Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is updating the Subdivision Staging Policy (formerly called the Growth Policy) for review and approval by the County Council by November 15, 2016. The intent of the Subdivision Staging Policy is to ensure public facilities, particularly schools and transportation facilities, are adequate to accommodate new development.
As part of this review process, two public hearings – one discussing transportation and another focused on schools – were held on Thursday, June 2, 2016 during the Montgomery County Planning Board meeting in Silver Spring (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD). The Public Hearing Draft proposes changes to the current Subdivision Staging Policy, which includes the following updates.
Transportation Policy Updates
Planners recognize that there is not a “one size fits all” set of rules and have revised the transportation policies to recognize current land use patterns, modes of travel other than single occupant vehicles and planning visions for different parts of the County. Policy areas have been reorganized into four groups; Core, Corridor, Wedge and Rural.
A spectrum of policy area-based transportation tests appropriate for each group has been created, with a strong focus on transit accessibility. Some groups, such as the Core and Rural areas, will not require policy area transit accessibility tests. For those areas requiring transportation tests, trip generation rates have been updated to reflect current land use patterns and travel behavior. In addition, trip generation rates can be adjusted based on reduced parking.
A new system for evaluating local area transportation conditions has been proposed. It does not rely solely on critical lane volume to determine traffic flow, but rather focuses on other tools, such as Synchro, vehicle miles traveled and non-auto driver mode share rates.
Transportation impact taxes will be directed to the geographic area where they are being collected for the Core policy areas and may be adjusted to better incentivize reduced parking.
Schools Policy Updates
In revising the Subdivision Staging Policy, planners worked to more thoroughly assess the adequacy of school facilities and more accurately account for the impact of new development.
The Public Hearing Draft of the Subdivision Staging Policy recommends a hybrid annual school test combining cluster utilization tests with new individual school capacity deficit tests to determine adequate school capacity. The tests are used to determine those school clusters with inadequate capacity overall as well as whether individual schools greatly exceed the capacity for which they were built.
Depending on the level of adequacy, school facility payments may be required for each new housing unit built, or a development moratorium could be enacted. The draft policy also proposes a system to regularly update the school facility payment formulas to better keep up with the latest student generation rates and school construction costs.
The new policy would limit the impact that school placeholder projects have on calculating school capacity for the annual school tests. Such placeholders currently allow development to move forward and school facility payments to be collected by adding just enough unplanned capacity to prevent a cluster from entering a moratorium. The Public Hearing Draft proposes limiting the use of placeholder capacity to two years to ensure that real capacity improvements are actually being built, not just appearing in a budget document.
The new policy proposes to calculate school impact taxes to reflect the latest student generation rates and school construction costs. Data from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) containing student addresses and grade-level information (stripped of any confidential information) are combined with Planning Department parcel data on the type of residential structure associated with every address in the County. The results are generation rates that reflect the actual location and housing structure of virtually every MCPS student.
The Public Hearing Draft also recommends reintroducing school facility payments and school impact taxes in former Enterprise Zones. The proposed policy would ease the transition by phasing in the collection of the impact taxes and facility payments. It also recommends conducting further research to develop a new process for determining when an area of the County can be exempted from the impact taxes and facility payments.
Schedule of Subdivision Staging Policy Review
Planning Board work sessions to refine the Subdivision Staging Policy will continue each Thursday in June before the Planning Board draft of the policy is transmitted to the County Council at the end of July. The Council will hold its own work sessions and public hearing in the fall, before voting to adopt the revised policy in November.
Background on Subdivision Staging Policy
Planning staff is proposing new ideas in transportation and school capacity planning as part of revising the Subdivision Staging Policy, which is updated every four years. This quadrennial policy (formerly known as the Growth Policy) includes criteria and guidance for the administration of the County’s Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO), which matches the timing of private development with the availability of public services.
In the past, the APFO was designed to ensure that road and school capacity – as well as water and sewer and other infrastructure – kept pace with new development. Where new areas of the County were developed, infrastructure to support new homes and businesses was needed.
Today, much of the County has been developed. Growth is occurring through infill development and redevelopment, including the resale of homes in many of the County’s established neighborhoods. This type of growth creates pressure on transportation systems and school facilities; however, the current tools used to evaluate the impact of development may not adequately access these changing growth patterns and are being examined for their effectiveness and relevancy.