top of page



An overlay zoning district is a special zoning district that is placed over an existing base zoning district (such as Village Mixed or Limited Commercial) which identifies special provisions in addition, or as an alternative, to those in the underlying base zone. Regulations are included in the overlay zoning district to protect specific resources (such as historic structures) or to provide incentives within targeted areas to achieve certain County objectives. They also offer an effective way to implement community-specific plans while maintaining common base district regulations, The mapping of a property or properties with an overlay zoning district can only occur by legislative action of the County Council following procedures contained in Chapter 190 of the Talbot County Code (Section 190-55).

Latest News

The Draft Working Waterfront Overlay District is open for public comment. Please provide comments to


A public meeting on the draft will be held prior to the Planning Commission reviewing the draft.


Please check back for information on the community meeting.

Review the draft documents below:

DRAFT WWOD, 7-21-21


The development of the draft WWOD was based in part on a number of community outreach activities. Stakeholder focus groups with water-dependent and water-related businesses were held. In addition, internal Working Waterfront Steering Committee meetings with members comprised of County staff as well as members of the County Council, Planning Commission, Board of Appeals, Public Works Advisory Board and Maryland Critical Area Commission staff; public meetings, and an on-line community survey were conducted. 




Talbot County contracted with White & Smith, LLC as the principal consultant to develop a new zoning district, a Working Waterfront Overlay District (WWOD), that applies regulatory standards to support maritime commercial and maritime support commercial uses in desirable waterfront and nearby locations. The project is managed by the Department of Planning and Zoning. The funds to hire the consultant were generously provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Working Waterfronts Program. Background and project information, including case studies and a zoning analysis, can be found in the Documents sidebar on this page.

As you may be aware, in 1984, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Act in response to growing concern over the decline of the quality and productivity of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The goals of the Critical Area Law are:

  • To minimize adverse impacts on water quality

  • To conserve fish, wildlife, and plant habitat

  • To establish land use policies that accommodate growth while addressing the fact that new development activity can create adverse environmental impacts


The County's Critical Area Program, in conformance with the Act, became effective on August 13, 1989. The Critical Area Overlay District regulates development activities within the Critical Area whose boundaries are defined at a distance 1,000 feet from the shoreline. Within the Critical Area boundary is the Shoreline Development Buffer, which is a habitat protection area generally within 100-feet of the shoreline, although the buffer boundary can be expanded if there are contiguous areas of steep slopes, highly erodible soils, and non-tidal wetlands. No new development activities are allowed within the Buffer except for water-dependent uses. In addition, development activity in the Critical Area requires mitigation to offset its impact to habitat and water quality.


Under Natural Resources Article 8-1808.3 of the Code of Maryland (COMAR), a local jurisdiction may authorize lot coverage in the Buffer as provided for in a Waterfront Revitalization Area (WRA) under a local program. However, COMAR provides no guidance on what is allowed in a WRA and the only jurisdiction that has implemented such a program in Maryland is the City of Baltimore.


A purpose of the Working Waterfront Overlay District (WWOD) is to allow for the protection of existing working waterfronts to promote and foster the economic revitalization of both maritime-dependent and maritime-related uses in specific areas within Talbot County. Within a subset of these areas, the county proposes to implement a WRA in order to allow for the location of certain water-related uses within the Shoreline Development Buffer and to offer additional development flexibility and incentives (see the Working Waterfronts Table link on this page for the definition of water-dependent, water-related and water-enhanced). Without the WRA, the County would have to limit development in the Buffer to only water-dependent uses, or require an approved variance by the Board of Appeals. In addition, many historic working waterfront lots are small in size, making mitigation (think plantings) or stormwater reduction difficult to achieve.


Any changes to Talbot County’s Critical Area Program first requires local approval, and then requires approval from Maryland’s Critical Area Commission. When approving any change to a local Critical Area program, the Commission must determine that the new language meets the three goals of the Critical Area Law. Therefore, it’s important that County staff proactively work with the Critical Area Commission staff during the development of the WWOD. County staff held meetings with Critical Area Commission staff to discuss these issues and also presented an overview of the project to the State’s Critical Area Commission’s Program Implementation Subcommittee. Several options are being explored and Critical Area Commission staff are hopeful that the final WWOD language can be useful for implementation in other historic working waterfront areas of the state.


bottom of page