Thursday, November 17, 2016

Overview: Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) Recommendations

One of the topics of the November meeting of the Southern Howard County Civic Association (SHCCA) covered the recommendations provided to the Howard County Executive by a task force convened in 2015 to consider changes to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO).

APFO was enacted in 1992 to slow the exploding growth of housing in Howard County, and to ensure that public infrastructure (schools and roads) were capable of handling growth.

It defines criteria ("tests") for determining when developers must provide funds or mitigations to prevent school overcrowding and road congestion.

There wasn't sufficient time to completely cover the topic, but highlights are provided below and Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) Jeff Bronow is willing to meet with the community again if there is interest.


  • The APFO task force considered 80 proposals ("motions") and recommended 18 of them in its April 2016 report to the Howard County Executive. All motions were documented with the reasons they failed or passed.
  • The Howard County DPZ technical staff prepared an analysis of each of the 18 recommendations, including the pros and cons of each and possible ways to implement them in legislation.
  • The Director of the DPZ proposes that the final report go to the Howard County Planning Board in early 2017 for public comment in open hearings.
  • Final legislation would be referred to the County Council later in 2017 for debate and/or amendment.
  • Final vote would be expected in 2017.

If you are interested in further details, you can go the APFO site and some of the comments from the presentation are below.

Detailed Notes:

  1. The task force was established in 2015 by the Howard County Executive to consider the first significant changes to APFO since 1992.
    1. Prior to that point, housing growth was exploding, reaching a peak of over 5000 units in 1989 and schools and roads were stressed.
    2. Since then, growth has been restrained to an average of 2000 per year over the next ten years, which was further reduced to 1500 between 2001-2010, and is around 1600 now.
    3. APFO is administered by the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ).
  2. APFO was a new tool being used by communities in 1992 and was adjusted slightly over the years.
    1. Initially, it exchanged housing allocations (number of housing units a developer can build) in exchange for a road excise tax.
    2. Later a school excise tax of $1/sq. ft. was added as well.
    3. Three tests:
      1. Allocations: Capped at a certain number per year in various parts of the county, with 1200 allocations reserved for revitalization areas (which includes the Route 1 corridor).
      2. Schools: Must be below 115% or developer is forced to wait until new schools or redistricting occur.
      3. Roads: Traffic studies conducted and developers must mitigate if they cross certain thresholds.
  3. The committee considered 80 proposals ("motions") and agreed to recommend 18 of them.
    1. All motions were documented including the ones that failed so that the reasons people voted for or against them could be understood.
    2. Though expansion of scope was debated heavily, eventually none of the proposed additions were included.
      1. Examples of additional criteria included fire fighting capability; high schools; hospitals; and stormwater management.
      2. Reasons for rejecting them ranged from a sense that the criteria were duplicative of existing processes; would be difficult to create tests for; or in the case of hospitals were private and not public facilities.
    3. The 18 recommendations were agreed to by a super-majority of the task force (16 of 23 members).
      1. The reasoning for this was to ensure that they had at least strong support if not complete consensus.
  4. Current Status:
    1. APFO Task Force report was issued April 1, 2016.
    2. Howard County DPZ's technical staff wrote a draft report analyzing the recommendations.
      1. DPZ wrote a technical assessment of each of the 18 recommendations that discussed their merits, including where the staff disagreed with the recommendations, and some details fleshing out how they could be implemented as legislation.
      2. DPZ did not address the 62 failed motions.
    3. The draft report is presently being reviewed by the Howard County Executive.
      1. Normally, the next step would be for the Executive to draft legislation which would be sent to the Howard County Council for debate and/or amendment.
      2. DPZ director Valdis Lazdins believes there will be a better result if there is an opportunity for public comment and engagement.
    4. Thus, DPZ suggested that the final report go instead to the Howard County Planning Board in early 2017 for public hearings.
      1. This would allow the opportunity for both public comment and dialogue.
    5. If the Executive chooses this path, the report would be turned into draft legislation after completing the Planning Board process, and go before the Council for debate sometime later in 2017.
      1. Goal would be for a final vote in 2017.
  5. The 18 Recommendations were not discussed in detail, but are available in the report. Here is an abridged listing of each:
    1. [Admin] Review APFO at the end of each Howard County General Plan cycle (roughly every 10 years)
    2. [Admin] Change the definition of "minor" to the one in the subdivision regulations
    3. [Fiscal] APFO currently relies upon two revenue streams to address mitigation, the building excise tax and the public school facilities surcharge. The task force tackled such important issues as dedicating a portion of the transfer tax to be used toward mitigation, the elimination of certain fees-in-lieu, and more accurately tying new development fees to the cost of upgrading public facilities. A review of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services’ analysis of impact fees and excise taxes shed light on how Howard County’s fee rates compare to other Maryland jurisdictions (see Appendix Q). Ultimately, the task force passed one significant amendment to the county’s current fee structure for new development in conjunction with a change in school program capacity (see Schools Test section below
    4. [Allocations] Exempt Moderate Income Housing Units (MIHU) from allocations test; schools and roads test still applies; exemption does not apply in Downtown Columbia; cap exemption at amount of required MIHUs
    5. [Allocations] Apply APFO tests at Environmental Concept Plan (ECP) stage rather than sketch plan stage of subdivision regulations process 
    6. [Allocations] Remove shared allocations across Established Communities and Growth & Revitalization categories
    7. [Allocations] Allow additional new allocations for properties rezoned to a higher density in Established Communities to be taken from Growth and Revitalization planning area closest to rezoned project as determined by DPZ, except from Downtown Columbia
    8. [Schools Test]
      1. Change program capacity at which a school is deemed open to 110% [from 115%];
      2. Between 110% and 115% developer can move forward if:
        1. It pays a public school facilities surcharge double the amount in current law; 
      3. Over 115% and up to 120% then developer can move forward if:
        1. It pays a public school facilities surcharge triple the amount in current law;
      4. The developer's wait time for the allocations and schools test combined shall not exceed 5 years contingent on the receipt of allocations within the 5 year time period; the last development plan shall be allowed to be processed at the developer's risk;
      5. All existing Howard County dwelling units excluding MIHU and age-restricted dwelling units shall pay an annual fee ($25 for apartment/condominium; $50 for townhouse; $75 for single family detached) that is dedicated to public school capital budget;
      6. In an effort to identify efficiencies and better utilize existing space, HCPSS shall reduce its capital budget request by 2% per year for the next 5 fiscal years excluding revenue from the surcharge and the household fee in this motion 
    9. [Schools Test] Refer to 'Open/Closed Chart' as 'School Capacity Chart', use the term 'constrained' for those schools above the threshold percentage, and 'adequate' for those schools below the threshold 
    10. [Roads Test] Amend the following provision: "A facility owned by Howard County or any agency thereof where essential County Government services are provided, including LIMITED TO police services, fire prevention and suppression services, emergency medical services, highway maintenance, detention facilities, water treatment and supply, sewage disposal and treatment and solid waste disposal
    11. [New Metrics]  Exempt age-restricted projects that incorporate continuing care and/or intermediate care services from the allocations test as these projects help our elderly population and reduce the need for other medical facilities 
    12. [Downtown Columbia] Exempt Downtown Columbia from the 300 unit annual allocation limit for a single elementary school district if the school region within which the school district resides is over 100% capacity 
    13. [Non-APFO Items]  Include ECP in subdivision regulations
    14. [Non-APFO Items]  Increase Established Communities annual allocation from 400 to 600, decrease Growth and Revitalization annual allocation from 1,200 to 1,000 - contingent on elimination of shared allocation pool 
    15. [Non-APFO Items]  Require the County to develop a plan of action to address DFRS’ public water supply/cistern needs in the western portion of the county 
    16. [Non-APFO Items]  Raise CLV from 1500 to 1600 for Downtown Columbia in the Design Manual to be consistent with APFO 
    17. [Non-APFO Items]  Request the County to review the feasibility of a public infrastructure test that contains a mitigation requirement based on optimal cost-to-efficiency ratios 
    18. [Non-APFO Items]  Support DPZ's process of reviewing infill regulations to include such things as stormwater management and the density exchange program; urge that process is complete in 2016; fast track this motion if the County Council considers legislation on the subject prior to submission of the APF Task Force report  

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