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Setting aside land for schools

Planners to discuss requirement for developers

Planners to discuss requirement for developers

October 16, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Facing climbing enrollments in Washington County Public Schools, the county's Planning Commission is expected to discuss on Monday whether developers should be required to set aside land within large residential communities for new schools, County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said this week in an interview.

"I honestly see that happening in the very near future," Kercheval said of the proposal.

Kercheval said such a requirement would help the county's schools keep up with growth. The school system, he said, anticipates gaining several hundred new students a year.

"School capacity is going to be a major issue," Kercheval said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Friday he supports the idea for large developments.

"I think definitely we should require large developers to either provide the land or find suitable land elsewhere," Wivell said.

At least one developer, Ausherman Development, has offered the county land for a new school.

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The land is about 10 to 12 acres and is located in the middle of the Westfields site, a 773-unit development that's under construction along Sharpsburg Pike, south of Saint James Village.

County officials have said they're considering the offer.

Kercheval said the need for more school sites will increase as more large developments are planned.

"Some of these are small cities they're putting in there," Kercheval said.

Earlier this month, the Board of Education said its school construction and improvement needs total about $123 million, including $51.8 million for a new high school and a new elementary school near Eastern Elementary School.

The school system's enrollment increased by 448 students, or 2.3 percent, from September 2003 to September 2004, school board Chief Operating Officer William Blum said earlier this month.

The school system anticipates 519 more students by September 2005, he said.

Wivell said Friday that an efficient way of building schools might be to create campus-style settings where possible, which would contain several schools at one site.

The Planning Commission will meet Monday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Washington County Administrative Annex at 80 W. Baltimore St. in Hagerstown to discuss the possible requirement for developers.

Blum said in an interview last month that he liked the proposal.

"The acquisition of land from a developer for school buildings proposal is an excellent idea ..." he said.

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