We are in the process of re-evaluating Gaithersburg’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) with respect to school crowding. Proposed changes would provide funding to build new school capacity.
The city’s APFO was originally adopted in 2007 and modified in 2012. The County and the City of Rockville have adopted similar ordinances. The objective is to ensure that development does not exceed the capacity of our schools, roads, and other infrastructure. Exceeding the capacity of resources can result in a moratorium on new development that would worsen the issue.
However, it has become clear that new development is not the sole cause of overcapacity. Some communities with good schools have found that enrollment continues to rise as houses are sold, with more families with young children moving in than families whose children “age out” of those schools. The APFO may reduce the issue, but it does not appear to solve it. Even worse, by blocking development, the planners at MCPS do not provide for new capacity in the MCPS capital improvement plan (CIP).
Before there was an APFO, the danger was that development would move faster than MCPS could construct schools. This seemed sensible at the time, but as we have seen it has not solved the issue. Without new school construction, the issue keeps getting worse.
Last night, the Mayor, City Council, and the Planning Commission held a joint public hearing to review changes to the program developed by the Planning Department staff under direction from the elected officials.
The proposals in development for a revised APFO for Gaithersburg would require developers to pay a special fee for developments that would increase usage of over-capacity schools. That fee would be calculated to cover the cost of new classroom construction and would be earmarked specifically to relieve congestion in the affected school. The fee would be turned over by the city to MCPS when school construction is approved.
Short of the state government suddenly finding itself in a position to provide the funding necessary to build the schools we need in the county – which could literally run more than a billion dollars, just to catch up to current capacity needs – the revised Gaithersburg APFO would permit new development as long as the development itself funds the new schoolrooms that are needed.
MCPS is still going to need to chip in, which means that the county and state are going to need to find additional funding, since existing homes that turn over are contributing to the issues and there is no clear source of funding there. But the new APFO that is being discussed should go a long way to providing the relief we need.
The presentation on the proposed APFO changes can be found here: http://sirepub.gaithersburgmd.gov/…/4553207072015045532482.…
And more details are here: http://sirepub.gaithersburgmd.gov/…/4553307072015045733500.…
You can view the video of the Joint Work Session here (beginning at 1:26): http://video2.siretech.net/…/Mayor%20and%20Ci…/2350/2350.mp4