St. Mary’s Growth Cap Yet To Be Activated

A June 11 SoMDNews article analyzed the growth cap that St. Mary’s County adopted in 2008, noting that the cap has never had to be activated despite rapid population growth.

In 2008, the same year the national housing bubble burst, the St. Mary’s County commissioners enacted the first cap on annual growth at 1.9 percent of existing home stock. The number of new lots created annually since then has come nowhere near that permissible amount.

The growth policy would have permitted 808 new lots for homes this fiscal year, which ends this month. Only 76 new home lots were approved — 9 percent of the maximum, said Phil Shire, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management.  …

Commission President Jack Russell (D) said the intent in 2008 was to limit growth “and then the bubble broke and we’ve been going in decline ever since.”

“It was a fine accomplishment in its day,” Shire said of the growth policy, which took years to develop.

The article noted that the County was seeing some infill growth in its rural areas due to the County changing the definition of minor subdivisions from five to seven lots as permitted under the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 (the septic system legislation).  Unlike in the past, the County also appears to have adequate school capacity for the immediate future.

“We don’t anticipate having to put the brakes on new development in the near future,” [county planner Dave Chapman] said because of a lack of classroom space.

New growth in some areas of St. Mary’s was shut down in 2005 when school capacity began running out.