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Washington County residents can weigh in on proposed school-mitigation cost changes

Public hearing scheduled for Aug. 6

July 31, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

A public hearing scheduled for next week will give residents a chance to weigh in on proposed changes to a Washington County ordinance that mandates how school-mitigation costs will be levied on developers.

The proposal to amend the county Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, or APFO, will be presented Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. in the county administrative building at 100 W. Washington St.

The proposed changes include creating a formula to determine monetary contributions when schools exceed student capacity thresholds currently specified in the ordinance, but do not exceed 120 percent of the state-rated capacity, according to a county news release.

The five-member Washington County Board of Commissioners came to an informal consensus on the ordinance update during their July 16 meeting.

The update would establish a standardized formula to determine monetary contributions from developers when additional students are expected to be generated by new development.

The county’s current ordinance does not include such a formula for school-mitigation costs.

The amendments specify factors to be used in calculating the cost, known in the proposal as an Alternate Mitigation Contribution, and when it must be paid, the release said.

During the July 16 meeting, Stephen Goodrich, director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning, presented a proposed formula for the school-mitigation costs.

The proposal would take into account the cost of a student seat, years of useful life of the seat or school building, pupil generation rates for the type of dwelling considered and the number of years a student would spend in that type of school.

In general, the cost for various housing developments — including townhomes, apartments and single-family homes — would range from about $1,600 to $3,000 per unit, according to calculations previously provided to the commissioners.

Commissioners President Terry Baker has said that the proposed costs would be significantly lower than costs to developers in the past, which averaged more than $6,000 per unit. Each mitigation plan was previously handled on a case-by-case basis without a formalized calculation.

The need for an amendment to the ordinance was exemplified several months ago, when a developer proposed paying nothing to build in western Hagerstown, where all the schools serving the area were projected to be pushed above rated capacities as a result.

Goodrich then told the commissioners a formula should be considered to make the process more certain for developers.

The commissioners disagreed with the developer’s initial proposal, but later settled on a school-mitigation cost of about $2,000 per unit for the 272-apartment complex at The Reserve at Collegiate Acres between Salem Avenue and Maugansville Road.

In addition, the proposed changes would eliminate the current exemption from school adequacy requirements for housing limited to senior citizens, and modifications to the data used to determine school adequacy. It also ensures that an applicant receives 12 months to secure planning commission approval with school enrollment data at that time of the filing.

A copy of the proposed text amendment is available for review on the Washington County website at www.washco-md.net.

Information related to the official record is available for review at the Washington County Planning Department at 80 W. Baltimore Street.

Interested parties will have a chance to be heard at the Aug. 6 hearing. Written comments can be submitted to the Office of the County Commissioners, 100 W. Washington Street, Room 226, Hagerstown, and via email at commissioners@washco-md.net until the close of the hearing.

If you go ...

What: Public hearing on proposed changes to Washington County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for school-mitigation contributions on new developments

When: Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m.

Where: Commissioners meeting room (Room 227) in the county administrative building, 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown

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