Montgomery Planning Board Approves Update to County’s Subdivision Staging Policy and Transmits to County Council for Review

The Montgomery County Planning Board approved recommended updates to the Subdivision Staging Policy at their July 30, 2020 virtual Planning Board meeting. The action includes transmittal to the Montgomery County Council for its review and approval by November 15, 2020, which is required by county law. The approval of the policy, which is recommended to be renamed the County Growth Policy, follows a year’s worth of community engagement, six Planning Board work sessions and an Urban Land Institute virtual advisory services panel review.

In its ongoing efforts to balance expected county growth and development needs with school and transportation capacities, the Montgomery Planning Board recommends a series of policy changes to calculations and tools to measure and address school capacity utilization, traffic congestion, transportation safety and ways to fund needed infrastructure.

“Development moratoria do not help solve overcapacity issues in areas where resale of homes is largely the cause of school overcapacity. In these areas, a moratorium only suppresses the development and availability of housing, sometimes in areas that greatly need it to ensure our communities are equitable and able to accommodate our workforce,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson.

“Many of our growth policies were initially created at a time when greenfield development was the norm,” said Gwen Wright, Planning Director. “The update to the growth policy now provides us with context-sensitive tools and solutions for a county that now sees mostly infill development.”

Major Recommendations At-a-Glance for Schools:

Create School Impact Areas: To reflect the different housing growth rates in different parts of the county and their impacts on student enrollment, School Impact Areas would be designated throughout the county based on similar amounts of development, type of development and amount of school enrollment growth. These areas are Greenfield, Turnover and Infill Impact Areas.

Greenfield Impact Areas: Areas with high student enrollment growth rates due largely to increased growth in predominantly single-family housing.

Turnover Impact Areas: Areas with little new housing where any student enrollment growth is largely due to turnover of existing single-family housing.

Infill Impact Areas: Areas with increased growth of predominantly multi-family units, which generate few students on a per-housing-unit basis.

Relax Most Housing Development Moratoria: Residential development moratoria will only apply in Greenfield Impact Areas. The Planning Board cannot approve any new housing development plans in an area under a moratorium, unless it meets certain exceptions to the moratorium.

Restructure and Recalculate School-Related Taxes:

Update the student generation rate calculations to be more context sensitive. Student generation rates are used to calculate school impact taxes, which developers pay to help support Montgomery County Public Schools’ construction projects.

Update the calculation of the recordation tax on real estate transactions to make it more progressive and to generate more funding for school construction and affordable housing initiatives.

Require developers to pay a premium for residential development projects served by overcrowded schools.

Adjust school impact taxes in desired growth areas to encourage investment and to complement important policy priorities related to housing, economic development and resource preservation.

Major Recommendations At-a-Glance for Transportation:

Transportation Impact Studies – Emphasis on travel safety: The Planning Board recommends requiring a Vision Zero Impact Statement for studies that examine a residential development plan’s transportation impact, and prioritizing travel safety considerations as a mitigation strategy.

Motor Vehicle Transportation Adequacy – Growth Where We Want It: Eliminating motor vehicle adequacy standards near Metrorail and future Purple Line stations and increasing the congestion standards along transit corridors.

Master Plan Transportation/Land Use Balance – A More Progressive Evaluation Metric: Determining if the balance between land use and transportation for master plans is adequate, by introducing a policy area-level review process based on measures to ensure a plan’s consistency with the county’s long-range planning goals and objectives. Recommended measures include job accessibility, travel time, vehicle miles traveled per capita and non-auto driver mode share.

What is the Subdivision Staging Policy?

The Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) — one of the many ways that Montgomery Planning helps to preserve the excellent quality of life in Montgomery County — is based on having sufficient infrastructure to support growth. It includes criteria and guidance for the administration of Montgomery County’s Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO), which matches the timing of private development with the availability of public infrastructure. Every four years, an effort to update the Subdivision Staging Policy originates with Montgomery Planning staff before working its way through the Planning Board and the County Council. The purpose is to ensure that the best available tools are used to test whether infrastructure like schools, transportation, water and sewer services can support future growth.

Following the Planning Board’s vote, the County Growth Policy recommendations were submitted to the County Council for its consideration. The recommendations include a draft Council resolution for the County Growth Policy and three related bills to amend county code (these can be found in the appendix). The Council has scheduled a public hearing on the policy and bills for Tuesday, September 15 at 7:30 p.m.