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City, school board at odds over APFO

Doubts expressed about legislation's ability to prevent school overcrowding

Doubts expressed about legislation's ability to prevent school overcrowding

July 13, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Council members on Tuesday disagreed with some wishes of the Washington County Board of Education, saying they will push for wording on a new law that will aid some downtown redevelopment as well as not create financial difficulties for developers or homeowners.

At its Tuesday work session, the City Council took up a discussion on the city's proposed Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), which would in part link the ability to build new homes to the amount of available space in local schools for new students.

The city is in the midst of drafting its APFO while the Washington County Commissioners are forming similar legislation. Both APFOs are linked to the new county excise tax on new buildings, which took effect after a commissioners vote Tuesday.

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If the city's APFO doesn't stray too far from the county's in regard to the school limits, the city can get up to 28 percent of the excise tax collected within city limits.

But according to a letter dated July 1 from Washington County School Board President Paul Bailey, the board has several concerns over the city's version of the APFO.

The board "does not believe that the proposed APFO will prevent overcrowding or the use of portables. ...," Bailey wrote

Bailey also said the board believes the city's APFO standards on school limits might stray too far from the county' s proposed APFO, "and will result in overcrowding and the use of portables."

Bailey said one of the board's concerns is an exemption from meeting school capacity tests for mixed-use buildings in a "Revitalization Area," although that term is not defined in the ordinance.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he thinks that exemption should stay because it would help in the effort to make use of vacant space in downtown buildings.

The Board of Education also said the APFO should measure school adequacy at several points along the housing development process, but Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire disagreed.

Aleshire, with support from Metzner, said the city's APFO should not overburden developers or future homeowners with having to meet the school criteria multiple times.

Also, "that's an administrative nightmare for our staff," Aleshire said.

Metzner said he believed other concerns raised by the Board of Education can be worked out. Those concerns were over the city's wishes to exempt some housing developments of 25 or fewer lots, or that develop no faster than 25 lots per year.

The city is unlikely to vote on the APFO this month because it hinges on the county's final APFO, which the commissioners tabled Tuesday for further changes.

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