State Highway Access Manual - LOCAL COORDINATION AND ACCESS CONCEPT APPROVAL

5. LOCAL COORDINATION AND ACCESS CONCEPT APPROVAL

This Chapter presents an overview of the coordination that takes place between SHA and the local approving authorities for planning, land use, and development. Concurrent review by State and local agencies helps to ensure that access concepts prepared for proposed land uses and development plans are consistent with the requirements for State highway access. This interaction continues throughout the local permitting process, in order to encourage permitting and completion of the site access improvements in a timeframe compatible with the anticipated site use.

5.1 Planning Coordination

At the planning level, there are specific actions that local governments can take to help integrate new or improved highways with development plans and preserve the safety and capacity of existing highways. Suggestions are listed in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1 Planning Coordination of Access

  • Developing master plans with an emphasis on protecting State Primary Highway System corridors.
  • Developing local zoning ordinances that require dedication/reservation of land for future transportation improvements when right-of-way needs are known.
  • Developing and implementing local service road concepts in coordination with the Maryland Department of Transportation to enhance land access and provide auxiliary support for the primary highway.
  • Requiring adequate setbacks through local building ordinances to minimize future right of way costs.
  • Developing access management plans for State Primary Highway System corridors and select Secondary Highway System corridors.
  • Adopting Adequate Public Facilities legislation.

The SHA's Regional and Intermodal Planning Division coordinates regularly with local governments and the public in the development of long-range highway plans, local and regional land use plans, and access management plans. As a condition of approval for large-scale development, local government often requires build-out of master-planned public road improvements, including improvements on State highways.

5.2 Land Use and Development Approval Coordination

In most local jurisdictions, SHA reviews and comments on zoning appeals, preliminary plans, subdivision plats, and site plans in order to ensure that the requested access is safe and consistent with the functional requirements of the State highway system. In reviewing each proposal, AM evaluates the proposed State highway access with respect to SHA standards and policies and works with the local approving authority to ensure that site plans are properly coordinated with the requirements for access to State highways.

In addition, through concurrent review of traffic impact studies by SHA and local government, appropriate highway capacity improvements are identified to mitigate the effect of traffic generated by development. These improvements may be required as a condition of development approval, through Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances, or other regulatory mechanisms. Capacity improvements necessary to support proposed site access are required by SHA as a condition of the access permit.

All requested access points and proposed improvements on State highways are evaluated for compatibility with local master plans, regional transportation plans, access management plans, and State or local highway projects. Dedication and/or reservation of right-of-way or establishment of access controls may be requested by SHA, through the local government, to address right-of-way needs identified in SHA project plans, planning studies, and/or SHA's Highway Needs Inventory. The need for a reservation or dedication may also be established by the local government's general plan, master plans, or amendments granting the reservation or dedication through the land use approval process.

5.3 Permit Coordination

In many jurisdictions, SHA coordinates with local government throughout the local construction permit process. The issuance of grading permits, building permits, and use/occupancy permits by the local authority may be withheld until concurrence from the SHA has been obtained. In turn, SHA may withhold issuance of an Access Permit for projects that are not advancing through the appropriate stages of the local permit process.

5.4 SHA Approval of Access Concepts

The following considerations, suggestions, and limitations are offered with respect to SHA review and approval of access concepts.

5.4.1 Submittal

Proposed highway access concepts should be submitted through the local land use and development approval process. Where this option is not available, or in the case of unusual access situations for which preliminary advice is sought from SHA, the applicant may submit access concept plans directly to AM. However, concept approval may be withheld until the project is formally submitted through the local process. This is explained in 5.4.3.

Proposed access concepts should be illustrated by way of preliminary site plans or subdivision plats indicating the proposed entrance locations, existing topography and proposed development and the projected vehicular use of the site. The plan should illustrate the proposed access point(s) and the anticipated site access improvements, using the standards outlined in this Manual as a guide. Where necessary to provide an appropriate scale and level of detail, a preliminary State highway access plan should accompany the submission of preliminary subdivision plats and/or site plans to the local authority.

5.4.2 AM Review and Comments

The purpose of plan review at the concept stage is to ensure compliance with the basic requirements for State highway access. Essentially, this involves evaluating the proposed site access location(s) and configuration(s) with respect to the Access Point Standards of Chapter 10. Although construction details and engineering specifications are not addressed at this stage, applicants should anticipate a need for sufficient preliminary engineering and traffic analysis to demonstrate the feasibility of appropriately designed entrances, street connections, and site access improvements.

AM compiles comments on the preliminary access concept in consultation with various specialized SHA divisions, as appropriate for the given project. Based on its review, AM recommends to the local jurisdiction that the preliminary plan or plat be approved, approved with conditions, or denied. In addition to its recommendation to the local authority, SHA's comments typically address the following:

  • SHA's letter may offer concept approval for access locations, configurations, and turning movements that are acceptable as submitted.
  • When the submitted concepts are not acceptable, SHA's letter will withhold concept approval but may suggest alternative access concepts that may be acceptable upon further investigation by the applicant.
  • For acceptable access concepts, the approximate scope of site access improvements will be outlined in the letter.
  • The need for supplemental studies – e.g. drainage, pavement, traffic – and detailed engineering plans will be identified, in as much as possible, using the preliminary concept plans.
  • Any special maintenance concerns that require attention in the final design will be identified.
  • Any coordination that may reasonably be anticipated with an SHA project, local project, or other development project will be identified.
  • Additional information or requirements pertinent to the design and processing of the application will be requested.

5.4.3 Limitations on SHA Concept Approval and Comments

State highway access may only be permitted in connection with specific land use and development proposal once it has been approved by the local authority. The proposed access must be acceptable to both SHA and the local authority. Therefore, SHA's approval of a proposed access concept may only be offered for a specific development proposal under consideration by the local authority. This is extremely important for applicants to recognize.

Concept plans and plats should be submitted only after the developer acquires title to the property or can certify pending ownership through a fully executed option contract. Concept approvals will not be offered for speculative consideration prior to a ratified option contract; however, SHA will offer non-binding comments on tentative access concepts that are submitted apart from the local site plan or subdivision approval process as long as title or pending ownership is demonstrated.

It is also important for the applicant to recognize that AM is not able to provide comprehensive plan review comments and identify all site specific requirements at the preliminary stages of the project. Preliminary site plans and subdivision plats simply do not reflect sufficient detail or engineering-level analysis of design issues that may be involved. This may require revision of locally approved plans or plats. To reduce the potential for unanticipated delays in subsequent plan review and permit processing, applicants are advised to have their engineering representatives identify and evaluate key design issues and feasibility constraints during the development of preliminary plans and plats.

It must be emphasized that SHA's requirements for a particular site access are subject to change over time as conditions, standards, and policies may dictate. Projects that do not move promptly from concept approval into final design and permitting may be subject to new or differing SHA requirements.

5.5 Timing Considerations

Successful coordination of highway access with subdivision and development plans begins at the concept stage, before considerable investment is made in the development process and related engineering design. The requirements of the respective approving authorities must be carefully anticipated and addressed in a proactive manner in order to avoid delays and conflicts at later stages. It is strongly recommended that applicants reserve an appropriate amount of time to allow sufficient review, comment, and approval by all agencies, including SHA.

Reflecting the discussion above, the following general guidelines are offered to avoid or reduce the possibility of delayed approvals and permits:

  • SHA approval of access concepts should be concurrent with preliminary plan or subdivision approval by the local authority.
  • SHA approval of feasible off-site highway improvement concepts should be concurrent with issuance of final site plans and subdivision approval.
  • Submission of SHA approved plans and acceptable surety is required before SHA will sign off on issuance of local grading permits. Hydraulic/hydrologic approval, if applicable, is also required.
  • Issuance of the Access Permit from AM is required before SHA will sign off on issuance of building permit(s).
  • Completion of the improvements specified by the Access Permit is required before SHA will sign off on issuance of the use and occupancy permit(s).

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