Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase
P.O. Box 15070
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Phone: 301 656-9117


Setback Regulations

Section 3 ordinances require a 30’ setback from any front property line.

Please note that Montgomery County requires a 25’ setback or the Established Building Line (EBL), whichever is greater. The EBL is a calculation that averages existing building setbacks on neighboring properties, and as such, may indeed be greater than 30’, in which case, you will have to comply with the County’s EBL requirement. The EBL is not required for additions, only for new one-family dwellings. It is also not required on both streets of a through lot (a lot with streets on opposite sides), only along the street where the lot has frontage.

Section 3 ordinances require a 20’ setback from the rear property line.

Montgomery County’s rear setback requirement is the same.

Section 3 ordinances require an 8’ setback from any side property line and that the sum of the side setbacks must not be less than 18’.

Section 3 does make an allowance that the county does not for buildings that have been constructed closer than 8’ from a side property line, as in common with the older homes in our village. In such a case, a house which was built 5’ or more (but less than 8’) from a side property line may be enlarged provided that the addition is not built any closer to the side property line than the existing wall of the house and provided that the sum of the side setbacks still equals 18’ or more. For example, if the side of one’s house is 5’ from the side property line, the addition can continue along that line on that side, but the setback on the other side must be at least 13’ for a total of 18’ minimum. Similarly, if the existing house is 6’ from one side property line, the setback on the other side property line must be at least 12’ for a total of 18’ minimum.

Please note that Montgomery County’s side setback rules differ from Sections 3’s rules not only because of this exception, but because their setbacks differ depending upon the year that the house was built and the width of one’s lot. Montgomery County’s general rule also requires an 8’ side setback with an 18’ sum of side setbacks, but if one’s lot was recorded before 1954 (with a few exceptions) the side setback is 7’ each side. More importantly, this 7’ side setback applies to all additions. If a house was built before the zoning laws were passed in 1928, or if the lot width is 40’ or less, then Montgomery County typically allows a side setback of 5’ on each side.

Corner lots, through lots, and lots with three street frontages have certain unique characteristics that result in a different application of setback rules, both by the county and by Section 3. Corner lots are considered to have two front yard setbacks, one rear yard setback, and one side yard setback. Through lots are considered to have two front yard setbacks (they do not have a legal backyard). Lots with three street frontages are considered to have three front yard setbacks and one side yard setback. Owners of these types of lots should consult with both Montgomery County and with Section 3 so that they completely understand the ramifications of these setback determinations. Improvements to these types of properties are more challenging.

It is also important to note that Section 3 has a very broad definition of what constitutes a structure, and that no structure may encroach into the stated setbacks. Structures include but are not limited to decks, porches, garages, steps or stairs, chimneys, bay windows, roof eaves, open stairwells from basements, and AC units. None of these structures may be located within any setback per Section 3’s ordinances, while Montgomery County does make some exceptions. Section 3 does not make any exceptions unless a property owner applies for and is granted a Section 3 variance. Obtaining a variance is a separate process from obtaining a building permit and should not be undertaken lightly. Variances are granted only if residents can establish practical difficulties or undue hardship caused by strict compliance with Section 3’s Code of Ordinances. The process for variances is covered in Chapter 7-210 of the Code of Ordinances.

Sheds are the only residential structure specifically referenced in Sections 3’s Code of Ordinances with their own, separate setback requirements. Sheds with a floor area of 144 sf or less may be constructed only in a rear yard; they may not be placed in a front or side yard. Such sheds must not be located any closer than 5’ from the rear and side property lines. Montgomery County setback requirements for sheds (and all accessory structures) are the same. All sheds, no matter their size, require a building permit from both the county and Section 3. Water runoff from sheds is also a matter for consideration; please see the "Storm Water Management" section below.

It is clearly important to familiarize yourself with Montgomery County’s setback requirements as well as our own before you get too far in the design process.