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Town is asked to consider adopting county ordinance

March 11, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop on Wednesday asked the Hancock Town Council to consider adopting part of a county ordinance that charges developers a fee if they build homes in areas where schools are at 85 percent capacity or higher.

The county amended its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance in December 2003 that requires developers to pay $7,353 per housing unit in those school areas.

The fees will go toward the cost of increasing school capacity, such as building additional classrooms or new schools.

The amendment took effect in the county Jan. 1. It does not apply to school areas that are within municipalities.

The county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance helps ensure roads, schools and other infrastructure are adequate to handle growth.

Shoop said he is visiting towns in the counties to ask that they consider adopting the part of the ordinance that applies to school capacity.

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The county also is working with the City of Hagerstown on adopting fee requirements similar to the county's ordinance, Shoop said.

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said the Town Council would consider Shoop's request.

The County Commissioners have said they would like the county's municipalities to adopt the fee structure to ensure money would be available for all over-capacity schools, rather than just those in the county's jurisdiction.

Shoop said Washington County Public Schools have gained an average of 300 new students in each of the last two years. At that rate, the school system could fill one new school a year, he said.

Shoop said the growth in the school system surprised the county, because it anticipated enrollment to be flat over the next several years.

In particular, he said the county is having "major capacity issues" in elementary schools in Hagerstown.

Shoop said the county's middle and high schools don't have a problem with overcrowding, but that all elementary schools except Hancock and Cascade are at least at 85 percent capacity or greater.

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