Bay Ridge is a unique community. Its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and delightful features, such as mature trees, beaches, and the “Big Woods,” are prime attractions for those who live here. For residents who want to modify their properties, here are some basic guidelines from county regulations and the BRCA policy on zoning.

County Regulations

You can get specific information on the county’s requirements by calling the Office of Planning & Zoning at 410-222-7430 or by reviewing the county’s zoning (Article 27) and subdivision (Article 26) codes on the County’s website, www.aacounty.org, and at local public libraries.

Please note: many county rules change if a property is waterfront, a corner lot, or “nonconforming” – that is, if it has some aspect that does not meet current code. All new construction or modifications should conform to the zoning and subdivision code provisions now applicable to Bay Ridge’s R2 zoning.

Some basic home renovation projects do not require a permit but most do. Please check with the permit center before beginning a project. You may also want visit “Is a building permit required?” www.aacounty.org/IP/PAC.index.cfm section of the Permit Application Center’s web page.

For more information, visit or call the county’s Permit Application Center:

Heritage Office Complex
2664 Riva Road
Annapolis, MD 21401

BRCA Zoning Policies

The BRCA has a long tradition of land use advocacy in the community. The BRCA position on land use is directed at the long-term preservation of the physical character, quality and residential use of Bay Ridge. Through this policy, we seek to:

  • Support the zoning and subdivision ordinances and critical areas
  • Support Anne Arundel County legislation and maintain the low density, single-family, residential character of our community
  • Assure the bulk and density of construction within Bay Ridge conform to county rules
  • Preserve and enhance existing open space and pervious surface
  • Encourage preservation of our streetscapes and the community’s historic character
  • Protect the forest & wetlands commonly known as the Big Woods.

The BRCA has adopted the following policy that is administered by the BRCA Board through the BRCA Zoning Committee:

The BRCA encourages property owners to construct and improve their properties in a manner consistent with the county’s rules and will generally oppose:

1) Variance applications except those necessitated by proven disability.

2) Applications for special exceptions.

3) Development of the Big Woods. This policy will be administered through the BRCA Board and/or Zoning Committee. All property owners are encouraged to contact the Committee with any questions they have regarding land use.


Almost all Bay Ridge is within the critical area 1,000 feet or less from tidal water (lake, river, bay or inlet) and law requires that, if you cut a tree down, you must replace it with a native species. The county maintains a list of acceptable planting options. For more information about tree removal and replacement regulations, contact the county’s Office of Environmental and Cultural Resources (OECR).


If you have property within 100 feet of water (the buffer zone), you can maintain existing landscaping (cut grass, prune hedges), but you can’t cut or radically prune trees (even dead ones) or clear thickets without a county-approved Vegetative Management Plan (VMP). This County requirement applies even if there’s a road between your property and the water. Buffer management concerns impose a responsibility on BRCA and its residents to carefully protect the ecological health of the community-owned common property comprised of the big woods, the beaches, walking paths and the bluffs and waterfront areas. For information on the county’s buffer management regulations, call OECR, 410-222-7441.


All the land that lies along Bay and River Drives—from the County right of way to the water’s edge (high mean tide)—is actually owned by the BRCA.  BRCA has the responsibility to manage this land. All areas are open for community members to enjoy. However, because this land lies within 100 feet of the water, vegetative management of this shoreline land is governed by strict State and County laws and regulations. Violation of those laws can result in fines to BRCA. For example, any cutting of vegetation in this area must comply with a County-approved Vegetative Management Plan (VMP). Mowing of lawns (not beach grasses) is allowed. Specifically, individual nearby property owners, acting as “agents” of BRCA, are permitted to mow lawn grasses landward of a designated demarcation between lawn grasses and sea grasses. The visual difference between lawn grasses (next to the road) and beach grasses (on the beach) may be obvious, but to be sure, please click on the following link to see that demarcation: Lawn Mowing Limit along River Drive (Green Dashed Line)  Again, residents along River Drive may mow up to, BUT NOT SEAWARD OF, the green-dashed line demarcating the extent of lawn; no one is allowed to remove or poison vegetation seaward of that demarcation. Beach grasses help to protect our shoreline against erosion. We cannot have individuals removing or poisoning beach grasses or any vegetation without County approval under an approved VMP.  BRCA contractors, acting under an approved VMP manage vegetation seaward of that allowed lawn mowing line. Click on this link to see our latest approved VMP.  Unauthorized work could result in substantial fines to BRCA and loss of our (currently good) relationship with the County authorities.

Likewise, residents along Bay Drive are asked not to mow seaward of a line one foot back from the crest of the hillside of Bay Drive, and to allow BRCA to manage vegetation on that steep and fragile Bay Drive slope.


Anne Arundel County has strict rules governing the amount of impervious surface area allowed on a residential site. Driveway gravel and similar materials are deemed to be impervious. Common gardening enhancements like stone paths also raise impervious surface concerns. Generally, the term this refers to land covered with material that will not allow water to seep through, such as a house, driveway or concrete patio. 

If your lot was created before December 1, 1985, and if your total lot size (as stated on your deed) is between 8,001 and 21,780 SF, then your lot coverage (aggregate impervious surface) allowance is 31.25% of your total lot. Please see  SUBTITLE 1. IN GENERAL (amlegal.com) and § 17-8-403. Reconfiguration of lot coverage or impervious surfaces outside the buffer and expanded buffer. (amlegal.com)

Actually, no definition of the term “impervious surface” is found within Anne Arundel County code or regulation. However, the “Big Ten Academic Alliance” states that “Impervious surfaces are defined as artificial structures that are covered by impenetrable materials, which eliminate stormwater infiltration and increase storm water runoff” Impervious Surface: Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 2011 – Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal (btaa.org), and the following publication appears to underly the County’s working definition of impervious surfaces (in particular, Table 2 at): Impervious Surfaces (maryland.gov).

So, before you add impervious material to your property, please call the county’s Office of Planning & Zoning at 410-222-7430. 

Questions about land use?

CONTACT BRCA Here’s some information about critical buffer areas and why protecting them is important.