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Developers shouldn't control schools

January 18, 2004|by Jan Gardner and John "Lennie" Thompson Jr.

On Tuesday evening, Jan. 6, the (Frederick) Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a public hearing on an application to rezone 138.7 acres of land at the intersection of Elmer Derr Road and Ballenger Creek Pike from an Agricultural classification to a Planned Unit Development ("PUD") classification.

A majority of the BOCC voted to approve the application.

The rezoning will allow new development consisting of 763 dwelling units.

At the hearing, two Montgomery County lobbyists, Mark Friis and C. Robert Dalrymple represented the applicant for the rezoning, Ausherman Development.

Before construction of new dwellings may begin, the new development must pass the County's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO).

The APFO does not permit new development to proceed if one or more public schools that will serve the new development are overcrowded.

At the hearing, the lobbyists manifested an intention to attempt to influence the Frederick County Board of Education to use redistricting to remove enough students from the public schools that will serve the proposed new development in order to allow the new development to pass the APFO.

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We believe it would be wrong to use redistricting and forced busing of pupils out of our local schools for the benefit of land developers.

It is one thing to relieve overcrowding as a matter of safety; it is quite another to use our schoolchildren as pawns in an endless game of musical chairs in order to get more new developments approved.

Our kids are not another farm or grove of trees that developers can push out of the way with their bulldozers.

We pledge to "stand in the schoolhouse door," both figuratively and literally, if necessary, to resist any attempt by the lobbyists or the developer to persuade the BOE to redistrict and bus schoolchildren out of Tuscarora High School to Frederick High School (thereby worsening the anticipated future overcrowding at Frederick High School) as a means of getting around the APFO.

We urge the BOE to decline to communicate ex parte with the lobbyists or the developer about any redistricting or busing of schoolchildren out of the Orchard Grove or Tuscarora Elementary Schools, Ballenger Creek or Crestwood Middle Schools or Tuscarora High School as a means of allowing the new development to get around the APFO. We suggest putting children first!




Jan H. Gardner and John L. "Lennie" Thompson Jr., are members of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners.

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