Planning, Zoning and Development Review
Best practice: Streamlining
With its compact, mixed-use and high density characteristics, a transit-oriented development project may require multiple layers of development approval reviews by staff, boards, committees and councils in addition to more community outreach. Yet, a lengthy, complicated, and uncertain process can increase a project's cost and may discourage private investment in TOD, particularly. when market conditions are challenging.
Local jurisdictions may consider expediting review and permit processes for TOD to streamline the development approval process and help reduce project costs.
An expedited TOD review process includes
- clearly defining project eligibility
- giving TOD projects review priority
- shortening decision timeframes compared to conventional project review
- assigning a project coordinator or team to ensure the expedited review
- providing a one-stop-shop information center for application, project transparency and public outreach
Expedited TOD Application Process - Prince George’s County, Maryland
Prince George's County has had difficulty attracting TOD projects to its 22 transit stations. The county's lengthy and sometimes uncertain development permitting process was cited by County Planning staff and developers as a negative factor affecting its ability to attract private investment in transit station areas. In 2013, Prince George's County adopted legislation to expedite the review process for TOD projects near 15 metro stations and the Bowie MARC station to provide greater predictability in the process.
Provisions of the legislation, such as holding concurrent reviews of subdivision and site plans and requiring quicker staff, planning board and county council reviews while still ensuring community input, cut almost a year from the review process for TOD projects. The new law also eliminated the county council's ability to block projects, a practice criticized as unnecessary politics that limits investment. TOD advocates believe the streamlined permitting process strikes the right balance between simplifying the review process and providing residents with opportunities to review project proposals.
County officials amended the zoning ordinance to include the expedited TOD review process.
Expediting Economic Development Project Review
Maryland launched an effort to streamline and expedite state review of qualifying development projects to stimulate economic development, job creation and smart growth. Once a project is approved, it will be revised by all relevant state agencies concurrently rather than consecutively, notified for all needed permits or issues earlier in the development process, and managed by a contact person to ensure the completion of the expedited review process.
Although these efforts are not designed exclusively for TOD, TOD projects generally meet the key eligible criteria, e.g., inside targeted growth areas, strongly supported by local and state policies and programs, and good economic development potential.
The first such project, the Pike & Rose development (part of the White Flint TOD) received expedited negotiations with state agencies over the sale of 3.7 acres of excess state property and a highway access permit from the Maryland State Highway Administration. State agencies including the Departments of Transportation, the Environment, Planning, and Business & Employment Development received the review application in late January 2012, and the project broke ground in July 2012.
TOD Best Practices: Planning, Zoning and Development Review