on the Adequate Public Facilities
Roald Schrack 14 September 2011
The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) was adopted by a 4 to 1 vote of the Mayor and Council on November 1, 2005.The purpose of the ordinance was “to ensure that adequate public facilities and services are provided concurrent with new development and redevelopment.” The mechanism developed to ensure adequate school facilities was the adoption of a threshold of 110% of school capacity would trigger a moratorium on residential construction. Unfortunately the ordinance has no provision in it restricting it to growth caused by new development or redevelopment.
The City of Rockville was founded 150 years ago but only started to grow to its present size in 1950. For the next twenty years the city grew at the rate of about 2000 new residents a year. After this early growth period, it grew more slowly and by 2005, 99.9% of available land had been occupied. By this time there were about 20 thousand housing units built. An APFO is generally considered useful during the growth period of a city. There was no apparent crisis that led to the suddenly perceived need for an APFO when the city was essentially completely built.
In about 1990 there was a radical shift in the demography of the city. What had been a relatively stable population, mostly White with about 10% Black suddenly began to include Asian and Hispanic residents.
This change in
demography had a
marked effect on the student population both in ethnic composition and
growth. In addition to the natural birthrate, there is a very large
population in Rockville because of the transient nature of some
associated jobs. The registered voter list shows that every year about
adults come into the city and about 3000 leave. The leaving population
about 1000 homes for resale every year. The leaving group has an
average age of 52, and the entering
group has an average age of 40. Although there is no data on the number
children coming and going in the registered voter lists, the entering
age group will almost certainly boost the child production rate.
will be a natural reduction each year in
the elementary schools population as students graduating elementary
enter a middle school. The
new students and graduating students determines whether the elementary
population grows or diminishes.
body growth from 2006 to 2010 gives an idea how this balances out.
aside the effects of the previous construction of Fallsgrove (Ritchie
elementary), and the importation of programs into College Gardens
the total student increase over this period was 315. That would include
expected new students from the construction of 846 housing units.
increase from construction, the natural growth rate would be about 1.4%
students per year while the growth from construction was 14 per year. Thus
85% of the elementary student body growth was from causes that cannot
controlled by restricting construction.
Six projects were
before the adoption of the APFO five years ago and have not been built
Their construction will depend on when financing becomes available and
market for them exists. If all the projects currently approved were
would add a total of 93 students spread over up to 20 years or however
years it takes to construct these 6 approved (grandfathered) projects.
years or whenever these projects are completed, the APFO imposed
prohibits any further residential construction if student overcrowding
110% -- but the study body will still grow, as before, from the natural
that the APFO cannot control.
schools section of the APFO should be completely dropped. It has
not worked and cannot work as a mechanism of student body growth
If the Threshold-
model cannot reduce the growth of the student population nor block the
used properties or construction of already approved units, why does it
1) It has support
people because they do not understand that the source of new students
dependent on new housing construction.
During the period 2006-2010, 85% of the student growth was
uncontrolled. The number of available resale units is so large that
new construction units will usually be a fraction of the
resale market. Since there is almost no
land left in the city appropriate for the construction of single family
homes, future housing construction will be almost entirely in
multi-family units. Since those wishing to raise families can buy
single family homes on the resale market, the yield of children from
apartment developments is very low. Using current student yields from
apartments, about 8000 apartments would have
to be built every year to match the growth in student population
obtained from the resale of existing homes.
apartments would have to be built every year to match the growth in student population obtained from the resale of existing homes.
2) There is a glut of
family homes available in Rockville. The market value of the average
home has dropped 27% from its peak 2006 value. Many homeowners owe more
their home is now worth. Additional new residential properties on the
would further depress existing home prices and make it more difficult
real estate industry to market the abundance of used homes.
3) Many people now
see rental properties
as more appropriate during difficult economic periods.
Eleven per cent of single family homes are
available on the rental market, but young people during a more mobile
their lives, see apartments are more desirable than single family homes
require more capital and commitment. If more rental apartments are
will further reduce the demand for existing homes. The student yield
apartment units is only about 1/10 th the yield from single family
now wary of risking loans on anything, construction included. Many
mortgages that are in trouble and are holding off foreclosures that
further depress the market.
5) A campaign was
carried out to
cause homeowners to fear that the construction of affordable housing in
neighborhood would reduce the property values on their homes The APFO
very effectively to deny the construction of this project called
II. Fear of the
construction of this
project is still being used as justification for the retention of the
even though the project may never be built. Although these fears may be
unsupported by the facts, it is very difficult to ease these fears once
6) Owners of projects
grand fathered, and thus have the right to develop whenever they can
adequate financing within the next 20 years, find their properties are
more because of the development rights and thus they may desire the
of a moratorium that denies development rights to competitors.
Because of these
factors, the Threshold- Moratorium solution to school overcrowding has
political backing. As
solution to school overcrowding, it is at best misleading and diverts
from possible solutions.
Several factors are probably required to reduce the political support for the Threshold-Moratorium model, they are: 1) a markedly improved housing market and general economy, 2) The development of all existing grand fathered projects, 3) a non-confrontational relationship between the city and the county that removes a political advantage from those supporting moratoriums.
can’t work what
to now the school system has
allocated about $250 million a year for the Capital Improvement Program
for school construction and upgrades. With current construction
has not been adequate to keep up with the need. MCPS needs to focus on
efficient and effective construction program and financial resources to
adequate and affordable school facilities for all the students in
County. In addition, the City needs to maintain constant vigilance to
that Rockville students consistently receive the resources in manpower
facilities they deserve. A
great step in
this direction was taken by the Mayor and Council on September 12 when
strategy was adopted to work cooperatively with the Montgomery County
government to achieve needed school construction projects in the city. This program may
achieve what the confrontational approach of the APFO cannot achieve.
MCPS has scheduled the construction of a new Elementary school at the site of the former Hungerford Elementary School. The school was closed about 30 years ago and the building is now used for a Children's Resource Center. Before the new school can be built, the Resource Center will be moved to the building formerly occupied by Broome Junior High. This move is expected to take two years. The construction of the new school will take a couple of years so it looks like the new school could open in 2016 or 2017 at the earliest. It is hoped that the construction of this school will reduce overcrowding sufficiently that the moratorium can be lifted.
But, by this time the backlog of students may be enough so that even the opening of a new school of about 750 student capacity may not reduce the overcrowding sufficiently to lift a moratorium on residential construction now imposed by the APFO. By that time financing and housing demand may be sufficiently strong that developers may be willing to invest the time and money in a court case to repeal the APFO imposed limitations on new residential construction. The APFO is probably vulnerable. Councilperson Susan Hoffman voted for the ordinance even though she voiced the opinion that the ordinance was of dubious legality. The ordinance is vulnerable because the city of Rockville has no way of providing a mitigation path for a builder. The city has no jurisdiction over the construction of schools, that is the sole province of the county.
Since the imposition of a moratorium does not the growth of the student body and a shortage of money will continue to limit the construction of new schools, it is not clear that the moratorium will ever be lifted.
No one probably wants the moratorium to last forever, the question is, how will it be lifted?
The above report was written after many months study of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) by a committee of the Planning Commission. This report was submitted as one of the several minority reports. The full committee report is available on the city website. It does not discuss the ability of the APFO to actually control the growth of the student body. Since the report was written in September of 2011 it has been expanded to cover recent developments
A series of reports was written in conjunction with a study of the Rockville APFO. The reports briefly cover many technical issues and often show important data graphically that is difficult to understand when only presented in numerical form. These reports are meant to cover in detail the sources of data that were used in developing the above report. They were distributed to the members of the Planning Commission Committee, the Planning Commission, and the Mayor and Council. The reports may be obtained on the Internet at http://bit.ly/qXGtTo
The Rockville Voter List - describes voter lists for 2009 and 2011. Discusses voter participation of various groups in the city.
- Using the Rockville registered voter list, the housing and age of
voters entering the city per year and 2000 registered voters leaving
per year are tracked.