Montgomery Planning Department Drafts Major Changes to County Growth Policies

May 26, 2020

En Español
Subdivision Staging Policy
Recommendations seek to balance public school and transportation infrastructure needs with county growth strategies

Silver Spring, MD – On Thursday, May 28, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), will present new growth policy recommendations to the Planning Board as the update to the 2016 Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP). This is the quadrennial update to the Subdivision Staging Policy, which is the county policy that balances infrastructure with growth. This update, which renames the SSP as the County Growth Policy, includes recommendations that focus on school and transportation capacities as the county’s population grows and its development needs evolve. In its ongoing efforts to balance expected county growth and development needs with school and transportation capacities, Montgomery Planning recommends a series of policy changes updating calculations and tools to measure and address school overcrowding, traffic congestion, transportation safety, and ways to fund needed infrastructure.

“Over the past year, Montgomery Planning has worked closely with the community and county agencies to take a closer look at the impacts of growth on critical public services,” said Montgomery County Planning Director Gwen Wright. “Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in a diverse county like ours, these recommendations guide future growth in a data-driven and appropriate way while giving our communities the public education and transportation facilities they need to thrive.”

Major Recommendations at a Glance:

To view the recommendations in more detail: County Growth Policy – Working Draft & County Growth Policy – Working Draft Appendices

Recommendations for Schools:

Create School Impact Areas: To foster a more context-sensitive policy, designate School Impact Areas throughout the county based on similar amounts of development, type of development and amount of school enrollment growth. The areas are identified as Greenfield, Turnover, and Infill Impact Areas.

  • Greenfield Impact Areas: Areas with increased student enrollment due largely to increased growth in predominantly new single-family housing.
  • Turnover Impact Areas: Areas where student enrollment growth is low, 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: Automatic residential development moratoria (temporarily stopping approvals of new housing developments in an area) 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. Exceptions to moratoria will include residential projects estimated to generate less than one student at a school in moratorium, and projects where the residential component consists entirely of units age-restricted for residents 55 and older.

Restructure and Recalculate School-Related Taxes:

  • Update the student enrollment rates and estimates used to calculate school impact taxes, which developers pay to help support Montgomery County Public Schools’ school construction projects.
  • Update the calculation of the recordation tax on home sales to make it more progressive and to generate more funding for school construction and affordable housing initiatives.
  • Require developers pay a premium for residential development projects served by overcrowded schools in areas without automatic residential development moratoria.

Transportation Recommendations:

Transportation Impact Studies – Emphasis on travel safety: A Vision Zero Impact Statement will be required for studies that examine a residential development plan’s transportation impact, and travel safety considerations will be prioritized as a mitigation strategy.

Motor Vehicle Transportation Adequacy – Growth Where We Want It: Traffic congestion adequacy standards for evaluating proposed residential projects will be modified to be less stringent when the proposed development is near Metrorail stations and along transit corridors.

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

The community is invited to give comments and feedback on the recommendations by sending in written testimony to the Planning Board by emailing the Chair at or signing up to testify at the public hearing scheduled for June 11. The Planning Board will then hold work sessions through mid-July before sending its draft of the policy and related County Code amendments to the County Council for review. By law, the growth policy must be approved by the Council by November 15, 2020.

Subdivision Staging Policy and the Community

Montgomery Planning prepares updates to the Subdivision Staging Policy every four years and this year’s update takes a special focus on schools in relation to growth and development in the county. Census information, demographic shifts, student generation rates, housing stock and projections, equity, along with master plans and development projects are some of the components that must be considered when looking at the policy. The transportation side of the SSP includes looking at transportation policy areas in the county, modes of travel, areawide development impacts and modeling data with a new focus on Vision Zero safety standards.

Since the update to the SSP started in summer 2019, two citizen advisory groups have assisted with this work: the Schools Technical Advisory Team and Transportation Impact Study Technical Working Group. Community members have also been engaged through local presentations, a community workshop in October and a series of roundtable discussions throughout the county.

Should social distancing requirements related to the COVID-19 crisis remain in effect into June, the Planning Board will continue to meet virtually. Residents can provide written, video or audio testimony or can log in or call in during online Planning Board meetings to testify.

What is the Subdivision Staging Policy?

The Subdivision Staging Policy — 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. Planners use those tools to project capacity, growth and future development, which in turn guides the timing and location of needed infrastructure improvements or capacity increases.