Council rejects adequate public facilities change for schools

The Anne Arundel County Council this week defeated a proposal that would have paused new development sooner as county schools become full.

Bill 54-17 would have changed the county's adequate public facilities law so that development proposals would be put on hold in an area once the local school surpasses 95 percent capacity.


The ability to designate schools as "closed" is just one component of the APF law, which exists to ensure infrastructure keeps pace with development in Anne Arundel. The current standard for a "closed" school is any school where enrollment exceeds 100 percent of the building's capacity.

Council Chairman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie, introduced the measure in response to concerns about congested schools and communities.


"My bill is not going to fix all the harm or the bad things we have done but it's a step in the right direction," Grasso said. "I'm saying by operating at 100 percent, you're taking the school right to the edge, right to the cliff."

The Anne Arundel County Public School System backed the bill.

Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for AACPS, said the school system is struggling to keep up with a growing student body. Some new schools fill up very soon after opening — for example, he said, there are projected to be more than 1,000 students in the Linthicum Elementary School district within the next decade. The school opened not long ago as a building with capacity for 489 kids.

"This is not a perfect bill in any way, shape or form, but what we're doing today is not perfect either," Szachnowicz said.

But the bill was opposed by developers and County Executive Steve Schuh, who argued that it would unfairly hamper building projects in the county while failing to resolve underlying issues, such as how to handle the influx of young families with kids moving into existing homes.

"We believe that taxpayers are paying for 100 percent use of these schools and we should have 100 percent use of these schools," said Bernie Marczyk, Schuh's lobbyist. "We think this is really a Band Aid for some of the larger issues that we're seeing in the county."

Council members voted 4-3 to reject the bill. Grasso and Councilmen Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, and Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills, were the other "yes" votes.

Council members also held several bills until the body's next meeting on June 19. Legislation that was held includes:


•Bill 55-17, which would move public works notices for right-of-way-purchases, road abandonment and petitions for water and sewer expansion online. Some council members expressed concern about making sure people who don't use the internet are still able to get notice.

•Bill 53-17, which would require administrative hearings for special exceptions or rezoning requests to be held in the evening, starting no earlier than 7 p.m. Grasso, the bill's sponsor, said it is intended to make hearings more accessible to the public, while administration officials argued against the change, saying it was unnecessary and would place a burden on staff.

•Bill 34-17, which would require the council to approve regulations on towing businesses that contract with the county.

•Two bills related to agritourism. While farmers who had initially been wary of the bill said the administration had addressed their concerns with a series of amendments, south county residents and smart growth advocates continued to ask for more time to ensure the measure does not carry any unintended consequences.

This story has been updated to correct a statement about enrollment at Linthicum Elementary School. The school is projected to have more than 1,000 students in its district within the next decade.