Architectural Review & Zoning Appeals

To preserve the historic character and architectural details of the neighborhood, Bolton Hill was designated a Baltimore City historic district in 1967, followed by being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, a testament to its national historic importance. Owners of historic homes in Bolton Hill must abide by exterior preservation standards to maintain the character of the neighborhood. When these standards slide, the whole neighborhood suffers bit by bit.

BHCA’s Architectural Review Committee (ARC) must review all changes to the exterior of buildings in Bolton Hill, including windows, doors, lighting, painting, additions, fencing, and landscaping. ARC then makes a recommendation whether to approve the project to the City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). CHAP gives the final approval and permit to proceed with exterior work.

ARC is composed of volunteers who live or have lived in Bolton Hill. They understand how costly it can be to maintain older buildings and can provide guidance and recommendations in addition to their review role for CHAP. Helpful information is also on the CHAP website, including Design Guidelines that must be followed. For questions and guidance on exterior property changes, contact ARC at or call CHAP at 410-396-4866.

Since Bolton Hill is an historic district, your renovation or rehabilitation project may qualify for tax credits through the  Baltimore City’s Historic Tax Credit Program and/or the Maryland Historic Revitalization Tax Credit Program, which must be approved before work on the house begins.

The Baltimore City zoning code allows for certain uses of property in Bolton Hill. Generally when a zoning variance is sought, the property owner must meet with BHCA to obtain the community’s support before a zoning variance can be granted through a zoning appeal. Information about the zoning code and zoning appeals is available on the Department of Housing and Community Development website. Email BHCA’s zoning committee at to learn more.

CHAP Review Process for Exterior Property Changes

If you are a homeowner or developer planning exterior changes of any kind to your home in Bolton Hill, PLAN AHEAD! Keep in mind that the approval process could take a month. Your plans must be reviewed and approved before they can take place, so consult ARC early on, as it’s to the benefit of property owners to consult ARC whenever contemplating an exterior change to their property.

Before undertaking any exterior work, property owners must submit an application to ARC. Complete a CHAP Application-for-Notice-to-Proceed describing the work that you propose. Download the application here. Be sure to include all photos and supporting materials in the application.

Then, email your application to ARC chairperson Susan Van Buren at and Bolton Hill’s CHAP liaison Lauren Schiszik at at the same time. Sending them concurrently speeds up the review process. Contact information for both is included in the application.

Although not required, it is helpful to attend the ARC meeting when your application will be reviewed. The committee generally meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Gateway Building, 1601 Mt. Royal Avenue, Room 101. Minor changes and repairs that comply with the City’s Design Guidelines may be approved by CHAP without a formal presentation to ARC, but that determination is made by ARC.

Provided that ARC recommends and CHAP affirms approval, CHAP will issue a Notice to Proceed directly to the property owner, who may then obtain a City building permit and undertake the planned improvements. Please affix the Notice to Proceed and building permit inside a front window of the house.

If an owner performs work on a building without first obtaining a Notice to Proceed and a building permit, he or she may be subject to housing code violations and fines. It takes neighbors to notice when work on a home appears to be done without a CHAP permit. Permits should be clearly posted on the front of the building, but city permits can also be looked up here. BHCA recommends that neighbors first inquire, in a friendly manner, with the owner about whether exterior work has a CHAP permit. Educating each other, neighbor to neighbor, about the importance of abiding by CHAP requirements is the best way to ensure that Bolton Hill continues to be known for its beautiful row homes.

If it is not possible to inquire about exterior work with the owner, submit an apparent housing violation with a 311 request and then email the service request number to the ARC chair and CHAP liaison, who will contact housing enforcement.

Zoning Review Process for Adding Dwelling Units

Adding dwelling units to an existing property in Bolton Hill is illegal, unless a zoning variance is obtained. Subject to minimum zoning requirements, a zoning variance must be supported by BHCA and then approved by the city council with an ordinance introduced by the district’s councilman. The property owner must first contact and meet with BHCA’s zoning committee on the proposed conversion, and the committee will recommend to the BHCA board whether to support it. As long as BHCA supports a conversion, the councilman generally supports it as well. According to the Baltimore City zoning code, the minimum zoning requirements to add dwelling units to an existing property are as follows:

    • At least 750 square feet of lot area for each unit;
    • At least 750 square feet of gross floor area for a 1-bedroom unit; 1,000 square feet for a 2-bedroom unit; 1,250 square feet for a 3-bedroom unit; and
    • At least one parking spot on the property for each unit.

These requirements apply regardless of whether the property is owner-occupied or fully or partially rented.

Jessica Daily

Fresh At The Avenue

Mr Rooter