by placing emphasis on the retention of natural topography of the corridors.
(7) 
Minimize intersection and site access points.
B. 
The provisions of the HC Zone and the administrative mechanisms used to implement those provisions will be reviewed annually to ensure that the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan are being achieved.
A. 
The Highway Corridor (HC) Zone shall include all lands within 500 feet of on each side of the following rights-of-way:
(1) 
U.S. Route 301.
(2) 
Maryland State Route 210.
(3) 
Maryland State Route 228 from MD Route 210 to Bealle Hill Road to U.S. Route 301.
(4) 
Maryland State Route 5.
(5) 
Maryland State Route 205.
B. 
The approximate boundary of this zone shall be shown on the Official Zoning Map[1] and shall be shown as a surveyed line by the applicant on each property subject to review.
[1]
Editor's Note: The Zoning Map is on file in the County offices.
A. 
All development plan applications for development located in the Highway Corridor (HC) Zone shall satisfy the standards of the HC Zone.
B. 
Permitted development activity.
(1) 
Any alteration of the existing condition of the lands, uses or structures within the HC Zone shall comply with the standards of the HC Zone.
(2) 
The overlay zone regulations supplement the uses permitted and the requirements for the appropriate underlying zone.
C. 
Uses prohibited in the underlying zone are also prohibited in the overlay zone.
D. 
The following development activities are exempt from following HC Zone requirements:
(1) 
Where a development activity occurs on an individual single-family residential lot existing at the adoption of this chapter.
(2) 
In the case of a minor subdivision where the Planning Commission has determined that the lot size and configuration will not negatively impact on the road corridor.
A. 
Guidelines. The compatible relationship of architecture and site design related to development within the HC Zone is of critical importance to the successful implementation of this article. The intent of design review is not to stifle innovation in architectural design, but to reduce incompatible and adverse impacts on the visual experience of the roadway. To accomplish this, the following general guidelines shall be used when reviewing proposed development within the HC Zone:
(1) 
Proposed development shall avoid excessive or unsightly grading, indiscriminate earthmoving or clearing of property and removal of trees and vegetation that could cause disruption of natural watercourses or disfigure natural land forms.
(2) 
Proposed development shall be located and configured in a visually harmonious manner with the terrain and vegetation of the parcel and surrounding parcels. To the extent practicable, scenic views from the principal arterial, existing structures or the natural environment shall not be impeded by proposed development. Structures shall not dominate, by excessive or inappropriate height or mass, any existing development, adjacent building or natural landscape.
(3) 
The architectural design of structures and their materials and colors shall be visually harmonious with the overall appearance, history and cultural heritage of the County, with natural land forms and existing vegetation and with other development plans already approved by the County. Specific consideration shall be given to compatibility with adjacent properties where such projects demonstrate the County's character. The following shall be the specific guidelines used to meet the general guidelines established above:
(a) 
Large work area doors or open bays shall not open toward or face the principal arterial road.
(b) 
Heating, ventilating and air-conditioning equipment, duct work, air compressors and other fixed operating machinery shall be either screened from view or located so that such items are not visible from the principal arterial road. Large trash receptacles, dumpsters, utility meters, aboveground tanks, satellite dishes, antennas, etc., shall be similarly treated.
(c) 
Manufactured homes and office-type manufactured units shall be screened from view from the principal arterial road and equipped with skirting on all sides.
(d) 
No temporary structures are permitted except those used in conjunction with and during construction projects.
(e) 
Fencing along the principal arterial road right-of-way shall be permitted for security reasons, and such fencing shall be screened by a ten-foot landscape strip consistent with Buffer Yard C (see Article XXIII).
[Amended 12-7-1993 by Ord. No. 93-100; 11-21-1994 by Ord. No. 94-100]
(f) 
Long monotonous facade designs, including but not limited to those characterized by unrelieved repetition of shape or form or by unbroken extension of line, shall be avoided.
(g) 
In general, natural wood, brick or other materials with similar texture and appearance are appropriate to County character. Reflective surfaces are generally not acceptable.
(h) 
The colors of paints and stains should nature-blend with generally no more than three colors per building. Semitransparent stains are recommended for application on natural wood finishes.
(i) 
Signs shall be compatible with architectural features of the associated building.
(j) 
Architectural lighting shall be recessed under roof overhangs or generated from concealed-source, low-level light fixtures.
B. 
Following project completion, all appearance features required by the County or shown on approved plans shall be maintained in good condition by all subsequent owners of the property. Changes beyond the owner's control shall be restored by the owner, unless otherwise provided. Changes proposed by the owner shall require approval by the Zoning Officer.
Refer to Article XVIII for the standards applicable in the HC Zone.
Refer to Figure X-1 and to Article XXIII for the standards applicable in the HC Zone. Figure X-1, Road Corridor Buffer Yards and Building Setback Requirements, delineates the buffer yard types and building setbacks (in feet) required in particular zones along the higher classifications of roads.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Figure X-1 is included as an attachment to this chapter.
The intent of the minimum road buffer is to leave the naturally occurring buffer vegetation intact for its softening effect. This buffer may be enhanced or created, where such vegetation is insufficient or nonexistent, with trees and shrubs of a variety of species appropriate to County character. If the minimum buffer already has trees of protected size and type as noted in this article, their preservation is required. Where masses of native shrubs are present, their preservation with minimum disturbance is strongly encouraged. While complete screening of a project is not required, sufficient plant material shall be installed to accomplish the softening effect required in this article. Road buffers shall be exempt from the shrub layer required in Article XXIII. In order to maintain the screening effect, existing vegetation shall not be limbed-up from the ground based on best management practices. However, if understory planting is planned, existing vegetation may be limbed-up to a height that will provide adequate sunlight to those plants. Minimum height and caliper of new trees shall be consistent with provisions of the tree protection requirements in Appendix E.[1] Minimum height of new shrubs used to create the minimum visual buffer shall be three feet.
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendix E is included as an attachment to this chapter.
Exemptions, whether partial or total, from the buffer provisions may be granted if it can be sufficiently demonstrated that such buffer will have a deleterious visual effect upon an existing situation or that, through the preservation of an existing tree stand or other unique natural vegetative resource, particular effort on the part of an applicant in protecting the existing natural environment warrants the relaxation of buffer requirements. The following outlines those anticipated situations where the buffer requirement may be relaxed or removed:
A. 
Protection of existing visual environment. Buffer requirements may be relaxed or removed in the following cases where the characteristics of the existing visual environment would be detracted from by the provision of a required buffer or level of buffer:
(1) 
Views and vistas of existing buildings which exhibit a high degree of aesthetic value serving to heighten the visual experience, serve as important points of spatial identification, contain value as important historical resources.
(2) 
Views and vistas of existing natural landscape/topographical features of a particular locale which correspond to certain high points affording panoramic views, views to historic settlement clusters, views of water, valleys and other elements of the physical landscape.
(3) 
Views and vistas to existing recreational/open space areas, whether natural or man-made, which serve to contribute to the overall visual environment; uses such as golf courses, state or local parks, equestrian centers, cemeteries.
(4) 
Views and vistas to which give the observer an awareness of a location's inherent character related to views of farmland, pastures, water activities, such as docks or other maritime activities specific to the area.
B. 
Protection of proposed visual environment. Buffer requirements may be relaxed or removed in the following cases where a proposed development intended to further enhance or protect the existing visual environment would be visually affected by the required buffer:
(1) 
A proposed development which by virtue of the characteristics of its structures indicates innovation of design, a unique relationship with the site, represents a focal point, establishes a particular identifying element for the locale.
(2) 
A proposed development which exhibits innovative or unique uses of site landscaping or which combines in the use of the site open recreational areas such as described above.
C. 
Retention of existing natural attributes of the site. In this case, significant steps must be taken by an applicant to preserve significant tree stands, topographic characteristics, even in the event that such elements are in locations where they are not wholly visible. The intent is to provide incentives to retain the features of the existing natural environment rather than encourage its destruction and then to remedy the situation with new plantings.
D. 
Management of existing and proposed resources. In order to encourage management programs for visual natural resources, so that the continuation of such resource is assured, buffer requirements may be reduced or waived.
E. 
Where a development activity occurs on an individual single-family residential lot existing at the adoption of this chapter, buffer requirements may be reduced or waived.
F. 
In the case of a minor subdivision where the Planning Commission has determined that the lot size and configuration will not negatively impact on the road corridor, buffer requirements may be reduced or waived.
A. 
No existing vegetation of any type, size or origin shall be altered or removed unless it satisfies the tree protection requirements of this chapter.
B. 
Within the minimum visual buffer, there shall be no development, clearing, grading or construction activity, with the following exceptions:
(1) 
Roadway and/or driveway access to the portion of the site not in the minimum visual buffer, provided that it is approximately perpendicular to the accessed road.
(2) 
Provision for water, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, electrical, telephone, natural gas and cable service lines, provided that they are approximately perpendicular to the right-of-way. In the event that utilities must be installed approximately parallel to the road right-of-way, an equal amount of buffer may be required to substitute for the area of vegetation removal. Permission for easement and right-of-way disturbance and clearing for such services shall be more favorably considered when such activity is consolidated with vehicular access routes.
(3) 
Pedestrian and bicycle paths designed to provide continuous connection along the road corridor, provided that they can be constructed without materially reducing the screening and visual softening capacity of the vegetation buffer.
(4) 
Lighting fixtures only for approved signs or if, for safety reasons, they cannot be placed outside the buffer, and then only when electric utility lines serving these fixtures and necessary easements can be established and constructed without reducing the screening and visual softening capacity of the vegetation buffer.
(5) 
Signs in accordance with the sign regulations in Article XIX.
(6) 
Clear sight distances at the permitted entrances and exits to any development as needed to provide for reasonable traffic safety, in accordance with accepted traffic engineering practices and as contained in § 297-28 of Article II and Appendix B, Specifications on Driveway Entrances.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendix B is included as an attachment to this chapter.
(7) 
Service roads may be located within the required road buffer and setback, provided that the buffer plantings are intensified in a manner consistent with buffer yard standards in Article XXIII.
[Amended 12-7-1993 by Ord. No. 93-100; 11-21-1994 by Ord. No. 94-100]