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Planning Board Approved Revisions to County’s Subdivision Staging Policy on July 21 and Will Transmit Updated Policy to County Council for Review

July 25, 2016

Transportation and school elements, focus of the new draft of the Subdivision Staging Policy, are now available online for public review

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

As part of this review process, the Montgomery County Planning Board held public hearings and work sessions to determine the best ways to revise the current policy. At their meeting on July 21, 2016, Board members voted to approve and transmit the current draft of the Subdivision Staging Policy to the County Council. The Council will hold its own work sessions and public hearing in the fall, before voting to adopt the revised policy in November.

Learn more about the Subdivision Staging Policy and read the newest draft.

The following updates are reflected in the current draft of the Subdivision Staging Policy:

Transportation Policy Updates
Planners recognize that there is not a “one size fits all” set of rules and have revised the transportation policies to recognize current land use patterns, modes of travel other than single occupant vehicles and planning visions for different parts of the County. Policy areas have been reorganized into four groupings to acknowledge the diverse nature of transportation in the County.

A spectrum of policy area-based transportation tests appropriate for each group has been created, with a strong focus on transit accessibility. Some groups will not require policy area transit accessibility tests. For those areas requiring transportation tests, trip generation rates have been updated to reflect current land use patterns and travel behavior. In addition, trip generation rates can be adjusted based on reduced parking.

A new system for evaluating local area transportation conditions has been proposed. It does not rely solely on critical lane volume to determine traffic flow, but rather focuses on other tools, such as Synchro, vehicle miles traveled and non-auto driver mode share rates.

Transportation impact taxes will be directed to the geographic area where they are being collected and may be adjusted to better incentivize reduced parking.

School Policy Updates
In revising the Subdivision Staging Policy, planners worked to more thoroughly assess the adequacy of school facilities and more accurately account for the impact of new development.

The new Subdivision Staging Policy recommends a hybrid annual school test combining cluster utilization tests with new individual school capacity deficit tests to determine adequate school capacity. The tests are used to determine those school clusters with inadequate capacity overall as well as whether individual schools greatly exceed the capacity for which they were built.

Depending on the level of adequacy, school facility payments may be required for each new housing unit built or a development moratorium could be enacted. The draft policy also proposes a system to regularly update the school facility payment formulas to better keep up with the latest student generation rates and school construction costs.

The new policy would limit the impact that school placeholder projects have on calculating school capacity for the annual school tests. Such placeholders currently allow development to move forward and school facility payments to be collected by adding just enough capacity to prevent a cluster from entering a moratorium. The new policy proposes to limit the use of placeholder capacity. If a real capacity improvement is not placed in the CIP within two years, a moratorium will be put into effect..

The new policy proposes to calculate school impact taxes to reflect the latest student generation rates and school construction costs. Improvements in technology allow the school system to combine the school system’s data containing student addresses and grade-level information (stripped of any confidential information) and combine it with Planning Department parcel data on the type of residential structure associated with every address in the County. The results are generation rates that reflect the actual location and housing structure of virtually every MCPS student.

The newly revised policy also recommends reintroducing school facility payments and school impact taxes in former Enterprise Zones. The proposed policy would ease the transition by phasing in the collection of the impact taxes and facility payments. It also recommends conducting further research to develop a new process for determining when an area of the County can be exempted from the impact taxes and facility payments.

Background on Subdivision Staging Policy
Planning staff has proposed these new ideas in transportation and school capacity planning as part of revising the Subdivision Staging Policy, which is updated every four years. This quadrennial policy (formerly known as the Growth Policy) includes 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, the tools used to evaluate the impact of development may not adequately access these changing growth patterns, so they were re-examined for their effectiveness and relevancy.