Adequate Public Facilities
The Baltimore County Code includes provisions to require that adequate public facilties for water, sewer, roads, and schools must exist before additional development can occur in an area. Sounds wonderful, but there so many loop-holes and exceptions that the whole set of laws is virtually useless.
County Code §32-6-101 through 32-6-110 specify the requirements for each. School data is put together by the Planning Department in conjunction with the School system. Data regarding water, sewer, and roads is put together by Public Works.
Although the data shows many schools that are seriously overcrowded which should stop further residential development in that school district, the code builds in a convenient exceptions - if an adjacent district has capacity, even if the boundaries are not changed.
Even the calculations of added capacity for new developments appears to be flawed. An analysis is periodically done to determine the student yield per type of housing and these numbers are applied to new developments in an attempt to estimate the impact. However, it appears that the calculation includes many older residents, thus resulting in low numbers, while the new developments are clearly geared toward young families. AT one hearing, when the expected number of students was mentioned, the judge laughed.
There are, luckily, very few deficient areas in the County. But BCZR §4A02 builds in an ever-expanding list of exceptions for which the restrictions on new development do not apply. For example:
- 3 or fewer houses
- In a Town Center
- Expansions of hospitals of any "continuing care facility" (Bill 79-2015)
- Health care and surgery center (Bill 37-2015)
- In Commercial Revitalization District (Bill 79-2015)
- In Downtown Towson District (Bill 49-2016)
This is the biggest "adequate public facilities" issue and the subject of most complaints due to congestion. Restrictions are supposed to be driven primarily by ratings of intersections, called "Level-of-service". The county strives to study every signaled intersection at least every 3 years and assigns a rating "A" through "F". This is done by a standard procedure as defined by the "Highway Capacity Manual" produced by the Highway Research Board of the Division of Engineering and Industrial Research Academy of Sciences Research Council. The first problem is that the County continues to use the 1965 version (the first written) of the standard, while the procedure has been updated multiple times, most recently in 2018 as version 6, with the County not keeping up. The method essentially is based on counting how many times during the rush hour that all vehicles waiting did not get through the green light cycle. Public Works publishes the results for all intersections.
For each failed intersection, a "commuter shed" area is determined, where new development is supposed to be limited. However, for some unknown reason, these areas are not defined outside the URDL, even though they may seriously impact the already failed intersection. For example, although there are several failed intersections along Falls Rd, and seriously deficient ones leading to Falls Rd (on Shawan Rd), there are no defined deficient areas served by these roads, thus not even a possibility of restricting further development.
As a local example of the inadequacy of this rating, the intersection of Belair Rd/Bradshaw Rd/Sunshine is currently rated as an "A", although the traffic regularly backs up past my house, a distance of .3 miles, and often a half mile to the Fire Station. It takes several cycles of the light to get through at rush hour. Also, the intersection in Fork backs up a half mile most evenings due to the lack of a left turn lane.
History of Highway Capacity Manual
1950 1st edition
1965 2nd version, 1st version of signalized intersection LOS
1985 3rd edition
1994 3rd edition, update
1997 3rd edition, update - intersection LOS based on weighted average control delay
2000 4th edition
2010 5th edition
2016 6th edition