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School official seeks to stop development

October 20, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The chief operating officer of Washington County Public Schools asked the City of Hagerstown on Tuesday to block a more than 1,400-unit development from being built in the Robinwood Drive area, saying the school system doesn't have the room for the approximately 900 students the development would generate.

"I would ask that you not allow that development to go forward," Chief Operating Officer William Blum said during a meeting with the Board of Education, Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown City Council.

The groups met to discuss the school system's growing enrollment and capacity needs.

The site of the proposed 1,478-unit development, Mount Aetna Farms, is in Washington County, but it could be annexed into the city's boundaries and hooked to the city's water and sewer systems.

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Blum called a development of that size a "city in and of itself."

The School Board said a development of that size would require the school system to build another elementary school in that area. The School Board projects Mount Aetna Farms to generate 531 elementary students. It would add another 403 students to the area's middle and high schools.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner and Councilman Kristin Aleshire said the city would have the authority to delay or deny the project from moving forward based on a lack of school capacity.

Breichner said he thought the city would have an obligation to reject the development.

The project's developer, Quillen Development Inc., did not return a phone call Tuesday afternoon.

After the meeting, County Commissioner John C. Munson said he thought the developer would want the property to be annexed into the city to get out of paying the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) fee for schools.

The APFO charges developers $7,355 per dwelling unit if they want to build in areas where schools are at 85 percent capacity. That money then goes toward increasing school capacity, such as building schools or adding classrooms.

The APFO fee would apply to Mount Aetna Farms, Munson said.

According to the School Board, the entire school system grew at a rate of 2.1 percent from Sept. 30, 2003 to Sept. 30, 2004, or an increase of 426 students. As of Sept. 30, the system's enrollment was 20,310 students.

The School Board projects an enrollment growth of 547 students between Sept. 30, 2004 and Sept. 30, 2005, or a rate of 2.6 percent.

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