United States: Annexing Property In Maryland: So You Want To Be Part Of Life In The Big City?

Last Updated: February 28 2017
Article by Anne-Herbert Rollins

Life in the big city has its advantages. Desirable public services, such as police protection, trash collection, public water and sewer service, and other services and amenities are available that you may not have if you live outside the corporate boundaries of an incorporated city or town. So if you don't want to move, but you want to be part of the nearby "big city," just how do you do it? Well, in Maryland, if your property meets certain criteria, you can petition to have the property annexed into the city or town.

The Annotated Code of Maryland, Local Government Article, Section 4-401 et. seq. sets forth the criteria and requirements to annex land into an incorporated city or town. Of course the city itself can petition for adjacent properties to be included within its corporate limits. But a land developer or group of property owners also have the right to petition the city to be included within its corporate boundaries.

First, you need to determine the property area proposed to be annexed is contiguous to and adjoins the existing corporate boundaries of the incorporated city or town. The next step is to ensure that the annexation will not create any area completely surrounded by the corporate boundaries of the city or town which is not included within the corporate limits (commonly called an "enclave"), like a doughnut hole in the middle of the doughnut. Once you are sure the property satisfies those two criteria, the next step is to prepare a Plat of Annexation showing the property and how it is situated in relationship to the existing city limits and boundaries. A legal description of the area to be annexed is also required.

And then some coordination and a little "leg work" will be needed. That is because an annexation petition must be signed by the people who will be most affected by the annexation; namely, the property owners and residents.

Maryland law requires the annexation petitioners to confirm that:

  1. The property is contiguous and adjoining to the existing corporate area of the city;
  2. Annexation of the property will not create any unincorporated area, which is bounded on all sides by real property presently located within the corporate limits of the city;
  3. The petitioners own not less than twenty-five percent (25%) of the assessed valuation of real property located in the area to be annexed;
  4. At least twenty-five percent (25%) of the registered voters who are residents in the property area to be annexed support the petition;
  5. The properties immediately north, south, east and west of the property to be annexed are within the corporate boundaries of the city, and annexation of the property will provide a uniform corporate boundary for the city and will alleviate or not create an enclave; and
  6. The petitioners must also confirm the recommended and current zoning of the property, and that the proposed zoning district in the city or town will permit a land use that conforms with the zoning districts in the neighborhood. The property included in the future annexation area must also be in accordance with the city's Master Plan and the zoning density requirements.

As further support of the annexation petition, the petitioners will need to submit an annexation plan describing how the proposed annexation fits within the city's requirements for zoning, public facilities and infrastructure, and municipal services. The petitioner will also need to submit certain exhibits, including:

  1. a Plat of Annexation of the property proposed to be annexed;
  2. a "metes and bounds" legal description of the property to be annexed
  3. a list of the names and addresses of those persons with an ownership interest in the property to be annexed; and
  4. a list of the names and addresses of those persons residing in the property area to be annexed who are registered to vote in the county.

And that's where the "legwork" comes in. You will need to get at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the property owners and at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the registered voters to sign the petition. But considering the benefits of "life in the big city" that should be easy, right? And, of course, if the petitioner owns all of the property requested to be annexed, then the necessary approvals can be obtained with a single stroke of the owner's pen.

Once your legwork pays off, signatures are obtained and the signed petition is submitted to the city, Maryland law requires public notice and advertisement and a public hearing process on the petition before the annexation can be approved.

Yes, moving on up to the big city may take some effort and neighborhood cooperation, along with the assistance of experienced real estate professionals, but the benefits of "life in the big city" are many and can make the effort all worthwhile.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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