Ellicott City Master Plan

The Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan process officially kicked off on May 31, 2017 with the goal of developing a comprehensive, community-driven vision for rebuilding a stronger and more resilient Ellicott City. Triggered by the devastating July 30, 2016 flood, the master plan effort was designed to take a fresh and creative look at potential long-term flood solutions and rebuilding strategies. By May of 2018, the master plan consulting team had developed a vision for a model, resilient community that thrives by protecting its people, commerce, history, culture and natural environment. The consultants developed concepts and ideas for flood alleviation, resilient urban design, and comprehensive long-term rebuilding. 

Following the May 2018 flood, the master plan process was paused and the previous five-year plan for flood mitigation developed. Master plan concepts were then developed in response. However, the master plan was again paused following the 2018 election to allow for the new administration to take office. Through the Safe and Sound plan the master plan was restarted. New and refined concepts were developed and presented in a public workshop in late 2019

Ellicott City Master Plan

The master plan provides a long-term vision for a thriving Ellicott City that showcases the community – its people, commerce, history, culture and natural environment. Over 600 comments were received and reviewed throughout the development of this plan.


The public was invited to comment on the plan through August 22, 2020. Following the public comment period, the County finalized the plan and sent it to the Planning Board and County Council for approval. The plan was also reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. 

On December 7th, the Howard County Council voted unanimously to approve the Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan. Click here to read the approved plan. 

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Frequently Asked Questions


When do you anticipate the Master Plan process will be complete?

The draft plan is now available for public review and comment through August 22nd. DPZ will compile all comments into a summary to be transmitted to the Planning Board and County Council this fall as part of the legislative process to adopt the master plan as an amendment to our current general plan, PlanHoward 2030 (and carried over to the new general plan, HoCo By Design). Delivery of a final plan is targeted for the fall of 2020.

Public Input

What opportunities will there be for public comment?

DPZ has established several ways community members can engage and offer comment on the draft plan, with details – and a user guide – available at

How can I stay informed about master plan activities and encourage more people to attend meetings?

Our primary means of communicating is via email, so please sign up to receive email updates using the sign-up button on the webpage: We appreciate your help in spreading the word to your neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

Scope and Relationship to Other Initiatives

What is the purpose of the Master Plan?

The purpose of the master plan is to develop a comprehensive, community-driven vision for rebuilding historic Ellicott City. The Master Plan is charged with developing strategies to address multiple objectives in addition to flood mitigation.

What is the relationship between the Master Plan and the EC Safe and Sound plan?

The EC Safe and Sound plan is a multi-phase plan built around the need for public safety, supporting business and property owners, preparing the county for a changing climate, and creating a more inclusive, community driven process for decisions regarding Ellicott City’s future. The Master Plan is an element under Phase II of the EC Safe and Sound plan.

What is the relationship between the Master Plan and the General Plan?

The geographic scope of the Master Plan is downtown Ellicott City and the surrounding Tiber-Hudson Watershed. The General Plan is the comprehensive plan for all of Howard County and guides decisions related to development, land preservation, changing demographic and employment trends, neighborhood sustainability, capital projects, County services and other key issues.

What is the relationship between the Master Plan and the Section 106 process?

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act involves assessment of project effects on historic properties. When a project is found to have an adverse effect on historic properties, alternatives are explored to avoid, minimize, or mitigate those effects. For more information on the Section 106 process, please refer to the Maryland Historical Trust’s guide.

Flood mitigation projects that require a joint permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment will trigger the Section 106 process.


Will flood mitigation projects move forward while the Master Plan is underway?

Yes, work on flood mitigation projects has been and will continue to be underway concurrently with the Master Plan process. Updates on flood mitigation projects are available at

What other initiatives will be moving forward while the Master Plan is underway?

EC Safe and Sound contains multiple initiatives detailed at and action to advance these initiatives will occur concurrently with the Master Plan process. In 2019, County Executive Ball directed the Department of Planning and Zoning to work on two important initiatives: 1) a new stormwater management (SWM) standard to manage the ‘flash flood’ and 2) an update to the Forest Conservation Act.

The Howard County Council adopted these SWM changes through two council resolutions: CR122-2019 and CR123-2019. In adopting these changes, Howard County has instituted a first-of-its kind requirement: developers of new or redeveloped sites in the Tiber Branch watershed must manage the “flash flood” (the hydraulic equivalent of the July 30, 2016 storm). This requirement to manage the flash flood is in addition to pre-existing requirements to manage the 100-year, 24-hour storm event as well as provide environmental site design (ESD) for water quality.

At County Executive Ball’s request, the County made major updates to the Howard County Forest Conservation Act, which had not been updated since the 1990s. Through Council Bill 62-2019, these updates included increased replanting obligations to ensure developers contribute to reforestation efforts across the entire watershed, improved stewardship of the Green Infrastructure Network (GIN), new site design requirements, a stronger fee-in-lieu regulation, and tightened variance regulation to limit exceptions.

When will master plan recommendations be implemented?

As a long-range planning document, the Master Plan will include short-term, mid-term, and long-term recommendations. As previously stated, recommendations that advance the objectives of the EC Safe and Sound plan will be explored for feasibility of short-term implementation.