United States: Country Inns Being Pushed Out

Last Updated: September 21 2017
Article by Casey L. Cirner

A Country Inn provides a venue for a cozy dinner or event and possibly an overnight stay nestled in a rural setting in Montgomery County. It is a nice, relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of the busier parts of Montgomery County. However, the Montgomery County Council is proposing to further limit Country Inn locations.

Under the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance, Country Inns that were not approved before the October 30, 2014 effective date of the comprehensive amendment to the zoning ordinance may be implemented in the Rural ("R"), Rural Cluster ("RC"), Residential Estate-2, Residential Estate-1 and Residential-200 ("R-200") zones pursuant to a conditional use approval.

A conditional use for a Country Inn is subject to the following specific requirements:

  • two acre minimum lot size (a smaller lot size may be permitted if the master plan recommends it)
  • 10% maximum lot coverage
  • 50% minimum open space of the lot
  • 50 foot minimum setback from any street
  • 75 foot minimum setback from any other lot line

Pending Zoning Text Amendment 17-04 will further restrict Country Inns on properties classified in the R-200 zone. Specifically, properties classified in the R-200 zone will need to also abut (at least at one property line) a property classified in the R, RC, Rural Neighborhood Cluster ("RNC") or Agricultural Reserve ("AR") zone that is two acres or larger in size.

The R-200 zone is a residential detached zone that requires a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet (a little less than ½ an acre). The R-200 zone is followed in the list of zoning classifications by the higher density Residential-90 ("R-90") and Residential-60 ("R-60") zones (respectively requiring 9,000 and 6,000 square foot minimum lot sizes). Thus, R-200 zoned properties may be situated near properties classified in the R-90 and R-60 zones. However, under the specific requirements set forth above, a Country Inn in the R-200 zone must be established on a property that is at least two acres in size. This existing requirement is a means of limiting impacts of the use on the neighborhood.

The exception to this size requirement is if the master plan recommends a smaller sized property classified in the R-200 zone. This is presumably an exception because the bodies adopting and approving the master plan (the Montgomery County Council, sitting as the District Council, and the Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission) would have assessed the impact of a Country Inn on a smaller property as part of making the recommendation in the master plan.

But, now, in addition to being subject to all of these limitations, as well as the general findings for conditional uses that assess impacts on the neighborhood, the R-200 classified property has to abut on one side a property classified in the R, RC, RNC or AR zone. The R, RC, RNC or AR zones typically prompt larger lot sizes, but the new conditional use requirement does allow that abutting property to be sized as small as two acres. One could perceive this as a redundant requirement for the Country Inn, a use that aptly personifies the contrasting land uses within Montgomery County.

Prior to the County Council's decision on the pending Zoning Text Amendment, the County Council will hold a public hearing on September 12, 2017. After the public hearing, the County Council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee will analyze the proposed changes to the Country Inn conditional use standards.

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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