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Hagerstown keeps ordinance to prevent new development in areas where schools are over capacity

April 09, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

The city of Hagerstown will keep its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for schools, which prevents the approval of new development in areas where schools are over capacity, the Hagerstown City Council decided Tuesday in a discussion propelled by the county’s vote to cut the excise tax last month.

The discussion to keep or repeal the city’s APFO follows the Washington County Commissioners’ March 26 vote that lowered the cost of new construction by cutting the excise tax on residential construction from $3 per square foot of habitable gross square footage to $1 per square foot, and on new residential retail construction from $3 per square foot to $1 per square foot on the first 15,000 square feet, and $3 per square foot thereafter.

Under the APFO, the city collects 28 percent of the excise tax received by the county for construction in Hagerstown.

Planning Director Kathleen Maher said Tuesday in a meeting at City Hall that the city’s APFO allows for periodic review of whether there is a continuing need for the ordinance and repeal of the ordinance if the mayor and city council “determine that retention of the ordinance has become detrimental to the ability of the city to administer its policies and goals affecting growth and development in the city.”

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“First of all ... with or without an excise tax, I’m not a real firm believer in having development exceed the capacity of the schools that they’re in,” Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said. “I don’t have any regret nor any reason to say that we should get rid of something that says we aren’t going to allow growth to exceed our capacity.”

According to an April 5 memo from Maher to city Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, since the city’s APFO went into effect in 2006, 11 proposed residential developments, four of which eventually were approved, have been affected by schools over capacity.

According to earlier Herald-Mail reports, while the city’s APFO prevents new development in areas that have overcrowded schools, mitigation agreements, such as payments made by the developer to fund school construction, allow the facilitation of projects.

Between fiscal years 2006 and 2012, the memo states, the city retained $2.3 million of the excise tax revenue collected from development projects in Hagerstown.

City expenditures from its excise tax fund total $1,434,911, and proposed expenditures from its the fund total $1,052,419.

“I believe in excise tax, I believe in impact fees, I believe in Adequate Public Facilities. However, I don’t like to be beholden to somebody else,” Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said.

The city, according to the memo, does not have control over the county’s Capital Improvement Projects for schools or the county’s decisions on how to raise funds for CIP or negotiate with developers.

“We must rely upon the county to successfully resolve those issues as long as we have an APFO for schools,” the memo states. “If the city repealed its APFO, we would no longer be able to retain a portion of the county’s excise tax but we would be free to approve new residential development projects.”

“Right now, I don’t see a problem that needs to be fixed,” Metzner said. “If somebody’s coming to us and telling us that we aren’t having growth because of the APFO ... we have the absolute right to change this, amend this.”

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