Friday, May 17, 2019

No Fiscal Impact Analysis in Apartment Moratorium Report

I attended the work session last night on the apartment moratorium, and was greeted with an impressive and detailed list of statistics, none of which addressed the fiscal impact of residential development.  Here is the 300+ page study.  

Apartment Moratorium Study

The original moratorium, put into effect in December of last year stated,  

WHEREAS, the purpose of the temporary moratorium is to allow the City an opportunity to study, research, analyze and/or assess the likely impacts and nature of any future apartment and apartment building development in the Smart Code Zoning Districts, including, without limitation and as the City deems appropriate, development and demographic trends, aesthetic qualities, burdens upon and access to City services, resources, schools, infrastructure, utilities, parks, public areas/facilities, and emergency and police services, traffic congestion, public safety, and neighborhood characteristics;

I guess I was naive to think that the City would actually look at the fiscal impact.  That didn't happen.

Q: How does this affect the Germantown taxpayer?  

A: ?????????  Who knows?????

There were assumptions made about the number of apartments and single family homes that would be built in the next ten years, based on current zoning, and how various departments were affected-- e.g. how many more police calls, fire calls, students in GMSD, etc. This can be useful information, but the failure to take this analysis further was surprising, and not in a good way. The obvious and most glaring error was the failure to put dollar figures to the analysis.   

Obviously I challenge many of the assumptions made in the forecasts, and would certainly do so if I felt this study merited that detailed level of analysis. 
I am sorry, but the number of ambulance calls expected in ten years may help the City plan for the number of EMTs and vehicles needed, but failure to take into account both the costs associated with those, and mainly the revenue generated from EMT calls really doesn't remotely answer the basic question that Germantown taxpayers want answered: How does residential growth affect the fiscal health of the City?

If you are wondering why I singled out EMT calls, it is because when Rocky Janda was asked about the study, he concluded that it was senior citizens and not apartments that disproportionately used City services-- 

"Peel down the numbers and see how it affects.. but as far as I'm concerned, as far as the impact on our ambulances and stuff like that... we're seeing it's the retirement community and not the apartments,” said Janda.    

Oh, my gosh, Alderman Janda, don't you know that senior 
citizens PAY for EMT services? Obviously not. But how much? We don't know, because it was not within the scope of this study to consider that. 

Image result for copy and paste emojis roll eyes

Remember the fiscal impact study that the City originally commissioned back in 2015?  (please see the Tischler Bice study analysis discussed in my March 24 2018 post). The City at one time was curious enough about the fiscal impact of development in the City to spend over $85,000 for the analysis. However, when the results were in, the City did not present the results, obviously because the conclusions were not what it expected or wanted. All new residential growth, whether single family or multi-family, negatively affected the fiscal health of the City. Although the net fiscal cost per unit of multi-family growth was less than per traditional housing unit, I demonstrated in my post about development in the Forest Hill Heights area that the per acre cost of multi-family development had a larger negative fiscal impact on the City than that of traditional housing.  Can we please have the data in that format? When we consider whether to entertain costly residential development, the question should be, "If we develop X plot of land, which density that we approve will have the most desirable (or least undesirable) fiscal impact?"

We still have time before the apartment moratorium ends, and we deserve more. The Mayor's main platform when he ran for re-election was his instituting the apartment moratorium, a moratorium that would not have been necessary but for his policies, and his stacking the citizen commissions with friends of developers and land owners who were also hefty donors to his campaign. Let's do the gold standard of studies-- cost-benefit analysis, and not just collect statistics which alone are useless in trying to project future fiscal impact of residential growth.  If that is done, then we can dig down deeper into the assumptions made in coming up with the projections.

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