Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Howard County Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) Overview

On Wednesday, January 13, 2016, the Task Force chartered by Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman to perform the first comprehensive review of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) will meet in Ellicott City for one of two remaining working meetings.

The Task Force plans to wrap up its discussion in the January 27th meeting two weeks later, with a final meeting on February 10th.

Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) Task Force
Date: Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

So what is APFO, why should you care, and what are the issues being discussed?

What is APFO?

APFO was instituted in 1992 as a mechanism for Howard County to manage growth and the impact of new development on schools and roads.

Howard County did this by controlling the number of housing allocations. Developers are not able to build without housing allocations, and their projects must undergo a review to determine the cost of mitigating the impact on local school capacity and traffic congestion.

Developers have the option to either perform the required improvements themselves or pay into a County fund for that purpose.

(It should be noted that the courts have ruled, however, that the County cannot indefinitely delay development. If developers have housing allocations and the correct zoning for their projects, they can proceed after 4 years even without the improvements.)

Why should you care about APFO?

APFO attempts to establish reasonable thresholds for ensuring that funding is available to increase school and road capacity, to offset the impact of growth from new developments.

These issues have a major effect on quality-of-life issues in our community, especially in a place like Howard County that places high value on its top-performing school system.

What are the APFO issues being discussed?

The questions raised in the review revolve around the scope of what should be included (i.e., should the impact on more than just schools and roads be considered), what are "reasonable" thresholds and criteria, and how often the process should change.

Among the topics expected on tomorrow's agenda are:

  • Should the scope include the impact of growth on fire and emergency services (not presently included today, as only schools and roads are covered)?
  • Should "connectivity" requirements (which presently ask developers to include sidewalks, and can ask them to extend sidewalks 250 feet beyond the development) also include other initiatives within the County such as bicycle lanes identified by Bike Howard? 
  • How far is it reasonable to ask developers to extend the sidewalks if there is no other way to reach a school further than that distance?
  • How often should APFO be reviewed and revised? Every 20 years? 10 years? 5 years?
  • Should APFO split the County into different districts, with different models for calculating the impact fees based on the cost within each of those districts?
  • How should the cost of growth be calculated? How public should those calculations be for a given new development project? Is there some way to get accurate statistics?
  • What structure should be used to fund the improvements? Transfer taxes on sales? Excise taxes? Impact fees based upon the cost of what is impacted?

There have also been extended discussions about how to calculate the impact on schools and the thresholds for triggering new funding requirements.
  • Presently the developer must fund improvements if schools are projected to go beyond 110% capacity. Should this be at 120%, or lowered to 105% or 100%?
  • Is the current criteria providing adequate funding? By one unvalidated projection, APFO will provide funding for 6000 new student seats, while 11,000 new students are expected. Is this appropriate?

What Lies Ahead

There is an overwhelming amount of information on Howard County's APFO web site, and it's difficult for those not fully engaged in the process to parse through the issues.

Videos are posted of the entirety of each meeting, but it's not practical for most citizens to watch the approximately 40+ hours of video involved. 

So hopefully the above examples give you a sense of why APFO is important in a structural way in setting the conditions for preserving our high quality of life in Howard County.

Once the committee has finished its work, it will generate a set of recommendations which will be sent to the County Executive, who will be responsible for turning it into legislation that will then be sent to the Howard County Council for review.

The Council can choose to pass the legislation or amend it. If they do so and send it back to the Executive, he can then either sign it or veto it.

The recommendations are expected to be forwarded within the next 1-2 months and the overall process would take about a year. If the legislation is passed, it would likely go into effect in roughly 3 years' time.

Other Links:

Note: These links are provided for informational purposes, and do not necessarily represent the views of Autumn Walk HOA on this complex and far-reaching subject.

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