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APFO concerns voiced

March 29, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday approved the introduction of an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that largely echoes the county's requirements for school capacity.

The city's ordinance includes no requirements for fire, water, sewer or other services.

According to a schedule provided by the city, the council could vote on approving the measure next month, which would make the city eligible to retain 28 percent of excise taxes collected within the city.

Though they unanimously approved introducing the ordinance, several members voiced concerns about how the ordinance might affect redevelopment efforts. City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said after the meeting that the city's portion of the Washington County excise tax is about $910,000 this fiscal year.

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Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Kristin B. Aleshire said during a joint meeting with members of the Washington County Board of Education that they are concerned the ordinance would hamper growth.

"It has the potential to stop certain types of developments in the area we really need to push for," Metzner said.

According to the ordinance, new development could go forward if schools in the area have space to accommodate new students or if the City Council, with the approval of the County Commissioners, agrees to a mitigation plan.

According to the schedule provided by the city, the ordinance could go into effect May 25.

Washington County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer G. William Blum told the council during the joint meeting that 49 percent of the system's students go to Hagerstown city schools. Fifty-nine percent of the system's portable classrooms are at schools in the city, he said.

"So far, we have been able to maintain our student-teacher ratios. That may not be the case as we move forward," he said.

Metzner said school officials and representatives should be aware of the "push-pull" between school capacity concerns and development efforts.

Developments that have received preliminary plat or site approval before the ordinance's effective date, new development that does not result in the creation of additional dwelling units and new development of single-family or two-family units requiring only building permits are exempt from the ordinance. In addition, the ordinance includes an exemption allowing for residential subdivisions in the South Hagerstown and North Hagerstown high school attendance areas, in equivalent numbers to any exempted the previous year by the county.

Board member Wayne D. Ridenour said school officials are not "terrified" of growth.

"But if we see 100 kids come to Fountaindale (Elementary School) in one year's time, we have serious issues," Ridenour said.

Aleshire said the city's downtown redevelopment efforts center around buildings that already exist. "Any detriment to that process, in my opinion, I would not be in favor of," he said.

Aleshire and Metzner said during discussions later in the meeting they are concerned about the city's sewer capacity.

"I believe that Lew's completely correct. We're going to run out of sewer capacity before we run out of school capacity," Aleshire said.

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