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Board finalizes details of proposed school-mitigation policy

Washington County Commissioners OK plan with exception for "age-restricted" housing

August 27, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday ironed out final details of a proposed amendment to a county ordinance that would create a standardized formula for determining school-mitigation costs imposed on developers.

Several speakers went before the five commissioners on Aug. 6 during a public hearing, expressing a variety of concerns about the proposed formula for an alternate mitigation contribution contained within the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

Tuesday’s discussion was prompted by questions raised at the public hearing that included the timing in which developers would have to pay the cost, as well as the guidelines for determining what the cost should be.

Stephen Goodrich, county planning and zoning director, said the proposed changes have been endorsed by the county Planning Commission, which recommended the amendment for adoption by the five commissioners as presented.

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The fee, which would be applicable up to 120 percent of rated capacity for an affected school, was previously evaluated and negotiated on a case-by-case basis in the past, county officials have said.

Given a consensus to move forward in July, county planning officials developed a mitigation formula that considers the cost of a school seat, life expectancy of a school building, pupil generation rates provided by the school system, the number of years students spend at each level of school, and the number of units contained within a proposed development.

The proposed formula would charge developers between $1,600 and $3,000 per unit, depending on the type of development. In the past, the average per-unit cost was about $6,800.

Under the proposed change, new “age-restricted” housing would no longer be exempt from the school-mitigation cost.

Commissioner Jeff Cline opposed the idea, saying the exemption should remain as is, because those designated developments — where at least 80 percent of homes must have a minimum of one resident who is 55 or older — typically do not produce more students in county schools.

After some discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the proposed amendment as presented, with the exception suggested by Cline.

The commissioners decided to allow developers six months after receiving final plat approval to make their school-mitigation payment, which must be made before applying for building permits.

A final ordinance for approval will be drafted for the board’s next meeting on Sept. 17.

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