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Developer seeks to delay mitigation payments until lots are sold

April 19, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

A developer who agreed to pay about $145,000 to the county to ease school crowding caused by a planned 25-home development off Jefferson Boulevard asked officials Tuesday if he could delay the payments until the lots are sold.

Developer Warren W. Churchey said paying the school mitigation up front would likely mean putting the Regent Park project on hold.

"You know the way banking is," Churchey told the Washington County Board of Commissioners. "Up-front money is critical anymore and is hard to come by, and that makes it really tough. In fact, if we don't get this (mitigation agreement change), most likely the project will not start right now because we'll be putting our up-front money to pay the APFO."

The APFO — or Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance — is a county ordinance that prohibits new subdivisions in areas with overcrowded schools, but allows exceptions under mitigation agreements such as the one approved for Regent Park in July 2009.

Regent Park, to be built on Trovinger Mill Road off Jefferson Boulevard east of Hagerstown, is expected to add about five students to Smithsburg High School, which, at the time of the agreement, was 4 percent over its capacity.

The 2009 agreement said the developer must pay $5,821.52 per lot, to be used to fund added school capacity, before the subdivision plat is recorded.

Instead, Churchey proposed paying that amount as each lot is sold and transferred.

"We're not here trying to get out of this mediation fee; we're not trying to reduce it or anything else," he said. "We're just trying to postpone it to when the lot is sold, and that's when it's actually needed."

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said if the county was going to renegotiate the agreement, she would like to see the county also benefit in some way from the renegotiation. She suggested adding deadlines to the agreement that would require the developer to stick to its proposed schedule of building four homes per year.

Callaham also asked Churchey to provide numbers to support his argument that a faster start on the project would mean a significant boost in the county's tax revenue from the properties.

Churchey agreed to return to a future meeting with a revised proposal and the requested figures.

The Regent Park property is owned by Churchey Group III LLC, which consists of Churchey and three partners. The homes would be built by his construction company, Jefferson House Builders, he said.

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