Plan­ning depart­ment ad­justs school fa­cil­i­ties for­mula to ad­dress growth

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

The county’s year by year growth has forced the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers to con­sider in­creas­ing the avail­able school al­lo­ca­tion of­fers for school districts in the county’s ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties or­di­nance.

Dur­ing last week’s county com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing, the Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Growth Man­age­ment pre­sented al­ter­na­tives for in­creased growth to the board of com­mis­sion­ers.

The county’s cur­rent for­mula op­er­ates with 64 dwellings added in com­mu­ni­ties each year cre­at­ing a need for 29 stu­dents to be added to the school sys­tem yearly.

John Mudd, re­source man­ager for plan­ning and growth man­age­ment, said the county’s pre­ferred plan would would cal­cu­late the al­lo­ca­tion of­fers based on 110 per­cent of the state rated ca­pac­ity, which is what the county cur­rently op­er­ates on.

Ac­cord­ing to the al­ter­na­tive method pre­ferred, the county is pro­jected to see 712 new dwelling units added over the next three years of the cap­i­tal im­prove­ments program.

But these are only pro­jec­tions, Mudd said. The num­bers are still fluid, but are “rea­son­ably close” to what the county ex­pects them to be.

“These num­bers are not cast in stone. These num­bers were pro­duced last sum­mer, ac­tu­ally. In the fu­ture, upon the choice of an al­ter­na­tive, these num­bers may not be the same,” Mudd said.

The pro­jec­tions in­clude new dwelling approvals for St. Charles at 317 per year and de­vel­oper rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties agree­ments stretch­ing out over a five year pe­riod while adding 153 lots per year.

“That’s based on the to­tal slate to­day on ex­ist­ing ap­proved agree­ments,” Mudd said.

Be­yond five or six years, Mudd said, the num­bers will slide down with the halt of agree­ments be­ing ap­proved be­cause of county leg­is­la­tion.

This al­ter­na­tive would put Charles County on par with other ju­ris­dic­tions through­out the state us­ing the 110 per­cent thresh­old for ca­pac­ity. It’s a “sim­ple method,” Mudd said, and would give the county a “con­sid­er­able in­crease” with a pop­u­la­tion that con­tin­ues to grow.

Ja­son Groth, the chief of plan­ning and growth man­age­ment, said there still needs to be a pub­lic hear­ing on the al­ter­na­tive be­fore the county adopts it. But should it move for­ward, new al­lo­ca­tions would be brought be­fore the board for them to make a de­ci­sion on them.

County Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) said if this is ap­proved and the doc­u­ment is up­dated, the county should in­clude a state­ment about what the school board needs to do when school con­struc­tion is be­ing de­layed.

With some school per­mits still in progress on the cap­i­tal im­prove­ment sched­ule, the county has to con­sider dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties, Ste­wart said.

“Would that be some­thing we need to ad­dress in the pol­icy doc­u­ment? Be­cause I’m think­ing we should,” Ste­wart said.

Groth said plan­ning and growth man­age­ment did re­search on this, and there is nor­mally a “two year buf­fer” be­tween the time a school is sched­uled on the cap­i­tal im­prove­ment program and the time stu­dents are at­tend­ing the school.

For the school to be in­cluded in the ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties of­fers, the project’s com­ple­tion would have to be “im­mi­nent” within the next three years. But with an­other two years to work with, Groth said, the county should be cov­ered.

Still, he said, it would not hurt to in­clude lan­guage about what hap­pens in case of de­lays.

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said the pub­lic hear­ing for the pro­posed al­ter­na­tive will be held on June 14.

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