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18,000 More Building Lots in 13 Years?

Checking out Real Estate by the Bay

Real Estate Blues by the Bay

This past weekend a few friends and I were indisposed with a serious case of the Blues, as we suffered on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in our favorite lawn chairs.  It was the annual festival for all poor folks who struggle with this illness.  While the skies opened up with rain elsewhere, the Lords of music left this spot alone … to enjoy the surroundings.

Now,  what does that have to do with this MacRo Report Blog post, you may ask?  Well, there I am on Sunday morning at 11:00 AM “absorbing” the sounds, and then I made my first mistake (of the day) … while taking a picture with my Blackberry, an email pops up from one of our BOCC candidates asking about how I arrived at some of the numbers in my “Space Odyssey” post of last week.

Essentially the candidate asked to understand the math better on how I arrived at the figure of 1,400 in my statement: ” In 2017 Frederick County has no more single family lots … that is unless there is a combined willingness on the part of the 12 different governmental jurisdictions in the Frederick County to replenish the supply by approving new subdivisions at a rate of at least 1,400 lots (800 singles and 600 other) annually for a 13 year period in order to meet their own 2030 projections.”

So to the music of Bobby Parker and Bonerama, I tapped out the following answer:

Land is a Numbers Game

We start off with 5,600 singles and about 8,800 “other” lots (Townhouse, Multifamily & Age Restricted). The 5,600 lots run out in 2017 +/- (800 x 7yr = 5,600). The “other” lots run out in 11 years +/- (800 x 11yr = 8,800).

The way I arrived at the “average” of 1,400 figure is by working backwards – I think I used 6 years – starting in 2011 we need to approve new 800 singles per year and then in 2015 we need to add to that another 800 “other” lots per year ….

I think the average over the 20 year period came out to about 1,400 per year. But that is likely low, as it assumes that every one of the lots (of any kind) that goes through the approval pipeline will be developed and sold within 6 years _ which I think is way low. We really need about a 20% cushion, which takes us up to about 1,700 per year. I know that there a lot of folks who are taking minor subdivisions through the pipeline now just to get the assurance that they will be able to “preserve” their rights, and  have no current  intention of selling anytime into the future.

Commissioner Gardner says that there is enough zoned land and approved lots in the plan to produce the 36,000 lots we need. But there are only 18,000 (including those that do not pass APFO and have other major hurdles) lots that are in the pipeline. That is 72 major subdivisions and 404 minors. The question I have for Commissioners Gardner and Hagan: “Where is all this zoned land that will produce the other 18,000 lots???” To put it another way: “Show me where the zoned land for the next 72 major and 404 minors will come from over the next 20 years, please.”

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly – Gilbert K. Chesterton 1874 ~ 1936

Some may question my intentions for challenging this plan.  To me it is not an issue of “Growthers” verses “No-Growthers”, but it is nothing more than holding our elected officials accountable for the decisions they make … My fear is that that the no growth sentiment has been so strong in the executive offices at Winchester Hall for so long that just while our leaders have ballooned our county spending over the last 12 years, they have done the opposite here by under budgeting the amount of real estate that is needed to meet the very plan that they adopted.

My hope this week is to meet with county staff and “others” in the know so as to get into the weeds a bit more to find if my concerns are well founded … and if they are Frederick County new home buyers may find themselves suffering from a different kind of Blues in 2017! … if not, well, I’ve just filled the web with more blither!

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