County Council Approves 2020-2024 Update to the Subdivision Staging Policy, Now to be Called the Growth and Infrastructure Policy

November 17, 2020

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Grosth and Infrastructure Policy
Council approves transformational updates to the county’s most important policy balancing infrastructure and growth, eliminating housing development moratoriums countywide, right-sizing impact payments for new development and renaming the policy to the Growth and Infrastructure Policy

Wheaton, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is pleased to announce the approval of the 2020-2024 Subdivision Staging Policy, now to be called the Growth and Infrastructure Policy, by the Montgomery County Council on Monday, November 16, 2020. The intent of the Growth and Infrastructure Policy is to ensure public facilities, particularly schools and transportation infrastructure, are adequate to accommodate new development. Every four years, recommendations for policy updates are approved by the Planning Board before being reviewed and approved by the Council. This year’s update provided an enhanced focus on schools in relation to growth and development in Montgomery County. The transportation side of the policy evaluated transportation policy areas and updated multimodal infrastructure adequacy tests with a new focus on Vision Zero safety priorities.

The Council’s approval follows 18 work sessions, a public hearing and 17 months of work by Montgomery Planning and the Planning Board to work with stakeholders to update one of the most important policies in the county.

Key revisions in the 2020-2024 update include:

  • Eliminating residential development moratoria.
  • Requiring developers of new housing to make Utilization Premium Payments (UPP) in areas with overcrowded schools.
  • Modifying the calculation and applicability of development impact taxes.
  • Changing the name of the policy to “Growth and Infrastructure Policy.”
  • Designating neighborhoods by School Impact Areas, which are characterized by the amount and type of residential development they experience and its impact on school enrollment.
  • Incorporating Vision Zero concepts in transportation adequacy reviews.
  • Eliminating the motor vehicle adequacy test in areas around Metro rail stations and future Purple Line stations.


“The new growth and infrastructure policy sets the course for a better future for our county,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “It puts an end to development moratoria that have proven ineffective in matching school capacity to our community’s needs and prevented the construction of badly-needed housing. It also makes it easier to build near transit, jobs, and amenities while focusing resources and attention on infrastructure to make walking, biking and transit safer and more attractive. This policy is among the most important steps the County Council has taken to improve our economic competitiveness while building more equitable and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods.”

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

View the 2020-2024 Council Approved Growth and Infrastructure Policy

Key updates included in the 2020-2024 Growth & Infrastructure Policy:

Schools:

  • Classify neighborhoods into School Impact Areas, termed Infill or Turnover Areas, based on the area’s recent and anticipated growth. The goal of this change is to provide a more context-sensitive measure for the calculation of school impact taxes and development evaluation.
  • Require the Planning Board to adopt, by Jan. 1, 2021, a set of Annual School Test Guidelines, which outline the methodologies used to conduct the Annual School Test and to estimate the enrollment impacts of residential development applications in order to provide a more transparent process for the evaluation of school infrastructure capacity.
  • Eliminate the residential development moratorium countywide, replacing it with a three-tiered Utilization Premium Payment where the payment required increases with increased levels of school overutilization. The aim of this change is to eliminate the uncertainty and inefficiency associated with residential development moratoria and to further support the county’s housing goals, while still addressing the fiscal needs of school facility conditions.

Transportation:

  • Prioritize motor vehicle mitigation strategies designed to improve travel safety.
  • Require a Vision Zero Statement for all projects estimated to generate 50 or more peak-hour person trips.
  • Eliminate the motor vehicle adequacy test in Red Policy Areas (Metrorail Station Policy Areas and Purple Line Station Areas), where multimodal transportation options are more prevalent.
  • Exempt bioscience facilities, for the next four years, from all Local Area Transportation Review (LATR) tests to provide faster approval of facilities that support biological research and development or the manufacturing of related products and provide significant employment opportunities in the county.
  • Update the requirements for developer-funded bikeways, sidewalks and bus shelters to be more robust.

Impact Taxes:  

  • Calculate base school impact taxes at 100 percent of the cost of a student seat using School Impact Area student generation rates. Currently, school impact taxes are calculated at 120 percent of the cost of a student seat. This change more accurately reflects the true cost of a new dwelling unit on school facilities.
  • Provide a discount on transportation impact taxes in desired growth and investment areas to further incentivize development in these areas.
  • Exempt from both school and transportation impact taxes any development located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone certified by the U.S. Treasury Department, to further incentivize growth and development in areas recognized as needing investment.
  • Grant a 40 percent impact tax discount for construction of three-bedroom units in multifamily structures located in Infill School Impact Areas to encourage construction of more family-sized multifamily housing.

View the November 16, 2020 County Council staff report.

Growth and Infrastructure Policy Background

The Growth and Infrastructure Policy — one of the many ways that Montgomery Planning helps to preserve the excellent quality of life in Montgomery County — is based on having enough 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 Growth and Infrastructure 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.

The 2020 update to the schools element of the policy included a review by an Urban Land Institute Virtual Advisory Services Panel (vASP) in April. Read the ULI Final Report and presentation. Learn more about the vASP’s review of the Growth and Infrastructure Policy.