Deep Creek Watershed Zoning

Garrett County currently has land-use zoning only within the Deep Creek Watershed. Additionally, the towns of Friendsville, Oakland, Accident, Mountain Lake Park, Grantsville, and Loch Lynn Heights have their own zoning requirements

Zoning provides the rules and regulations for the permitted use and development of properties in a defined area.

The following information pertains to the Deep Creek Watershed and the attached map shows the zoning districts within the Deep Creek Watershed.

Erecting a new structure or making changes to land or buildings within the Deep Creek Watershed typically requires a zoning permit. Upon review of the proposed project, it may be determined that the use requires a special exception or that a variance from certain zoning regulations, such as setbacks, is necessary.

The Deep Creek Watershed Ordinance defines a special exception as:
A use for which the Board of Appeals may grant zoning approval following a public hearing and findings of fact consistent with the provisions of this chapter [DCW Ordinance], and provided the use complies with conditions and standards stated in this chapter [DCW Ordinance].

And defines a variance as:
A modification only of density, bulk, or area requirements of this Zoning Ordinance where such modification will not be contrary to the public interest and where owing to conditions peculiar to the property, and not the results of any action taken by the applicant, a literal enforcement of the chapter would result in unnecessary hardship and/or practical difficulty.

Special exceptions and variances require a formal hearing before the Deep Creek Board of Zoning Appeals. This Board is a quasi-judicial board consisting of five members appointed to three-year terms by the County Commissioners. The Board of Zoning Appeals generally meets on the third Thursday of every month.

Current members of the Board of Zoning Appeals are:

Robert F. Browning (Chairman)
Bruce Swift
William Ingram (Vice Chairman)
Michael Beard (alternate)
Steven Gnegy
Russell T. Sines (alternate)
Bob Hoffmann

Special Exceptions

Certain uses are listed in the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance as requiring a special exception.

The Board shall have the power to approve special exceptions for any of the uses for which the Zoning Ordinance requires obtaining of such exceptions and for no other use or purpose. The Board shall not grant a special exception except in conformance with the conditions and standards

The Board of Zoning Appeals may grant special exception approval following a public hearing if the Board finds adequate evidence that the use is consistent with the provisions of the Ordinance and is suitable for the property. The Board may also impose conditions to ensure the development complies with the objectives of the Ordinance.


The Board of Zoning Appeals has the power to vary or adapt the strict application of any of the requirements of the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance in the case of exceptionally irregular, narrow, shallow, or steep lots, or other exceptional physical conditions whereby such strict applications would result in practical difficulty and unnecessary hardship depriving the owner of the reasonable use of land or building involved.

No variance in the strict application of the provisions of this Ordinance shall be granted by the Board unless the Board finds that the specific requirements and standards are satisfied. The appellant must show that the variance will not be contrary to the public interest and that practical difficulty and an unnecessary hardship will result if it is not granted

The applicant must prove to the Board that a true hardship exists, and the hardship cannot be self-created or based on a desire for greater profit. The power to authorize a variance is to be sparingly exercised.

The Zoning Board of Appeals also entertains requests for an interpretation where it is alleged there is error in any order, requirement, decision, or determination made by the Department of Planning & Land Management.

Appeals concerning an interpretation shall exactly set forth the interpretation that is claimed by the applicant to be the more correct interpretation.

The six county municipalities with adopted zoning ordinances have each established a Board of Zoning Appeals for their town and follow a similar process for variances or special exceptions within their jurisdiction.

Additional information can be found on the Garrett County Department of Planning’s website at, by calling 301-334-1920, or by emailing