Baltimore County, Maryland, Resource Conservation Zoning and Urban-Rural Demarcation Line

Baltimore County, Maryland, Resource Conservation Zoning and Urban-Rural Demarcation Line


Principle: Preserve Open Space, Farmland, Natural Beauty, and Critical Environmental Areas

In a nutshell: 

Located in central Maryland, Baltimore County started to experience development pressure in the mid-twentieth century. In response, the county in 1967 established its Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URDL), which distinguishes between areas served by public water and sewer (or planned for service) from those not planned for service. Coupled with protective resource conservation (RC) zoning, the URDL encourages development within the suburban and urban communities of Baltimore County.  Outside of the URDL, the RC2 zone limits development as follows:

Acreage Development Rights
Fewer than 2 acres 1
2 to 100 acres 2
Each 50-acre increment above 100 acres 1

Today, 32% of the county, or 139,000 acres, is zoned RC2.

Why we like it:

Baltimore County’s URDL and RC2 zoning have stood the test of time and are widely-accepted—and admired—components of the county’s regulatory framework. Active state and local easement acquisition programs, which have preserved over 63,000 acres, reinforce the URDL growth management framework and the conservation zoning. Moreover, Baltimore County markets and promotes its farming industry and operators, works to prevent conflicts between agricultural operations and incompatible uses through a right-to-farm law, and fosters proper agricultural land management. These complementary efforts mean that even in a metropolitan county with a population of almost 825,000, rural landowners are confident that they can continue to operate their farms: the market value of agricultural products sold in Baltimore County, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, was more than $76,000,000. This land use policy supports Baltimore County’s agricultural economy, as well as protect and enhance the water quality of County’s drinking water reservoirs.

According to an August 2015 press release, Baltimore County preserved approximately six acres for each acre converted to development between August 2000 and August 2015.

For more information:

Baltimore County Master Plan 2020

Baltimore County Urban Rural Demarcation Line

Land Preservation in Baltimore County, Maryland

A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation (Chapter 5)

Zoning Classifications in Baltimore County, Maryland


The 1964 Plan for the Valleys, which heavily influenced Baltimore County’s decision to establish the Urban Rural Demarcation Line and resource conservation zoning, won a National Planning Landmark Award from the American Planning Association in 2010.