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Washington County Board of Commissioners seeks to define purpose of APFO

April 14, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Washington County officials are re-examining their philosophy on allowing developers to build homes in areas that have overcrowded schools.

The issue centers around the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which forbids such development but allows for mitigation agreements — typically payments made by the developer toward school construction — to allow projects to proceed.

During a work session Tuesday morning, the Washington County Board of Commissioners agreed it needs to decide the purpose of that ordinance, which can be viewed either as a roadblock to growth in areas with crowded schools or as a tool to help fund schools and make way for growth in those areas.

"Over my career, I've seen it both ways," Washington County Planning Director Michael C. Thompson said. "One board might have it as a no-growth tool, then the next board modified it to give it more flexibility, and the next board put it back to a no-growth tool. So that's really the basic question, ... how does the board want to see this document viewed?"

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray argued against using the ordinance to prevent growth.

"Control of growth is through zoning, through your planning documents," Murray said. "That is not what the APFO is intended to do. It's intended to make sure the infrastructure is adequate to facilitate (growth) where the growth is approved through the planning process."

Others in the community have been pressing the commissioners to tighten their level of control over new development. Strict enforcement of the APFO formed the centerpiece of Green Party candidate Joe Lane's unsuccessful campaign for a county commissioner seat last fall.

"I have heard from numerous citizens on both sides," Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said Tuesday. "Developers want less control, some of the conservative points of view want more control, but everybody wants clarity and simplicity."

The commissioners agreed to continue their discussion about the APFO at another work session to be scheduled for a future meeting.

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Editor's note: This story was edited April 14, 2011 to correct "APFO" in the headline

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