Clear Spring farmer doesn't have to pay school mitigation fees on lots

July 20, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A Clear Spring-area farmer will not have to pay school mitigation fees on a proposed subdivision provided he uses proceeds from selling the lots to support his farming operation, the Washington County Commissioners decided Tuesday.

The agreement, approved by a 3-2 vote, allows John Horst to create five additional lots from his farmland along Ashton Road despite crowding at Clear Spring Elementary School, which would serve those lots.

Under the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the county may require mitigation, such as additional fees to support school construction, before allowing major subdivisions in areas with school capacity issues.

Clear Spring Elementary School's enrollment was 15 percent, or 58 students, over its local-rated capacity as of September 2009, said Rob Rollins, director of facilities planning and development for Washington County Public Schools.


The enrollment as of Sept. 30 was 427 students and the local-rated capacity is 369, Rollins said.

Based on recent trends, the five lots could be expected to generate two elementary school students, according to a letter from Washington County Public Schools.

Clear Spring middle and high schools, which would serve the new lots, have adequate capacity, the letter said.

Horst's proposed lots would be in addition to six others already created from the farm and would qualify as part of a major subdivision, according to a report from county Planning Director Michael C. Thompson.

Horst's lawyer, Frederic M. Frederick, said Horst was not a "typical developer" and would prefer not to subdivide the land, but he needed to do so to meet financial demands in the struggling economy. Horst might not even need to sell the lots, but could use them as collateral for borrowing, he said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell suggested charging $4,000 per lot mitigation fee, due at the time of sale, unless the proceeds of the sale are used to purchase farmland or support the applicant's farming operation.

Assistant County Attorney Andrew F. Wilkinson said the commissioners had the flexibility to create that type of mitigation agreement, but said he was concerned about the precedent it would set in terms of "how creative you want the agreements to get."

Commissioners Kristin B. Aleshire and James F. Kercheval voted against Wivell's proposal.

How they voted

By a 3-2 vote, the Washington County Commissioners approved an agreement to allow John Horst to create five additional lots for his farmland along Ashton Road without having to pay school mitigation fees.

John F. Barr -- Yes

Terry Baker -- Yes

Kristin B. Aleshire -- No

James F. Kercheval -- No

William J. Wivell -- Yes

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