County Executive Proposes Changes To DRRA’s

She’s also supporting   an increase in the school mitigation fees.


Frederick, Md (KM) Legislation to restrict developers rights and responsibilities agreements (DRRA’s) has been proposed by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner. During her public information briefing on Thursday, Gardner said she will introduce this bill “to limit the use of future developer rights and responsibilities contracts, prohibit the freezing of certain laws and other fees, and require the agreements to include an enhanced public benefit for existing Frederick County residents and taxpayers.”

She also said this legislation would limit DRRA’s to projects of 1500  or more homes, and l their duration would be  no more than five years.

The last Board of County Commissioners negotiated DRRA’s with developers for a duration of 20 to 25 years. Gardner said those agreements often froze to existing development laws  for up to 25-years, including the building excise fee which was reduced to zero. That levy is assessed on new development to pay for regional transportation improvements. Any change to reestablish this fee would not apply to the developers who signed long term DRRA’s. Gardner says those costs are passed on the taxpayers.

“Really, I got to tell you. Freezing fees for 20 or 30 years  is incredibly frustrating,” she says. “Freezing fees at zero for 20 or 30 years really creates a financial drain on the county that I really can’t even begin to describe,” she said. “So we identify  this huge need for infrastructure and then we try to tie the hands of the elected officials for 20 or 30 years to address it.”

While residential construction  continues  around the county, Gardner said there are still some 21,000 new housing units which are planned but have not yet been built. She said two-thirds of the  already approved residential growth is  locked up in DRRA’s for 20 to 30 years. She also noted that the New Market area is expected to add 50,000 residents which is the equivalent of two Urbanas.

“It will create a significant demand on our roads. It will add between 100,000 to 200,000 traffic trips. And it will create a need for more public safety services,” Gardner said. She noted that road improvements in the Monrovia and New Market areas are expected to cost $340-million.

She’s also proposing an increase in the school mitigation fee developers can pay if their housing projects fail the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance schools test. Often the amount of money they paid was not adequate to fund  the costs of new schools. County Executive Gardner said these increases will reflect the true cost of building schools and bring in the necessary revenue for school construction. She noted that the county will need ten new and expanded schools at a cost of $510-million, and that’s outside of what’s listed in the Capital Improvements Program.

“It’s important to remember that school mitigation fees are not like impact fees. All development pays impact fees. School mitigation fees are only paid by projects where they fail the school APFO. They are only for projects where schools are overcrowded and where a new school is not planned,” says Gardner.

She says developers can wait for schools to be adequate,  and not have the fee. “If they want to continue to build houses when schools are overcrowded—and we’re predicting some of them will be severely overcrowded—they need to help pay the cost of needed schools,” says Gardner.

“I’ve been dealt a difficult hand, but we as a community have been dealt a difficult hand. We’ve inherited this huge pipeline of approved housing development with little or no plan to provide the needed schools and roads,” she says. “We’re working hard on what  need to do and what our next step should be. It’s a complex and expensive problem.”


By Kevin McManus