County: To TDR, or not to TDR?

Plan­ning com­mis­sion ques­tions res­i­den­tial build­out ap­proaches

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­

The Calvert County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ex­plored as­sump­tions that pro­vided an idea of what could hap­pen with fu­ture res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment based upon the county’s cur­rent zon­ing laws with or with­out the use of trans­fer­able de­vel­op­ment rights, dur­ing a meet­ing Aug. 30 on the com­pre­hen­sive plan up­date.

“In the town cen­ters, what we sug­gested is there be an in­crease in the base den­sity … and a proac­tive sewer pol­icy. Then around the town cen­ters we pro­pose that you con­sider al­low­ing an in­crease in den­si­ties prob­a­bly two units per acre, but with de­vel­oper-funded sewer ex­ten­sions,” said plan­ning con­sul­tant Jackie Se­neschal of Par­sons Brinck­er­hoff, the firm par­tic­i­pat­ing in the county’s plan up­date and zon­ing or­di­nance re­write.

The night’s dialogue was based on pos­si­bil­i­ties that were born out of a ca­pac­ity anal­y­sis com­pleted in June of this year by the Mary­land

De­part­ment of Plan­ning. Se­neschal said one of the rea­sons MDP con­ducted the study was to de­ter­mine how much of an im­pact the re­cently en­acted Sus­tain­able Growth and Agri­cul­tural Preser­va­tion Act of 2012, also known as the Growth Tier Act or sep­tic law, will have in Calvert County, which she es­ti­mates to be a 1 or 2 per­cent dif­fer­ence in over­all res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment.

“Your TDR pro­gram and other kinds of con­straints have a far big­ger im­pact on your build­out ca­pac­ity,” said Se­neschal, min­i­miz­ing the im­pact of the sep­tic law. The county’s TDRs are a land use mech­a­nism that em­ploys tech­niques to de­ter de­vel­op­ment in cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties for the pur­pose of preser­va­tion and to pro­mote de­vel­op­ment in other com­mu­ni­ties for growth.

From the MDP study, six sce­nar­ios were de­vel­oped to show a range of pos­si­bil­i­ties for de­vel­op­ment ca­pac­ity in the county based on the sep­tic law, the county’s TDR pro­gram and en­vi­ron­men­tal and site con­straints. How­ever, given the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the state’s sep­tic law, only two sce­nar­ios, or as­sump­tions, re­main vi­able op­tions for con­sid­er­a­tion.

One such sce­nario il­lus­trates no use of TDRs and the po­ten­tial im­pacts of the sep­tic law us­ing the county’s most re­cent draft Sep­tic Growth Tier Map. It also re­flects the min­i­mum den­si­ties al­lowed in each zon­ing district with­out the use of TDRs.

The other sce­nario shows use of full site con­straints and the po­ten­tial im­pacts of the sep­tic law. It also takes into con­sid­er­a­tion all con­strained lands iden­ti­fied in the county’s or­di­nances that are mapped and sub­tracted from the de­vel­opable acres of each par­cel greater than 5 acres.

The two sce­nar­ios set the frame­work for the lengthy dis­cus­sion on how the county can pos­si­bly pro­ceed for­ward. Un­der op­tion 1, 8,700 new house­holds could be built un­der the cur­rent zon­ing laws be­yond 2040, which rep­re­sents the low end of build­out.

“Ev­ery place you could put TDRs to in­crease den­sity in the county … you’d be able to ac­com­mo­date 15,000,” ex­plained Se­neschal, re­fer­ring to full build­out of houses un­der the sec­ond op­tion with zon­ing laws in place to­day.

Se­neschal said the county has a sup­ply of 12,500 avail­able TDRs, of which roughly 3,000 are un­cer­ti­fied and 9,500 are un­al­lo­cated.

“The un­cer­ti­fied ones means we have ag preser­va­tion dis­tricts that ex­ist that have been des­ig­nated, but they haven’t come for­ward to get their TDRs cer­ti­fied,” ex­plained lon­grange plan­ner Jenny Plum­mer-Welker, dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween the two types. Cer­ti­fied TDRs could be sold if the owner de­sires.

“What the anal­y­sis by MDP tells us is that we need TDRs for about 6,300 units,” re­ported Se­neschal. “It sug­gest that the po­ten­tial avail­able in­ven­tory of TDRs may be in ex­cess of what you are going to have in de­mand for those TDRs.”

Se­neschal clar­i­fied this does not take into con­sid­er­a­tion the mar­ket, but re­it­er­ated that on the ba­sis of build­out, the county may have more TDRs than avail­able ca­pac­ity.

“It’s hard to pre­dict that. It’s not pre­cise, but it sug­gests there is a po­ten­tial prob­lem,” said Se­neschal.

Plan­ning com­mis­sioner Richard Holler asked if farm­ers who have gone into the county’s pro­gram in “good faith” and have TDRs for which there is no sale will be­come “a route to lit­i­ga­tion” for the county. Se­neschal was un­able to an­swer.

Plum­mer-Welker said most dis­tricts re­quire five TDRs to cre­ate an ad­di­tional housing unit, but in re­cent years the plan­ning com­mis­sion and the Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved a slid­ing scale in the town cen­ters with sewer, specif­i­cally Prince Fred­er­ick, Solomons and Lusby. One TDR for apart­ments, three for town­houses, three for sin­gle-fam­ily homes with lots less than 10,000 square feet and five TDRs for any­thing greater.

Also in re­sponse to Holler’s con­cern, Plan­ning and Zon­ing Di­rec­tor Mark Wil­lis said an­nu­ally the county of­fers up money for the pur­chase of TDRs and this year the county had money left over.

“They had an op­por­tu­nity and they didn’t take ad­van­tage of it,” said Wil­lis, adding that the county eased up on re­stric­tions for when peo­ple could exit the TDR pro­gram, which could ben­e­fit those who did not sell any of their TDRs.

Weigh­ing den­sity and sewer

Over the next 25 years (2015 to 2040), MDP projects growth in the county at 5,760 new house­holds.

“The county is not see­ing the rate of growth now that it saw 15 or 20 years ago,” said Se­neschal, re­port­ing that there was a lot of house­hold growth in the county up un­til 2000, when it be­gan to level off.

De­spite the ca­pac­ity in the sys­tem and no use of TDRs un­der the ex­ist­ing zon­ing, the num­ber of house­holds be­ing built has de­clined. Se­neschal said some­thing is af­fect­ing growth in the county be­yond just zon­ing.

Se­neschal took at look at where growth is cur­rently al­lowed in the county us­ing the pro­posed fu­ture land use cat­e­gories, specif­i­cally the town cen­ters of Dunkirk, Prince Fred­er­ick, Lusby and Solomons and the vil­lages of Owings, Hunt­ing­town and St. Leonard.

In the town cen­ters, the to­tal units per­mit­ted by right, or with­out TDRs, is 1,000. It is 300 for vil­lages. In the 1-mile ra­dius area al­most 3,000 house­holds can be ac­com­mo­dated. Out­side the 1-mile ra­dius is about 4,600.

“We have a county that says we want our growth to take place in our [des­ig­nated] town cen­ters, but when you look at where your ‘by right’ ca­pac­ity is — it’s all in the ru­ral ar­eas,” re­vealed Se­neschal.

Us­ing TDRs, the county can achieve a lot of new growth in town cen­ters, most of which would be in Prince Fred­er­ick. In­side the 1-mile ra­dius, TDRs will af­ford 4,200 housing units, with 5,400 out­side of it.

Se­neschal ques­tioned whether this dis­tri­bu­tion of de­vel­op­ment ca­pac­ity sup­ports the county’s goal of di­rect­ing fu­ture growth to the town cen­ters and vil­lages and pre­serv­ing the ru­ral char­ac­ter in Calvert.

“Us­ing the ‘ by right’ po­ten­tial in the town cen­ters, we are only able to ac­com­mo­date about 20 per­cent of the growth pro­jected over the next few years,” re­ported Se­neschal. “You have to fully use TDRs in the town cen­ters.”

Plan­ning mem­ber John Toohey asked if there is a big dif­fer­ence in costs to the county for ser­vices to in­clude ed­u­ca­tion and emer­gency ser­vices be­tween town cen­ters and ru­ral ar­eas. Se­neschal said gen­er­ally in com­pact de­vel­op­ment, as in the town cen­ters, the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices is less ex­pen­sive, and in scat­tered com­mu­ni­ties, there are more roads to main­tain and emer­gency ser­vices have to travel far­ther.

Deputy plan­ning chair

Greg Ker­nan asked how the county can strengthen the cur­rent pol­icy of di­rect­ing fu­ture growth to the town cen­ters and vil­lages, to which Se­neschal sug­gested in­creas­ing the al­ready per­mit­ted den­sity in the town cen­ters.

“It needs to be com­pli­ant with a proac­tive ap­proach to [pro­vi­sional] sewer,” the con­sul­tant added.

The group dis­cussed the need to in­crease den­sity in the town cen­ters; con­ven­tional den­sity is cur­rently 1 acre per unit.

Se­neschal said the county is going to have to think cre­atively how to get sewer in the ground and that right now it is harder to de­velop in the town cen­ters.

In ad­di­tion to den­sity, the group dis­cussed how they should treat res­i­den­tial ar­eas around the town cen­ters with re­spect to sewer. Any pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion of sewer ser­vice to ar­eas around town cen­ters would have to be done with TDRs and be de­vel­oper funded, ac­cord­ing to Se­neschal.

Plan­ning mem­ber Maria Buehler sug­gested mak­ing a fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion on town cen­ter ap­proaches be­fore de­cid­ing what to do with the out­ly­ing ares.

A con­cern about adding more peo­ple on sep­tic for fear of ni­tro­gen and fe­cal mat­ter in ponds sur­faced. Wil­lis as­sured the group the county runs a stream mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram.

Toohey asked if the county en­cour­ages the in­crease of den­sity in the town cen­ters and ar­eas im­me­di­ately around them, and if ru­ral de­vel­op­ment is pushed by fam­ily con­veyance lots, will it in­crease the to­tal amount of peo­ple liv­ing in the county. Se­neschal said there will prob­a­bly be some in­crease in pop­u­la­tion; oth­er­wise there would be a de­crease in prop­erty val­ues in ru­ral ar­eas.

Holler ex­pressed con­cern over the need for de­mo­graphic bal­ances, point­ing out the county’s high ag­ing pop­u­la­tion. He also ex­pressed con­cern over the af­ford­abil­ity of housing in the county for hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism work­ers with low salaries.

“I am not in fa­vor; I’m not op­posed com­pletely to Sec­tion 8 housing, but they have to have some place to live,” said Holler.

The group also dis­cussed getting enough den­sity in the tran­si­tional ar­eas and vil­lages as well as how sewer should be treated. Treat­ment of ru­ral ar­eas was also dis­cussed. Cur­rently, the county al­lows peo­ple in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to in­crease den­sity through TDRs. The group pon­dered whether to al­low TDR use in ru­ral ar­eas out­side of the town cen­ter.

“I think that I would be ac­cu­rately ex­press­ing the feel­ings of Calvert County cit­i­zens and not this board when I say we would like Calvert to look ru­ral as pos­si­ble, to be as ru­ral as pos­si­ble, to have as many trees left in 25 years as pos­si­ble. I think that’s one of the best ways to get there, is to re­duce ru­ral de­vel­op­ment,” said Toohey, to which Holler and Ker­nan nod­ded in con­cur­rence.

Se­neschal said as the county re­duces the de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial out­side the town cen­ters, the county should com­pen­sate ap­pro­pri­ately. She also said vi­brant town

cen­ters will help address some of the tax base is­sues.

Is­sues over how to address traf­fic in town cen­ters sur­faced, to which the con­sul­tant said more ro­bust pedes­trian and bi­cy­cle net­works, walk­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties and planned road im­prove­ments should ease con­ges­tion.

Plan­ning and zon­ing staff and the con­sul­tant will take the plan­ning board’s con­cerns and feed­back into con­sid­er­a­tion and up­date ap­proaches to den­sity and sewer for con­sid­er­a­tion for a fu­ture dis­cus­sion.

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