With Focus on Schools, County Kicks Off Review of Moratorium Policy
Planning staff say they will ‘turn over every stone’ during process
Map via Montgomery County Planning Department
Montgomery County government Planning Department officials on Thursday kicked off the review of the county’s subdivision staging policy (SSP), which dictates when school service areas are placed in a residential building moratorium.
The SSP serves as a guideline for development approvals in the county and is intended to ensure there are adequate “public facilities” – schools, transportation, water and sewer services – to serve new developments.
The policy is reviewed every four years and, in a presentation to the county Planning Board Thursday, officials said they are focusing heavily on how the policy pertains to school capacity.
Under the current SSP, schools that have enrollments exceeding 120% of their capacity are subject to a moratorium. The moratorium means no residential development projects can be approved in the school’s service area for at least one year, or until a solution is determined to alleviate the school’s crowding issues.
There are currently 13 schools and four school clusters in moratorium, which began July 1.
Most of the schools in moratorium are in the southeastern, more populous areas of Montgomery County, including portions of Bethesda and Silver Spring.
Some county leaders and many residential developers and builders have voiced frustration about building freezes, saying they stifle development of much-needed housing in areas that need it. Planning Department staff on Thursday said they intend to review “all aspects of the policy” as it pertains to schools and compare the Montgomery County policy to policies of similar jurisdictions across the country.
“We’re going to turn over every stone, question if we could be doing anything better or differently, or if there’s someone else who does it better,” said Jason Sartori, leader of the Planning Department’s Functional Planning Office. “Really we’re saying there’s nothing out of the question here.”
To help guide the review, the county for the first time will convene a “Schools Technical Advisory Team” consisting of 15 to 20 community members.
Members chosen will represent the school system, student government groups, realtors, developers and residents not affiliated with a community group.
The team will meet six times between October and February to review, analyze and discuss the school component of the SSP.
A public “kick-off engagement forum” is scheduled for Oct. 7 to give an overview of the SSP review process. A working draft of the SSP will be presented in April and the final version must be adopted by the Montgomery County Council by Nov. 15, 2020.
The schools currently in moratorium areas and how many students over capacity there are:
• Burning Tree Elementary, Bethesda, 127 students
• Burnt Mills Elementary, Silver Spring, 277 students
• Clopper Mill Elementary, Germantown, 148 students
• Cloverly Elementary, Silver Spring, 143 students
• Farmland Elementary, Rockville, 183 students
• Highland View Elementary, Silver Spring, 114 students
• Lake Seneca Elementary, Germantown, 173 students
• Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Gaithersburg, 179 students
• William T. Page Elementary, Silver Spring, 289 students
• Judith A. Resnik Elementary, Gaithersburg, 154 students
• Sargent Shriver Elementary, Silver Spring, 167 students
• South Lake Elementary, Gaithersburg, 176 students
• Stonegate Elementary, Silver Spring, 161 students
School clusters in moratorium:
• James Hubert Blake High School
• Montgomery Blair
• Albert Einstein
• Walter Johnson
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org