May 23, 2007 (released about 2 PM)
Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett on Planning Board’s Draft of Growth Policy Changes
“Our Growth Policy is broken and needs to be fixed. That’s why the Montgomery County Planning Board’s work on proposed changes to that policy is a welcome contribution to a critical debate.
“I support the changes designed to tighten the School Adequacy Test to make sure that development does not occur in areas where are schools are already overcrowded. In the past, policymakers could get around this test by ‘borrowing’ capacity from another cluster. These changes would end that practice and that’s good. And the standards should kick in when a school is at 100 percent capacity, not 105 or 110 percent.
“In 2003, the County Council did away with a critical traffic test that developers had to satisfy – the Policy Area Transportation Review. That was a big mistake. In the Planning Board’s draft changes, a Policy Area Mobility Review would be required. This is an appropriate first step, but I am concerned that it’s not stringent enough.
“Tests are not tests if everyone gets a passing grade. I am concerned that what we put on paper reflect the reality that County residents are seeing day in and day out. We should not adopt a policy that claims there is adequate transportation infrastructure to accommodate future growth in any area when traffic is stacked up and portable classrooms proliferate like mushrooms after a rain.
“I believe that developers must pay a greater share of the schools, roads, and other public infrastructure costs that serve their projects. That’s only fair and just.
“I think, however, that doubling the school and transportation impact taxes, as the Planning Board draft suggests, may be too great an increase. We should substantially increase these taxes but should not assume that the Planning Board figure is the right figure.
“I am concerned that too huge an increase in impact taxes could compromise too substantially our commitment to encouraging more affordable housing in the County.
There is a tipping point there — and I think these proposed increases may be beyond it.
“I appreciate the Planning Board’s work and look forward to participating in the process of establishing a Growth Policy that works for County residents and is rooted in our everyday realities.
“There is much about growth and development — and even traffic — that is beyond our County’s control. We should, however, do what we can do and make sure that growth, where it will occur, is accompanied by the infrastructure necessary to support it.
“Everyone must have a seat at the table and a voice in the outcome of this critical debate and we must make sure that the public interest is front and center. Montgomery County residents expect -and deserve – no less.
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