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Five sessions at the American Planning Association’s national conference highlight county plans for parks, bikes, traffic safety, placemaking and community resilience

“Planning Connects Us” was the theme of the American Planning Association’s national conference, held from April 13 through April 16, 2019 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. At the event, Montgomery Planning staff connected with planners from across the country in discussing shared concerns over equity, placemaking, traffic safety and other hot topics.

We continue to be out front on many important issues, as revealed in our five sessions at the conference. Staff received great feedback from many of the attendees who traveled to the City on the Bay to learn about the planning profession’s latest trends … Continue reading

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By Paul Mortensen and Njillan Sarre

Called backyard cottages or granny flats, accessory dwelling units can help remedy our housing shortage

The Montgomery County Council is in the process of considering changes to the existing laws that allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These secondary housing units are located on the same lot as an owner-occupied single-family home. They are significantly smaller than the main house and can be a stand-alone structure in the backyard, a basement apartment, an addition or an apartment over the garage. ADUs go by many names, such as accessory apartments, backyard cottages or granny flats, among others.

Under current law, homeowners in Montgomery County who want to have an ADU face several restrictions. A detached … Continue reading

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In previous posts, I documented six Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) clusters at risk of entering a development moratorium due to overcrowding. Enrollment in these clusters grew by 4,157 students between 2011 and 2015, yet only 184 of these students are living in the new multifamily residential buildings and townhomes constructed within the clusters during this period. That statistic means that new development was responsible for only about four percent of enrollment growth in these clusters, while the vast majority of the enrollment growth is coming from neighborhood turnover – that is to say, families with children moving into housing previously occupied by families without children.

I can’t say with certainty why these six clusters have experienced such … Continue reading

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When schools are overcrowded, it doesn’t much matter to children (and their parents) whether developers are paying their share of the cost of adding capacity, because kids need space in classrooms (along with gymnasiums and cafeterias) in order to learn and thrive. That’s why the county’s growth rules, known as the Subdivision Staging Policy or SSP, prohibit new residential development in any school cluster where the schools are at 120 percent of capacity.

The “annual school test,” which determines whether a school cluster goes into a residential development moratorium, is applied in July of each year. The impact of a development moratorium is felt as new residential projects in an area are put on hold and, in some cases, … Continue reading

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I often hear claims that the school impact tax rates charged to developers are based on faulty assumptions about the number of children who live in new housing units. While no one can predict exactly how many kids will live in a specific dwelling in the future, the methodology used to produce the generation rates used in school impact tax calculations is far more sophisticated and comprehensive than most people realize.

Every other year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides the Planning Department with a dataset that includes the address and grade of every MCPS student (with all other identifying information scrubbed from the dataset). The Planning Department then cross-references this information with parcel data that identifies the type … Continue reading

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Few topics in local government generate as much controversy and misunderstanding as the relationships among population growth, real estate development, school enrollment and impact tax revenue. I want to provide the data and background information needed to understand how – and how much – new development contributes toward the cost of providing classroom seats for schoolchildren.

I often hear people say that new residential development “doesn’t pay for itself,” by which I take them to mean that the cost of providing capacity for additional students coming from new development exceeds the revenue raised through school impact taxes.

In Montgomery County, school impact taxes are calculated to cover 120 percent of the cost of each additional seat generated by a new … Continue reading

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Soon to be released county trends report shows number of teardowns of existing single-family homes and multifamily developments

Montgomery Planning’s Research and Special Projects Division will be presenting Montgomery County Trends: A Look at People, Housing and Jobs Since 1990 to the Planning Board on January 31. This is a look at Montgomery County’s demographics, housing stock and employment base since 1990. I wanted to share a few highlights of the trends report related to housing stock before this is released on January 24. Here are some key takeaways of what the data shows.

Limited downcounty development opportunities and the high demand for housing locations near public transit and amenities has resulted in significant teardown of existing single-family home … Continue reading

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Numerous Constraints Limit the Availability of Developable Land

In my last post, I showed how new development can help us meet our environmental sustainability goals, including the county’s commitment to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions entirely by 2035 and reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

I also have discussed (here, here and here) the ways in which New Suburbanism adds needed housing while satisfying consumer demand for walkable urban places, even in areas that aren’t transit-oriented or adjacent to existing urban centers like Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Now I want to direct your attention to a related problem: While we know that we need to add more than 20,000 housing units over the next five years to accommodate additional job … Continue reading

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My last series of blog posts explained some of the challenges facing Montgomery County’s economy. I discussed how encouraging walkable, compact, mixed-use development can help us grow our tax base, control housing costs and improve the quality of life for all our residents. This “New Suburbanism,” however, is about more than economic competitiveness. It helps in addressing our most challenging environmental issues, including climate change and pollution from vehicle emissions and stormwater runoff.

Take a look at these charts from the Planning Department’s most recent Mobility Assessment Report:

Between 2005 and 2015, Montgomery County grew by more than 100,000 people. While our total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has increased in the last few … Continue reading

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In previous posts, I’ve discussed the economic challenges facing Montgomery County: stagnant wage growth, an aging workforce and increasing poverty. I’ve also highlighted our assets, including high incomes, low unemployment and a highly educated workforce. I’ve pointed out that high housing costs are the result of limited supply and that both businesses and residents of all ages prefer neighborhoods that look and feel “urban,” even if they aren’t located near transit or in major city centers. I hope that I have been successful in showing how and why real estate development is essential to economic development. In particular, the supply of housing (at every price point and including both subsidized/regulated projects and market-rate units) is crucial to attracting and retaining the mix of workers needed … Continue reading