Board pon­ders school ca­pac­ity

Prop­erty rights and chal­lenges ex­plored

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD [email protected]­

The Calvert County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s re­view of a win­ter re­port de­tail­ing the ca­pac­ity thresh­olds of pub­lic schools in the county spurred di­a­logue on pit­falls, prop­erty rights and the po­ten­tial for lit­i­ga­tion Dec. 19.

The Nov. 1 Ad­e­quate Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties Re­port for Schools, which com­pared school en­roll­ments to APF rated ca­pac­i­ties, re­vealed that Mt. Har­mony Ele­men­tary (110.1 per­cent) and North­ern High (100.4 per­cent) were deemed to have in­ad­e­quate APF ca­pac­i­ties. APFs are reg­u­la­tions that tie res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment ap­proval to the avail­abil­ity of schools and roads.

“With the open­ing of North­ern High School, the prospect of hav­ing the north­ern end of the county open again, what would hap­pen if Mt. Har­mony con­tin­ues this way where it is full and it ex­ceeds ca­pac­ity not with peo­ple indige­nous to that [catch­ment] area, but peo­ple are be­ing per­mit­ted to go there by con­ve­nience?” plan­ning com­mis­sion mem­ber Richard Holler asked.

The North­ern High School re­place­ment build­ing will open to stu­dents Jan. 3.

Holler also asked about the po­ten­tial for prop­erty own­ers who want to de­velop a site on their land for a child.

“Is that per­son go­ing to be de­nied the right to use their prop­erty be­cause the school is ar­ti­fi­cially full?” Holler asked.

“Yes, the chil­dren from that fam­ily could fall into those school rolls, and there wouldn’t be the checks and bal­ances of” APF, plan­ning com­mis­sion at­tor­ney John Mat­tingly said.

Mat­tingly said most fam­ily con­veyances fall out­side the APF ar­gu­ment be­cause they deal with less than seven lots, and a mi­nor sub­di­vi­sion is not ap­pli­ca­ble.

Holler asked if a de­vel­oper of a sub­di­vi­sion would be im­pacted

by schools that are “ar­ti­fi­cially” at ca­pac­ity.

Mat­tingly said de­vel­op­ers would be told they can­not build be­cause the county has in­ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties.

“If they are held up for seven years, it is au­to­mat­i­cally ap­proved,” Mat­tingly said. “Then the school would have to ab­sorb it.”

“If we re­ally meant to have no growth at all, we could sim­ply re­struc­ture the dis­tricts or work out an ar­range­ment like this where peo­ple from an­other dis­trict would be at­tend­ing schools and they would be full. I think there’s a ques­tion about prop­erty rights there,” Holler said, de­fer­ring the lat­ter to Mat­tingly’s ex­per­tise.

Mat­tingly said some other ju­ris­dic­tions have im­posed a 12-month mora­to­rium on over­crowded schools to give a

school sys­tem a year to ma­tric­u­late an­other class for­ward to avoid step­ping on some­one’s prop­erty rights.

“There’s no per­fect so­lu­tion when you’re deal­ing with that,” Mat­tingly said.

Holler said hav­ing de­vel­op­ers wait five years or more has not been tested in the courts, and he be­lieves Florida set the prec-


“We just se­lected seven years and no­body chal­lenged us. I al­ways kind of held my breath that sooner or later some­body some­where in Mary­land is go­ing to chal­lenge that kind of ar­bi­trari­ness,” Holler said.

Mat­tingly said that length of time was picked as a com­pro­mise and has not been chal-


“But to al­low some­one to go be­yond ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties just be­cause their project has been stalled for seven years gen­er­ally chal­lenges that na­ture comes from the anti-de­vel­op­ment side,” Mat­tingly said.

On Sept. 18, the for­mer Calvert County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers pro­posed text amend­ments to the Ad­e­quate Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties Or­di­nance that would have in­creased the thresh­old for ca­pac­ity in Calvert’s schools by 10 per­cent, open­ing the door for more de­vel­op­ment in north­ern Calvert. The com­mis­sion­ers also pro­posed an amend­ment to the county zon­ing or­di­nance to re­duce the length of time for max­i­mum de­lay for fi­nal ap­proval of res­i­den­tial sub­di­vi­sions or res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, from seven to six years.

The next day, the plan­ning board shot down the BOCC’s plans to in­crease the schools’ thresh­old for ca­pac­ity, pre­vent­ing the mea­sure from go­ing

for­ward to a joint pub­lic hear­ing. How­ever, the plan­ning com­mis­sion did ap­prove the change to the time pe­riod for the max­i­mum de­lay for fi­nal ap­proval of a res­i­den­tial sub­di­vi­sion or de­vel­op­ment to six years.

The pro­posal to re­duce the length of time for max­i­mum de­lay along with an ed­i­to­rial change to the num­ber of res­i­den­tial lots for mi­nor sub­di­vi­sions from five to seven pro­ceeded to a joint pub­lic hear­ing Nov. 27 be­tween the two boards, where both amend­ments were ap­proved.

At the De­cem­ber plan­ning com­mis­sion meet­ing, Chair­man Greg Ker­nan suggested the next time the re­port is on the plan­ning board’s agenda, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Calvert’s pub­lic schools be present. The next re­port is due April 1.

To see the win­ter re­port in its en­tirety, go to md. us/ Doc­u­men­tCen­ter/ View/21399.


Plan­ning com­mis­sion mem­ber Richard Holler, left, ques­tions the im­pact of “ar­ti­fi­cially” full schools dur­ing Dec. 19 meet­ing. Com­mis­sion mem­ber Steve Toohey and plan­ner Rachel O’Shea lis­ten in, as plan­ning at­tor­ney John Mat­tingly, right, pre­pares to an­swer.

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