Charles County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
A. 
Cluster development procedures are intended to permit residential development with better designs than could be provided under regulations applicable to conventional subdivisions. Cluster development approvals allow variations in the base zone regulations but are not intended as and do not constitute rezonings.
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
B. 
In cluster developments, the density may be distributed nonuniformly, with variations in bulk and dimensional requirements. Cluster developments allow variation in lot sizes if open space is provided.
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
C. 
Cluster developments shall satisfy the following objectives:
(1) 
Preserve the County's rural character by conserving natural or cultivated open space, including but not limited to farmlands, woodlands, meadowlands, wetlands, steep slope areas, stream valleys and wildlife habitat areas.
(2) 
Protect the natural environment in the County by preserving substantial open space areas for the enhancement and preservation of environmentally sensitive lands and significant environmental features.
(3) 
Provide recreational opportunities to County and cluster development residents by making available open space and facilities for active and passive recreation.
(4) 
Provide well-defined streetscapes and neighborhood parks within cluster developments and preserve trees and forested areas in and adjacent to cluster developments.
(5) 
Provide for more efficient and economical subdivision streets, lots and utility layouts and reduce infrastructure and utility costs.
(6) 
Allow for a greater variety of residential housing types in the County.
(7) 
Enhance neighborhood security without compromising privacy by increasing the density of housing within neighborhoods on cluster tracts.
(8) 
Encourage pedestrian and bicycle circulation, rather than automobile circulation, by providing well-designed sidewalks and hiker-biker paths between cluster neighborhoods and related community areas.
(9) 
Further the goals, objectives and strategies of the Charles County Comprehensive Plan.
A. 
Cluster developments shall be permitted in the AC, RC, RR, RV, RL, RM and RH Zones consistent with the requirements of this article.
B. 
A cluster development shall meet the following requirements for recreational facilities:
(1) 
A cluster development shall include open space, passive recreational areas and active recreational facilities. See Figures XIV-1 and XIV-3 for minimum standards.[1] Cluster developments shall include one or more active recreational facilities, consistent with the requirements of Figure XIV-3, as a central feature of the project design.
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
[1]
Editor's Note: Said figures are included as attachments to this chapter.
(2) 
Active recreational facilities, whether intended for cluster development residents or the general public, shall be designed and located so as to be easily accessible and highly visible from public rights-of-way. All recreational facilities, whether active or passive, shall be integrated fully with the layout of the units in the cluster development so that all cluster development residents have ready access to and use of all such facilities.
(3) 
Active recreational facilities, which are to provide recreational or community group opportunities for cluster development residents, may include but are not limited to the following: sports facilities, playgrounds, equestrian centers, country clubs, health clubs, marinas, golf courses, amphitheaters, community arts centers, community meeting centers and community day-care centers.
(4) 
Passive recreational areas, which promote environmental preservation and enhancement, may include but are not limited to the following: nature parks, nature preserves, nature trails, wildlife habitat areas, equestrian trails and hiking trails.
(5) 
Where a recreational facility constitutes or includes a use required in this chapter to be approved by special exception, the applicant shall obtain a special exception for that use from the Board of Appeals.
Residential dwelling types are permitted as shown in the Table of Permissible Uses.[1] Dwelling types shown as PC in the Table of Permissible Uses shall be permitted subject to the requirements in Figures XIV-1 and XIV-2 and other sections of this article.
[1]
Editor's Note: The Table of Permissible Uses is included as an attachment to this chapter.
[Amended 8-22-1994 by Ord. No. 94-80; 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
A. 
Dwellings near the periphery of the project shall provide adequate transition in density and type from neighboring areas or shall provide a buffer meeting the standards of Subsection C(2) below.
B. 
A buffer yard shall be landscaped to screen incompatible uses in accordance with one of the following:
(1) 
A planting strip of at least 15 feet wide at or near the property line which shall include two canopy trees, four understory trees of mixed plant material (deciduous and evergreen) and 10 shrubs per 100 linear feet of buffer;
(2) 
Landscaped, rolling, earth berm of at least four feet in height; or
(3) 
A solid fence or wall of a minimum of five feet in height without advertising when designed with durable materials, texture and colors compatible with adjacent residential development.
C. 
All lots shall be configured as to be contained completely outside all wetlands, floodplains, required wetland buffers and the resource protection zone, with the following exception:
(1) 
Lots on cluster subdivisions in the AC and RC Zones may contain the resource protection zone if the lots can meet all minimum yard requirements outside the resource protection zone.
D. 
The Planning Commission may require buffering and screening in excess of these minimum standards when adjacent uses are commercial or industrial.
A. 
The amount of open space for a cluster development shall be in an amount in accordance with Figure XIV-1.[1]
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
[1]
Editor's Note: Figure XIV-1 is included as an attachment to this chapter.
B. 
Clustering requirements.
(1) 
Cluster open space shall be in areas usable for recreational or community purposes, including passive recreational purposes. It may also include permitted agricultural uses, as described below in Subsection B(5).
(2) 
Lands set aside for public rights-of-way and tidal wetlands may not be designated as required open space.
(3) 
Up to 50% of the required cluster open space may be designated on floodplains, nontidal water bodies or nontidal wetlands if the cluster open space includes a hiker/equestrian trail system or other passive recreational area approved by the Planning Commission.
(4) 
Floodplains or wetland areas which have been filled may not be designated as required cluster open space.
(5) 
Cluster open space may include permitted agricultural uses. Use of agricultural lands to meet open space requirements shall be encouraged when the site contains few significant natural features. Where the minimum residential lot size in the development is 40,000 square feet or greater, the required open space may be retained in agricultural use. The open space in agricultural use may be divided into parcels of 25 acres or more with one dwelling unit located on each parcel. Dwellings so located within required open space will count in calculating the overall density of the cluster subdivision.
C. 
Public open space. Cluster open space shall be made available for the benefit of all County residents and dedicated to the state or County, unless the Planning Commission, after referral to the appropriate state or County agency, finds that the size, location or type of development, the cost of development or maintenance of such cluster open space or the availability of other public open space would make use by all County residents of the cluster open space undesirable or unnecessary. All areas which are indicated for acquisition in the County Recreation and Open Space Plan or an equivalent state-approved plan shall be required by the Planning Commission to be dedicated. If the Planning Commission finds that the cluster open space is not suitable for dedication based on the above standards, it shall be managed through the premises applicable to private open space in Subsection D below.
D. 
Private open space. Private cluster open space shall be protected by legal arrangements satisfactory to the Planning Commission or its designee to assure the maintenance and preservation of open space for its intended purposes. Covenants or other legal arrangements shall specify ownership of the cluster open space, the method of maintenance, maintenance fee and insurance arrangements and compulsory membership and compulsory assessment requirements. Such legal arrangements shall guarantee that any association formed to own and maintain cluster open space shall not be dissolved without the consent of the Planning Commission. The legal arrangements shall also include any other matters deemed necessary to carry out the purposes of cluster development.
An application for a suburban cluster development shall be reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission under the procedures applicable to a preliminary plan of subdivision. The following requirements shall also apply:
A. 
An application shall include a description of the size, location and use of the open space areas and recreational facilities to be provided.
B. 
A cluster development shall meet the minimum tract open space requirements in Figure XIV-1[1] and shall meet all required findings for a cluster development in § 297-225.
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
[1]
Editor's Note: Figure XIV-1 is included as an attachment to this chapter.
C. 
An application shall identify the differences sought from the height, bulk and dimensional requirements of this chapter and the design standards of the Subdivision Regulations.[2] Any such difference shall remain within the standards established in Figure XIV-2[3] and is subject to Planning Commission approval. The Board of Appeals shall have no jurisdiction to grant variances from any zoning regulation in a cluster development, except for variances on individual building lots which have been developed and continuously occupied for a minimum of two years.
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
[2]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 278, Subdivision Regulations.
[3]
Editor's Note: Figure XIV-2 is included as an attachment to this chapter.
D. 
The Planning Commission may add conditions to the approval of any suburban cluster development to protect adjacent properties and the neighborhood. All such conditions shall meet the purposes of cluster development in § 297-219. Violation of any condition shall constitute a violation of this chapter and shall be cause for revocation of the cluster development approval or for the revocation or withholding of building, grading or use and occupancy permits.
A. 
The Planning Commission shall find that the following requirements are met, in approving any cluster development:
(1) 
The cluster development plan and the preliminary plan of subdivision provides for a total environment and design which are superior, in the reasonable judgment of the Planning Commission, to that which would be allowed under the regulations for conventional subdivisions.
(2) 
The cluster development plan meets all requirements in §§ 297-220 and 297-221 and the approved design code, if any.
[Amended 12-7-1993 by Ord. No. 93-100; 11-21-1994 by Ord. No. 94-100]
(3) 
Public facilities available to the cluster development, including sewer facilities, water facilities, school facilities, utilities, police facilities, fire and rescue facilities, transportation facilities and parks and recreation facilities, will be adequate to serve the development.
(4) 
Under the cluster development plan, the natural environment of the subject property and any historic or archaeological resources will be well-protected and preserved.
B. 
The Planning Commission may require modification of a proposed cluster development plan, if it finds that by reasonable modification of proposed cluster open space, lots or buildings, the plan will more fully meet the purposes in § 297-219 and the applicant's approved design code, if any.[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: Former Subsection C, regarding additional requirements for approval of a mixed residential cluster development, which immediately followed this subsection, was repealed 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16.
[1]
Editor's Note: Former § 297-225, Review procedures for mixed residential cluster developments, was repealed 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16.
A cluster development may be amended after initial approval without being processed as a new cluster development, subject to the following:
A. 
If an approved cluster development is to be amended by varying the layout of cluster open space, community or recreational facilities, lot or block sizes or other features, without amending the approved design code, if there is a design code, then the applicant may submit an amendment request, in writing, to the Zoning Officer. The Zoning Officer shall review and present the amendment request to the Planning Commission. The amendment request may be approved unless the Planning Commission finds that the original cluster development is superior in its design or its relationship to surrounding properties or the natural environment.
B. 
If an approved mixed residential cluster development is to be amended by altering the approved design code and varying the layout of cluster open space, community or recreational facilities, lot or block sizes or other features, the amendment request shall be processed under the procedures for the initial approval of a mixed residential cluster development.
C. 
If a property with an approved cluster development is rezoned, in whole or in part, then an amendment may be filed to conform to the densities allowed in the new zone. If the amendment will require changes to the approved design code, then the application shall be reviewed under the same procedures applicable to an initial approval. If no changes to the approved design code are required, then the cluster development may be amended in accordance with the procedures in Subsection A.
[Amended 3-1-1999 by Ord. No. 99-16]
See the figures included as attachments to this chapter:
A. 
Figure XIV-1: Requirements for Suburban Cluster Developments.
B. 
Figure XIV-2: Schedule of Dimensional Requirements: Cluster Developments.
C. 
Figure XIV-3: Minimum Acceptable Facilities for Active Recreation.