Best planning and implementation toolbox

Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance:

Purpose of Tool:
Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances (APFOs) are implemented to ensure that when new development occurs, adequate public facilities and services are available, as well as consistency with locally approved Comprehensive Plans and Capital Improvement Programs.

Benefits of Using Tool:
Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances can help counties and municipalities manage growth, including unexpected growth spurts, by controlling the timing of new development. Other benefits include:
  • Linking the community vision and quality of life goals established in the comprehensive plan to the capital improvement program and development approvals
  • Improving efficiency of service delivery by encouraging development where and when it can be supported by existing infrastructure and services
  • Improving efficiency of land development patterns by encouraging developers to build at higher densities where facilities are adequate, for example in established central business districts or in-town neighborhoods.
  • Reducing demand for infrastructure and funding needs that already exist, thereby helping to maintain the fiscal stability of the local government
  • Providing clear and open information to the development community on where and when development will be approved

    Steps Involved to Use Tool:
    Before establishing an APFO, a local community should have other planning practices in place. These include a Comprehensive Plan or community master plan defining anticipated intensity and location of future growth, as well a public facilities and service assessment defining the level of infrastructure necessary to support the anticipated growth. Zoning should also be in place to support the comprehensive plan and the overall approach to providing public infrastructure. The Capital Improvement Program should phase public facility investment in a manner that is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan land use component and zoning ordinances.

    Once the planning framework is set, APFOs may be implemented to strengthen the development approval process. The general steps below outline how to establish an APFO.
    1. A community must determine what facilities to include in the APFO based on jurisdiction and community goals.
    2. Through a public process, set standards for each kind of facility (level of service for roads, sewerage capacity, school enrollment, etc.).
    3. Establish capacity of existing system and how to measure impacts of proposed developments.
    4. Establish means for developers to meet APFO requirements, either by constructing or improving existing facilities to meet the standard, paying proportionate share of costs to bring facilities up to standard, or by delaying development until public facilities are constructed or improved.
    5. Establish administrative and accounting system to manage APFO.
    6. Test impacts on a range of proposed developments including residential, commercial, industrial and institutional uses as appropriate to the local community.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    The State must have legislation in place that enables local jurisdictions to pass and to enforce APFOs. The adopting jurisdiction must have a standard for determining and/or tracking:
  • Adequate levels of service for roads, schools, water, sewerage and other facilities
  • Proportionate share of impacts for each development, which will lead to fees or facilities required
  • Facility use, capacity, and projected growth over time

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    A locally adopted Comprehensive Plan, Capital Improvement Plan and a development approval process are recommended in order to apply the APFO. Other needed resources include:
  • Funding source to improve facilities or services to meet standards
  • Financial management process, staff, and other resources required to implement ordinance
  • Administrative staff and procedures to manage development approvals, APFO required fees or improvements, and duration that local government can hold fees for future public facility improvements

    Additionally, the Maryland Department of Planning recommends complementary strategies to ensure that the APFO achieves its intended goals :
  • A policy for concentrating growth into designated growth areas
  • A policy for conserving rural areas for agricultural use and natural resource protection
  • A policy for directing resources to revitalize existing communities

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    This tool has been applied by local jurisdictions in the state of Maryland. Frederick County has an APFO, which was adopted in 1998, that applies to road, water, sewerage and school facilities. Contact:

    Maryland Department of Planning
    301 W. Preston Street, Suite 1101
    Baltimore, MD 21201
    Phone: 410-767-4500

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    Metrics used to measure the success of an APFO can vary by jurisdiction; however there are several that have broad-based applications. These include:
  • Reduction of debt that the local government incurs after ordinance implementation, versus before adoption. An APFO should reduce the need for the government to borrow to fund services and facilities to accommodate growth.
  • Roadway level of service, school enrollment versus capacity, park or greenspace area per capita, water treatment capacity versus peak load, or other standard facility measures depending on what facilities and services the ordinance addresses

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
    Information and additional resources may be found in the following areas:

    Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances (APFO) – Managing Maryland’s Growth

    South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Model APFO 


    1 Maryland Department of Planning, Model and Guidelines #24 Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances