Planning department adjusts school facilities formula to address growth
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.