Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays


Maryland State House, AnnapolisIn 1984, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Act. This legislation is codified in Subtitle 18 of the Natural Resources Article, Title 8, of the Annotated Code of Maryland. The Law includes general information about Maryland’s Critical Area Program, the Critical Area Commission, and the various elements that must be included in each local Critical Area program. Because the Critical Area Law on private land is primarily implemented and enforced by County and municipal governments, local programs must be comprehensive and meet certain minimum standards. The minimum standards for local Critical Area programs, entitled “Criteria for Local Critical Area Program Development” are found in Title 27, Subtitle .01 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).

Within this subtitle, there are chapters addressing development activities, water-dependent facilities, shore erosion control, habitat protection, and other land use activities and decision-making processes that affect natural resources within the Critical Area. Subtitle .02 addresses development in the Critical Area that results from State and local agency programs. These regulations pertain to government-sponsored development activities or those that take place on land owned by the State or local governments. COMAR also includes provisions, in Subtitle .03, regarding notification to the Commission about certain projects that are authorized by local governments through their Critical Area review processes.

Like other State agencies, the Critical Area Commission has the authority to adopt its own regulations. Proposed regulations are first published in the Maryland Register, and then adopted through the Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) process. The AELR Committee reviews the regulations with regard to legislative authority and consistency with the legislative intent of the Natural Resources Article. The Committee also reviews any reported fiscal impacts of the proposed regulations. Following the review process, the final regulations are published in the Maryland Register with an effective date and become part of COMAR.

In order to ensure consistency, address local concerns, provide clear and flexible standards, and respond to innovative development and construction techniques, the Commission frequently amends existing and adopts new regulations. This content area provides information on existing regulations, new regulations that will become effective in the near future, and proposed regulations that are currently being reviewed by the AELR Committee or the Critical Area Commission. Additional information about the Critical Area regulations can be obtained by contacting the Critical Area Commission’s Regulations Coordinator, Lisa Hoerger, at or at (410) 260-3478.