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The Secret Sauce to planning

Many understand that there is a regulation called (APFO), the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that has tests in it to regulate timing of development. Many are familiar with the fact that schools being overcapacity temporarily halts nearby development. What many do not understand is that the School test is the second test in APFO, and the first test is for “allocations” and there is a lot of confusion about those.

In PlanHoward2030, The General Plan, there is a map of the County broken down into regions, and each region has a maximum amount of annual new residential units that can be added each year. Many don’t realize that this chart is implemented every year, with an annual Resolution by the County Council, implementing that cap. In recent years, Jen Terrasa has been the only Council Member to vote no on this Resolution, indicating she felt the number of allocations allowed were too high.

For a long time, I have said that allocations are the “secret sauce” to planning. Pacing development is something that has been available to be done all along, with allocations. You see, if a project doesn’t have “allocations” then the wait to get them is UNLIMITED. The School wait, which happens after the development receives allocations, is temporary. Recently, the US Supreme Court made a decision about “takings”, and what is illegal when it comes to restraining property rights in development. The gauge used to make that decision was whether or not NO economic value was left on the property. Thus, regardless of the relevance of facts in that case, the gauge used was confirmed as that to be used, so claims of “takings” lawsuit risk keeping halts short, I believe, is unfounded.

We all know that areas in the East are very overcrowded (roads, schools, public services), and knowing that allocations could be changed each and every year, shifted to where growth is not as burdensome on infrastructure, is very important.

This Resolution is done annually, and was last done in July of 2017. It should be coming to the Council agenda soon. The People’s Voice will publicize when the public hearing is going to be on this topic for this year. This being an election year, and development continuing to be a contentious issue, you may want to know where your Council Members and candidates stand on this matter. Are allocations too high? We asked this question on our People’s Voice questionnaires for The Ethics Ballot which can be found at, under Ethics Ballot tab.

It is a complicated issue within the larger issue of pacing development, but since, according to the Department of Planning and Zoning, the wait for allocations has not been long in recent years, seems to me, they are too high.

Since this fundamental starting point for growth location is able to be adjusted every single year, it seems the Council should be utilizing this tool, far more often, by changing it as needed. I don’t recall this chart EVER being changed in all the years I have done land use work, until recently.

An APFO Bill shifted 200 allocations from the most dense region of Growth and Revitalization (Route 40 and Route 1), from 1200 down to 1000, onto Established Neighborhoods, up from 400 to 600. This annual Resolution deserves some attention, each and every year. Also, the total allowed, versus shifting things around should also be carefully reviewed.

I hear often that we are running out of room to develop, and most development issues going forward are for redevelopment. I don’t believe this is true. We have been hearing that for 10 years. The truth is, many parcels considered not able to be developed, get their zoning changed over time and suddenly can be developed. We aren’t running out of land to develop anytime soon, unless of course, some huge promise is made to stop upzoning properties to higher density allowances. I doubt that’s what people mean who are making the claim of running out of space.

Know where your Council candidates stand on this issue.

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