St. Mary’s County Residential Growth Cap Remains Inactive

A July 3 SoMdNews article reported that a St. Mary’s County policy designed to limit extreme residential growth remains uneeded.  The policy, adopted in 2008 before the housing market crash, allows 1.9 percent lots for new homes, based on the current number of homes.  According to the article, St. Mary’s could have approved up to 815 lots for new homes during the past 12 months but only 84 lots were actually created.  From the article:

The growth policy “has yet, however, to really affect the number of dwellings we can approve,” said planner David Chapman. “We really have not tested the caps.” During this latest year, only 10 percent of what could have been approved was requested. …

Before the growth policy was adopted, the housing market was going full bore. Between 600 and 800 homes a year were being approved in St. Mary’s County, Chapman said.

“It’s like buying a snow blower and not having it snow for 10 years,” [St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management Director Phil] Shire said.

The growth policy also separates growth between designated development areas (where 70 percent of new growth is allowed) and the county’s Rural Preservation District (allowing 30 percent of new growth).

Before the growth policy began, “we were developing the [rural preservation district] at a scary rate,” Shire said. “We had to do something to get the growth in the growth areas. We wouldn’t have had much rural land left if we kept going at that rate.”

The article also noted that the county commissioners felt that residential growth from the town of Leonardtown and the Wildewood neighborhood in California should be included in the county’s total residential growth numbers.  Currently, both those communities are excluded.