Montgomery County, MD Freezes Building Permits

From the “making a bad situation worse” file:

Montgomery County officials yesterday froze home building in most new subdivisions across the county while officials examine a variety of lapses in the once-vaunted planning process. With County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and County Council members reacting to widespread building violations in Clarksburg Town Center, buyers waiting for homes to be built in Montgomery could face considerable delays and possible cost increases. Duncan (D) and the chairman of the Planning Board have frozen the issuance of building permits in subdivisions that require site plans — about 80 percent of pending residential projects — until builders can verify that the projects meet height and setback requirements. Projects under construction can proceed, but those that have not broken ground will be subject to another review. . . . . Duncan’s announcement came an hour after four council members proposed a broader moratorium on new building permits until projects’ site plans are thoroughly reviewed by county leaders. The council will vote on the emergency legislation, which would be in effect until winter, next week. Combined, the two approaches represent a rebuke to a planning process that for a generation has tried to steer growth into designated areas near major transit routes. But at least in Clarksburg, one of the county’s fastest-growing communities, officials have acknowledged that they were ill equipped to oversee that growth.

So in essence, the County is saying let’s stop building because our planning process is flawed. Isn’t that just compounding the error? It’s hard to see how they’re going to improve things by making the development approval process even longer and more uncertain. And they don’t appear to be looking at the situation critically. They need to ask themselves what’s more flawed: arguably minor divergences between specs on approved site plans and the final, built product, or a planning process that attempts to micromanage development at this level? At least someone got it right:

[Developer Tom] Bozzuto, chairman of Bozzuto Homes, predicted that a slowdown will drive up the price of existing homes. “It’s a supply-and-demand market, and the less supply there is, the greater the price people will be able to get for existing inventory,” he said.

(via American Dream Coalition blog)