Planning Board Hosts Virtual Public Hearing for Update to the Subdivision Staging Policy

June 15, 2020

Subdivision Staging Policy
Community provides feedback on major changes to county’s growth policy; public work sessions scheduled through summer on schools and transportation elements

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), held a virtual public hearing on June 11 on the update to the Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP). Community members provided live testimony via phone and online during the Planning Board meeting. These comments will be used to refine the recommendations to the update, which includes renaming the SSP as the County Growth Policy.

View the video of the June 11 Planning Board Public Hearing.

The update 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.

Next steps for the update include a series of Planning Board work sessions that will be held virtually and are open to the public. View the schedule:

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020 – Planning Board Work Session – Schools Element
  • Thursday, June 25, 2020 – Planning Board Work Session – Transportation Element
  • Thursday, July 2, 2020 – Planning Board Work Session – Schools Element and Taxes
  • Thursday, July 9, 2020 – Planning Board Work Session – Transportation Element and Taxes
  • Thursday, July 16, 2020 – Planning Board Work Session – Final Decisions
  • Thursday, July 30, 2020 – Approval of Planning Board Draft

After the Planning Board work sessions, the Planning Board Draft of the policy and related County Code amendments will be sent to the County Council and County Executive for review. By law, the Council must approve the growth policy by November 15, 2020. Community members are encouraged to continue to submit comments about the plan via email. The Planning Board voted to keep the public record open through July 16. Any comments received before then will become part of the public testimony and public record for the policy. View the SSP At-a-Glance explainer in English and Español to learn more about the recommendations.

View the Public Hearing Draft, Appendices and staff presentations on the County Growth Policy:

The update to the schools element of the SSP 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 SSP.

Major Recommendations At-a-Glance – 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’ 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.

Major Recommendations At-a-Glance – Transportation:
Transportation Impact Studies – Emphasis on travel safety: 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.

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.

Subdivision Staging Policy and the Community

Montgomery Planning prepares updates to the Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) 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.

Update on Montgomery Planning Operations During COVID-19

The Montgomery County Planning Department building is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 virus. During this time, staff are teleworking and will continue to accept development applications, work on master planning efforts and be available for any inquiries from the public. Inquiries to Montgomery Planning’s information counter may be made during regular information counter hours (9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) via email or telephone (301.495.4610).

In order to meet social distancing requirements related to the COVID-19 crisis, the Planning Board will continue to meet virtually through June and July. Residents can provide written, video or audio testimony or can log in or call in during online Planning Board meetings by signing up in advance to testify.