Patuxent Commons comes before the Howard County Council this month needing a Payment-in-lieu-of Taxes (PILOT) agreement to bring the vision of an inclusive community designed to meet the unique housing needs of adults with disabilities to reality. A legislative public hearing this Monday March 21 at 7 p.m. provides an opportunity for public testimony in advance of a Council vote that could occur as soon as the April 4 legislation session. Public testimony in support of this project is crucial to let the Council know that this project is needed, appropriately located, and worthy of a PILOT agreement that would allow it to be built.
The concept for Patuxent Commons was created by non-profits organizations Howard County Autism Society and Mission First Housing Group as an innovative housing solution to help address the housing needs of adults with autism and other disabilities. The intergenerational, mixed-income 76-unit apartment building is envisioned as a supportive community for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes to live alongside one another and commit to being supportive neighbors. In other words, it would be a microcosm of Columbia itself.
The concept purposefully includes a mix of affordable and market-rate units with commons spaces and active event programming to facilitate community-building and relational connections. All 76 housing units will be in a single building and will include a 25% set-aside (19 units) for persons with disabilities, as well as a senior preference for 40%, or 30 units. 69 of the units will be rented to households that earn at or below 60% of area median income and 7 will be leased at market-rates. The development is proposed to include a mix of 1BR (43 units), 2 BR (27 units) and 3 BR (6 units). The building will have a focus on accessibility and meet National Green Building Standards. Public sidewalks will be added along the site perimeter.
Patuxent Commons is to be located at the intersection of Cedar Lane and Freetown Road across the street from the Hickory Ridge Village Center with vehicle access from Freetown Road at the existing traffic light across from the village center entrance. A transit accessible, central location like this that is close to shopping, recreation and educational/vocational opportunities is important to promote the ability of residents with disabilities to live as independently as possible. The Giant grocery store and other amenities at the Hickory Ridge Village Center as well as the RTA Route 404 bus stop located directly adjacent to Patuxent will help enable residents to accomplish day-to-day activities without needing a vehicle.
The project was first announced in 2020 (see The Merriweather Post article "Patuxent Commons: New Mixed-Income Community Proposed for Cedar Lane and Freetown Road") and has received significant public support in multiple hearings over the past two years. Patuxent has been awarded a Low Income Housing Tax Credit and has received public financing commitments from various Federal and State loan and grant programs.
Patuxent Commons is planning to begin construction in early 2023 so it could open and welcome residents in 2024.
COUNTY COUNCIL APPROVAL
As a final step for this project to move forward, the project organizers are seeking a Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement (PILOT) agreement from the Howard County Council. See Council Bill CR-29-2022. The PILOT agreement would qualify the project for a special affordable housing exemption from the Adequate Public Facilitates Ordinance (APFO).
Full-spectrum housing like this is expensive. Patuxent has demonstrated that an agreement for a PILOT is necessary to make the development economically feasible. Under the proposed terms of the PILOT, Patuxent would be required to make payments totaling $633,066 to the County over the project's first 20 years. These payments would be more than 5 times larger than the projected property taxes paid over the next 20 years if the land was not developed.
Under the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance public school test, an area is deemed closed for new residential development if the assigned elementary school for the new development is projected to exceed 105% capacity during the scheduled completion year of the project. Clemens Crossing Elementary is projected to have 106.5% capacity in 2024-25 per the adopted June 2021 APFO School Capacity Chart, and as such, the area is closed for new residential development.
However, a special affordable housing opportunities exemption in the APFO regulations permits affordable housing projects like this to proceed provided certain criteria are met. The project has already met 4 of the 5 necessary criteria for the APFO exemption, and only needs the final criteria - Council approval of a PILOT agreement - to qualify for the APFO affordable housing exemption. When determining whether to approve affordable housing under this criteria, APFO regulations directs the Council to consider the capacity utilization of the impacted school and adjacent schools, estimated student generation from the project, any potential for the Board of Education to add capacity, and the need for affordable housing in the County.
Patuxent Commons is expected to generate a relatively small number of students. Given the types of households targeted (persons with disabilities for 25% of the units and a senior preference for 40% of the units), it is likely that number of students living in the building will be lower than expected if this targeting were not to occur. Nonetheless, for the purposes of estimating student yield from Patuxent for APFO, the projection methodology used student yields of similar projects in Howard County that do not have such targeting. This analysis projects Patuxent to add 36 students to HCPSS schools (15 in elementary, 10 in middle, and 11 in high school), though the actual number should be considerably less.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you support this project, as I do, you can show your support in number of ways. You can join the council meeting in person or online on Monday March 21, submit written testimony to the Council (email: email@example.com), e-mail support to your own Councilmember, and/or help spread the word to friends, neighbors, and via social media. More information on both the project itself and advocacy tips are included on the Patuxent Commons website.