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Changes to law on school-crowding mitigation taking shape

September 13, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Washington County officials drew closer Tuesday to finalizing a list of changes to the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance related to school-crowding mitigation by developers.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners has been discussing the changes since deciding in February that the approval process for school mitigation had been too time-consuming and inefficient.

Previously, a majority of the five commissioners had agreed that developers should be provided with a standard formula for calculating mitigation payments. They said that the capacity level at which elementary schools would be considered overcrowded under the ordinance should be raised from 90 percent to 100 percent of their state-rated capacity.

On Tuesday, discussion focused on several other potential changes to the ordinance, such as when in the process to require mitigation payments and how many years’ worth of approved, but unbuilt, development should be factored into school-capacity analyses.

Commissioners President Terry Baker argued against making any changes to the ordinance.

“It’s worked well all these years,” Baker said. “I’m not so sure we shouldn’t just keep what we already have in place.”

Commissioner William B. McKinley said the revisions were meant to make the ordinance more efficient.

“The developers, I believe, thought that we were making them play a guessing game, so to speak, because they would come in and offer mitigation, and it would be rejected by the commissioners in the past, but the commissioners could not follow up with any kind of a schedule or any kind of idea to give them as to what would be acceptable,” McKinley said.

Assistant County Attorney Andrew Wilkinson said after the discussion that he would work on integrating the commissioners’ desired changes into a draft ordinance for their approval.

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