The proposed code provides for neighborhoods with minimum lot sizes as large as 1 and 2 acres.

"The whole idea behind this is if you can keep lot size fairly standard … you can prevent these smaller subdivisions coming in," Stosur said.

Those are provisions North Baltimore residents want, said Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, who represents homeowners in neighborhoods with large lots. "The Planning Department has recognized that the residents want to maintain the neighborhood," she said.

For areas with detached homes, lots also would be required to meet minimum widths, ranging from 45 feet (for neighborhoods such as Cylburn) to 100 feet (for neighborhoods such as North Roland Park-Poplar Hill). This would prevent new homes from being built behind existing homes in most neighborhoods, Stosur said.

The Planning Department also hopes to institute some rules that would further the goal of sustainable, environmentally friendly development, he said. The most significant such change for homeowners is a rule that would prevent pavement from being poured over more than 40 percent or 50 percent of a lot (depending on the residential zone).

Not only would reductions in paving allow more rainwater to filter through the soil before entering waterways, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, but "the less paving that is done the more green you have," Stosur said.

So far, the proposed zoning changes that would affect homeowners have not caused debate, according to Baltimore's elected officials and community leaders. Homeowners seem more concerned about the zoning of the commercial areas near their neighborhoods, they said.

Based on a meeting with the Planning Department, Linda Gruzs, the president of the Cedmont Community Improvement Association in Northeast Baltimore, said she thought the proposed code would strengthen protections for neighborhood character and make zoning rules easier to understand. Her neighbors are more concerned about the commercial zoning along Bel Air Road, she said.

Similar sentiments were shared by neighborhood leaders in North Baltimore, Fells Point and West Baltimore. Steven Gondol, the executive director of Live Baltimore, a nonprofit that promotes living in Baltimore's neighborhoods, agreed.

"If it was detrimental, there would be a lot more people up in arms," he said.

Select zoning proposals that affect Baltimore's homes

City officials say the proposed zoning overhaul would help protect neighborhood character

Side facades — Blank side walls would be prohibited on newly built detached and semi-detached homes: "Windows, side entrances or other architectural features are required to avoid the appearance of blank walls facing neighboring homes."

Rowhouse infill — Design guidelines would dictate the height, setback and appearance of new rowhouses that are built within a group of existing rowhouses "that were originally designed and developed as a single, coordinated rowhouse development."

Lot size — Single-family districts would be created to prevent the subdivision of large home lots. Under the current zoning laws, owners of lots larger than one-half acre can sell off portions of their land for home development. The proposed code creates residential districts with minimum lot sizes including 1 and 2 acres.

Lot width — The proposed code sets minimum residential lot widths in some communities of detached homes, to maintain consistency across a neighborhood. This would prevent new homes from being built behind existing homes. The minimum widths range from 30 feet to 100 feet.

Conditional uses — Educational and religious centers currently are allowed in residential areas. The proposed code would make these and other institutional uses — including community centers, museums and government facilities — "conditional," meaning they would require a permit from the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals.

Impervious surfaces — For new detached and semi-detached homes, the code would prevent landowners from pouring too much concrete or nondraining asphalt. Land owners would not be allowed to cover more than 40 percent or 50 percent, depending on their community, of their lot with an impervious material.

Source: Baltimore City Council Bill 12-0152