Land Use Alert: Will There be School Capacity for Your Next Project?

The SSP’s Impact on Montgomery County School Capacity and Development

As a follow up to last week’s article providing general information on Montgomery County’s Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP), we focus below on a potential change to the SSP’s evaluation of school capacity that would provide a significant benefit to many projects.

As we noted last week, the current SSP requires that prior to development approval, the Planning Board must find that there is adequate public facilities (APF) in terms of school capacity to accommodate a given project.

Last year (effective July 1, 2019 through July 1, 2020), the current APF school test resulted in the imposition of a development moratorium in the Walter Johnson, Blair, and Einstein High School cluster areas. Only with adequate school funding, will these areas be brought out of moratorium July 1, 2020. At the same time, residential projects in other areas are threatened by new moratorium under the application of the current SSP test.

As the Planning Board Chair has previously documented in the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Blog, the major factor leading to increased student enrollment (and school capacity issues) is the turnover of existing single- family residences, not the new construction of multifamily projects. In fact, multifamily projects in most of the County, and especially the down-County areas, generate relatively few school age children. Despite this, under the current SSP provisions, new multi-family projects may not be approved when the capacity in the school cluster exceeds 120 percent. The SSP school adequacy test presents a major obstacle for many projects; leads to uncertainty in the market; and prevents important multifamily developments from moving forwarding, despite the fact that these projects have little to no bearing on the underlying school capacity problem.

Recognizing that the current SSP provisions fail to address the source of school crowding and at the same time impede the development of needed housing in the County, M-NCPPC Staff, the Planning Board and certain Councilmembers are considering revising the SSP to eliminate the school capacity test for multi-family projects in most areas of the County. This would represent a major change in the SSP and a significant step forward for the County. The County Council must adopt the SSP by November 15, 2020 and this potential change, as well as all other changes to the SSP, will become effective January 1, 2021.

We are very supportive of eliminating the school adequacy test for multifamily projects and are working to support this effort. We encourage our multifamily developer clients interested in this issue to contact us for more information.

For further information, please contact one of our land use attorneys.

Update on I-270 Corridor Transit Project

On April 21, Montgomery County Park & Planning briefed NAIOP DC|MD’s Leadership Committee on its I-270 Corridor Transit Project, according to a release by NAIOP. The I-270 Corridor Transit Project is focused on transit options for the County’s north/south corridor, with the overall objective to improve the commute between Frederick and Tysons. Through the forthcoming process, Park & Planning will be determining what project(s) it recommends to rec eive funding and be prioritized over a 25-year time frame.

Projects to be considered include:

  • MD 355 Bus Rapid Transit Project
  • Corridor Cities Transitway
  • North Bethesda Transitway
  • Improving capacity of MARC Service with increased service on the Brunswick Lane
  • Extending Metro Red Line to Germantown or Clarksburg
  • Exploring a Purple Line extension to Tysons

The County will prioritize transit opportunities that best satisfy the County’s strategic Master Plan, economic, environmental, social, and equitable values.

Review Schedule:

  • Planning Board will review scope of work May 2020
  • Evaluation Metrics developed – January/May 2021
  • Hearings before Board – November – January 2022
  • Planning Commission presentation to Council – Spring of 2022

Questions, please email Lerch Early land use attorney Stacy Silber, who chairs NAIOP DC/MD’s Leadership Committee, at [email protected].

Key Dates, Notices & Insights

  • COVID-19 Renter Relief Act: A public hearing was held on Tuesday, April 21, and final action is scheduled for Thursday, April 23. See last week’s newsletter for a detailed summary of the legislation.
  • Montgomery County Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP): A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, June 11, with a planning board work session the following week on Thursday, June 18.
  • Prince George’s County Budget: Virtual budget hearings and work sessions begin today, April 22, for Prince George’s County starting at 4:30 PM with the WSSC budget public hearing. The M-NCPPC budget public hearing, including the Department of Parks & Recreation, will take place at 5:00 PM. Hearings for the County’s operating and capital improvement program budgets take place at 5:00 PM on May 4 and May 11. You can view a full schedule of all committee work sessions here. Instructions for using the County’s new e-comment portal can be found here.

Previous Editions of this Newsletter

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