County Council Approves Subdivision Staging Policy on November 15

November 21, 2016

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New transportation and school policies set new context-sensitive rules for developers to follow in order to get their projects approved.

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, secured approval of the 2016 Subdivision Staging Policy (formerly called the Growth Policy) from the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. The intent of the Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) is to ensure public facilities, particularly schools and transportation facilities, are adequate to accommodate new development.

Before the County Council’s review, the Montgomery County Planning Board held public hearings and work sessions to revise the quadrennial policy, and voted in July to approve and transmit the draft of the Subdivision Staging Policy to the County Council. The Council held its own work sessions and public hearing in the fall, before voting to adopt the revised policy in November. Developed by the Planning Department in partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, the updated policy will help guide growth in the county for the next four years.

Review the 2016 Subdivision Staging Policy Update.

The 2016 Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) recognizes that the future of Montgomery County will be more multi-modal, more diverse and more populous, and require increasingly more innovative ideas on how to provide public facilities that support our quality of life.

The primary guiding principle of the 2016 SSP is that a one size regulation does not fit all. Montgomery County is a varied landscape – made up of urban Metrorail station areas, established single-family neighborhoods and the rural areas of the Agricultural Reserve. New development will affect these areas of the county differently so the rules for transportation, school capacity and impact taxes needed to change to keep pace with this varied growth.

Learn more about the Subdivision Staging Policy process.

The highlights of the update to the Subdivision Staging Policy include:

Transportation Policy Updates

The SSP provides a more context-sensitive, multi-modal approach to evaluating transportation infrastructure. It organizes policy areas into groups that recognize current land use patterns, the prevalence of modes of travel other than the single occupant vehicle and the planning vision for different parts of the County. This SSP moves away from policies focused predominantly on car travel by creating a multi-modal adequacy test that shifts the focus from car travel to person travel.

Changes to Local Area Transportation Review (LATR) are designed to provide more detailed traffic study requirements, while addressing the concern that our current tests do not adequately reflect travel delay caused by congestion. In certain areas for certain uses, fewer studies may be required; however, those that are conducted will provide more delay-based multimodal information. This SSP also recognizes the important connection between vehicle trips and parking – allowing for adjustments to vehicle trip rates based on reduced parking.

School Policy Updates

With respect to school facilities, the 2016 Subdivision Staging Policy aims to forge a better connection between the individual school experience and its measure of adequacy, providing information that can shape how the County spends taxpayer funds to provide needed facilities and services.

A new annual school test combines the current cluster level tests with individual school tests. This hybrid approach provides a comprehensive evaluation of the adequacy of all MCPS schools and puts a spotlight on significantly overcrowded schools. It also more closely aligns the annual school test with MCPS thresholds used to identify schools in need of a capacity solution.

Impact Tax Rates

While impact taxes are not technically part of the SSP, they have been used as a basis for determining a mitigation or facility payment required of development when infrastructure is deemed inadequate. The 2016 SSP no longer includes a transportation policy area test of adequacy (and thus no associated mitigation payment), instead requiring the payment of a higher transportation impact tax on all development.

Likewise, under the previous SSP, a school facility payment was required of any residential development in a cluster deemed inadequate at any school level. The 2016 SSP no longer includes a school facility payment, instead requiring the payment of a higher school impact tax on all development. However, the moratorium threshold for inadequate school capacity remains.

Background on Subdivision Staging Policy
The Subdivision Staging Policy is updated every four years to provide 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, past tools used to evaluate the impact of development did not always adequately assess these changing growth patterns and were examined for their effectiveness and relevancy in developing the new SSP.