Montgomery Planning Board Recommends Altering Current Growth Policy to Enhance Residents’ Quality of Life

May 18, 2007

SILVER
SPRING –
Yesterday, the Montgomery Planning Board unanimously agreed to
recommend a series of revisions to the county’s growth policy – recommendations
that if adopted by the Montgomery County Council – could have a long-range
impact on school capacity, environmental standards, tax rates, transportation,
new roads and urban design.

In their
recommendations, the Planning Board takes a broader approach that focuses on
economic, environmental and fiscal sustainability of future growth. The Board’s intent is to strengthen the
current ways of measuring community infrastructure to assess the cost of major
improvements needed to accommodate new growth.

The
Board’s action – culminating five months of public work sessions, a community
forum and advice from growth experts around the country – tackles the question
of how to synchronize future development in Montgomery County with essential
taxpayer-funded public services like roads, schools and public safety.

Board
members agreed that the county’s growth policy should be a stronger tool that
more accurately calculates the costs of development and more clearly identifies
high-priority community improvement projects such as additional school needs
and roads improvements.

“Our
recommendations are designed to foster economically and environmentally
sustainable development that enhances the quality of life for our residents –
those who are here now, and those expected in the future,” said Montgomery
County Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson. “We want to stabilize the cost of new infrastructure over time so that
county doesn’t have to play catch up and avoids large deficits.”

The Planning Board’s
recommendations show how the county can use indicators to determine such things
as environmental sustainability and well-designed, pedestrian-friendly
communities – particularly important as Montgomery County evolves into a more
mature community with more new growth focused in existing suburban and urban
areas.



Selected Board Recommendations for
Schools

Recommendation #1: Require developers to pay a school facilities fee
to improve existing schools – or build help new ones if school program capacity
exceeded 110 percent. In such cases,
developers would pay a school facilities payment of $32,524 for each elementary
school student; $42,351 for each middle school student; and $47,501 for each
high school student generated by their development project. The county would
impose a residential building moratorium in areas where school enrollment
exceeds 135 percent of school capacity.

Recommendation #2: Raise the school impact fee to
$22,729 per new single-family detached home; $17,112 for single-family attached
home; $10,815 per new multi-family non high-rise; and $4,585 for multi-family
high-rise. Impact taxes are collected at the time building permits are
issued.

Recommendation
#3
: Raise the recordation tax from $6.90 to $11.21 per $1,000 of resale
price of homes. Recordation taxes are
assessed to homebuyers or those who re-mortgage their residences. The recommended increase would charge
existing homes in proportion to their contribution to increased school
enrollment.

Selected
Board Recommendations for Transportation:

Recommendation #1: Assess each area of the county to
see if transportation systems can handle more growth. In failing areas,
developers would be required to pay for transportation improvements to reduce
congestion. This new approach would
compliment the existing analysis that focuses on congestion of nearby
intersections.

Recommendation
#2
: Provide the resources so the Planning Department can use computer
modeling to independently verify traffic counts and studies done by developers.

Recommendation
#3
: Increase transportation impact taxes for residential, office and
commercial development. Residential:
raise the transportation impact tax from $5,800 to $8,300 for most
single-family homes. The fee would vary
depending on the location and type of residence with lower fees for
multi-family residential near transit. Office: raise the transportation impact tax rates
for new office construction from $5.30 to $11.55 per square foot. Commercial: Because new retail
construction increases traffic congestion, increase transportation impact taxes
for new retail construction – up to $18.80 per square foot of retail. All increases would go to fund improving existing
roads and public transit.

The Board recommended phasing in tax and fee increases over
a period of 12 months.

The Board also
recommended the county adopt indicators to measure how new growth affects the
county’s environmental, social and economic well-being. The indicators, such as the ratio of
pavement and rooftops to green space in a proposed development, and the quality
of the water that runs through the county’s streams, must be specific enough to
guide land use and capital projects, the Board advised. The Board also endorsed examining the
percentage of households that pay more than 30 percent of their income for
housing.

The Board expressed great interest in placing a much higher
priority on community and building design excellence, creating comfortable and
attractive public spaces emphasizing pedestrian safety and mobility. To that end, they endorsed the concept of
convening a design summit of representatives from public agencies involved in
the design and development of public facilities as well as eliciting high
quality design from private developers.

Later
this summer, the County Council will decide on whether to implement some or all
of the Planning Board’s growth policy recommendations.

SPECIAL
NOTE:

On
Monday, May 21 from 10 a.m. to noon, Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson will
host a roundtable discussion with members of the media at Planning Board
Headquarters located at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. A bagel breakfast will be served.