Locating to an Existing Building

Locating Your Business in an Existing Building?

Locating your business in an existing building is a major investment in a community and its plan for the future.

Do You Need a Permit?

All new occupants or tenants, regardless of whether renovations are done or not, need to apply for a use permit. In addition, Calvert County follows the 2018 International Building Code which states any alteration or change to a commercial space also requires a permit. Typical alterations include adding or removing walls and doors, installing specialized equipment, upgrading electrical or plumbing fixtures and enhancing architectural features of a space.

Will there be renovations?
 If your plan is to move into a space and make only minor cosmetic changes (like paint, carpet, tile or removable shelving), you only need to apply for a Use Permit. All Use Permits are reviewed by Community Planning and Building staff to ensure the intended use and occupancy complies with appropriate zoning regulations.

If your intended use is different from what was in the space before, a review of the building code or life safety code may be required to ensure compliance.

Are you making more than $5,000 in renovations?
The Annotated Code of Maryland requires any commercial or publicly occupied space requiring more than $5,000 in renovations to have plans prepared by a Maryland-licensed architect. A Commercial Improvement or Tenant Fit-Out Permit is required for any renovations.

The permits must also meet appropriate zoning regulations and may be subject to review by county or state agencies including the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Health Department and Soil Conservation District.

Other considerations:

  • Electrical and plumbing work requires plan and permitting. Your architect or licenses contractor can assist you with these submittals.
  • Electricians and plumbers must be licensed to work in Calvert County.
  • Inspections are required for any Use or Commercial Improvement Permit.


Businesses should review the area plan and find out where all infrastructure (water, sewer, etc.) is located before acquiring a site. Your engineer or surveyor should be able to help you locate existing infrastructure and/or the distance to the nearest infrastructure. You can research possible sites on the Calvert Prospector website. For help, contact Economic Development at 410-535-4583.

Is public water or sewer available?
Contact the Department of Public Works Water and Sewer Division for more information on public and community water and sewer systems.

Private well or septic system? Planning to serve food or drink? 
Soil percolation testing may be required if you are locating your business in an existing building on a septic system. If your property or business location is on well and septic, contact the Maryland State Health Department, Environmental Health Division for more information. If you plan to prepare and/or serve food or drink, contact the Health Department (link above) for requirements on water testing, well and septic/sewer requirements, commercial kitchens, food preparation, food labeling and storage, etc.

Road, Site Entrance, and Public Safety Considerations

A traffic study may need to be prepared by a traffic engineer and reviewed by the Department of Public Works. 

Where will a road entrance to my building/property be allowed?
On state roads, contact the District 5 office of the Maryland State Highway Administration. On county roads and other roads, contact the Department of Public Works Engineering/Transportation Division.

Are there any public safety codes or regulations? 
Contact the Department of Public Safety Fire, Rescue & EMS Service about possible fire lanes, fire suppression water tanks, and other standards. Contact the Office of the State Fire Marshal for state code regulations. Inspections and Permits coordinates with the State Fire Marshal, to review construction drawings prepared by your Maryland licensed architect to determine if any changes are needed to meet the life safety codes.

Zoning, Private Covenants, Construction Permit Requirements, and Environmental Considerations

Are you in a Municipality? 
If so, check with the town hall to see the plans and regulations in the town. Chesapeake Beach and North Beach are both incorporated towns within Calvert County, and have separate governments and zoning regulations from the county and town center regulations. County permits are still required after municipality zoning permission is obtained.

Are there private covenants?
Contact the property owner, landlord, or property management company to see if there are any covenants or restrictions on the property. Check the deed and/or the record plat to see if there are any covenants which may affect your business plan. What 

About Zoning?
Determine the zoning of the property and ask the Department of Planning & Zoning- Zoning, Permitting and Citizen Relations to assist you in determining if the business is permitted at that location. You will also want to ask for information on zoning standards such as property and building setbacks, permitted uses, landscaping buffers, building size, parking, etc.

Is my property/business in a Town Center?
There are seven (7) Town Centers in Calvert County that are subject to Calvert County Government regulations - Dunkirk, Owings, Huntingtown, Prince Frederick, St. Leonard, Lusby, and Solomons (Chesapeake Beach and North Beach are not Town Centers, they are municipalities with their own planning and zoning authority: see section "Are you in a Municipality?"). Each of the seven Town Centers has its own Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance. Certain types of projects, including the construction of new buildings and installation of signs and changes to existing signs, require architectural review approval. Refer to the Town Center page for information on the architectural review process and meeting days and location of the Town Center Architectural Review Committees.

Do I need a Construction Permit? 
All site work, grading, and construction must be done according to an approved site plan and as per the applicable building codes. Review of construction permits may include (but is not limited to) the Health Department, State Fire Marshal, Zoning, Architectural Review Committees, Public Works, and the Soil Conservation District. If construction is required, you will also need a Certificate of Occupancy before you can officially open for business to the public. Any electrical work must be permitted and done by a licensed electrician. Any plumbing work must be permitted and done by a licensed plumber. Please contact Inspections and Permits for more information.

Once all required permits are issues, the Inspections and Permits Office offers the option of scheduling a "pre-construction meeting" through the Inspections and Permits Office. This is highly recommended since these meetings provide an opportunity to introduce inspections staff to a cursory review of your construction plans. The main contractor and any available subcontractors are required to attend. Calvert County Inspection staff will discuss the submitted plan and answer any questions. Please contact Inspections and Permits after all applications have been submitted so the meeting can be arranged at a convenient time. We can normally accommodate these meetings within three business days.

A pre-construction meeting can also be held at the site to make sure that owners, applicants, and contractors are aware of the conditions of approval for grading and site work. There are fees for this meeting, which are based on amount of ground disturbance.

Can my business have a sign?
For zoning regulations pertaining to signage, refer to the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance or contact the Department of Planning & Zoning- Zoning, Permitting and Citizen Relations for assistance. You may need to file a Sign Permit Application. If your business is located in a Town Center or a Rural Commercial District, you will be required to obtain Architectural Review Committee approval for signs.

For information pertaining to environmental regulations on forest cover, wetlands, streams, flood plains, and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program, refer to the Department of Planning & Zoning Environmental Section

Stormwater Management
For more information on storm water management regulations, contact the Department of Public Works Engineering/Transportation Division.

How Can You Stay Informed?

Applicants may follow the status of their project on the Permit/Project Application Status System (PASS) page or contact Christine Goldsmith, Development Review Coordinator with the Department of Planning & Zoning at 410-535-1600 ext. 2642.