Obstacles arise to alternate school site


An environmental review of an alternate site for the new Mayo Elementary School has found potential obstacles to development because of the possible impact to the Chesapeake Bay.

The 15.5-acre parcel, favored by a Mayo parents group, contains more than an acre of wetlands, and a piece of the property is classified as part of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, according to a review completed by KCI Technologies.

The review was triggered by parents who appealed Superintendent Carol S. Parham's decision to bus Mayo Elementary School pupils to Annapolis Middle School for two years during construction of a new school on the existing site. The parents proposed an alternate site across the street from the elementary school.

Lynn Krause, a lawyer representing the Mayo parents, said the review's findings would not prohibit development of the new site.

"They are not huge issues," he said. "Any time you develop any piece of property there are minor problems you have to overcome."

Krause said the school board granted the Mayo parents a second postponement of their appeals hearing -scheduled for tomorrow and Thursday - so school officials could begin negotiating to buy the alternative site.

The appeals hearing was originally scheduled for April 17 and 18, but the Mayo parents asked for a postponement to allow school officials to study the site.

Mark Moran, supervisor of design and engineering for county schools, said the school system's planning staff will meet with county environmental officials to discuss the study.

KCI Technologies has sent its findings on wetlands to the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both agencies must perform studies of the wetlands area. Any development is subject to final approval by the Corps of Engineers.

Development of property within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area requires a zoning variance from the county, the report states.

"The Corps of Engineers are the only ones that can say, 'Yes this is an official wetland,' or 'No, it's not,'" Moran said.

The site proposed by the Mayo parents consists of 8 acres owned by the Mayo Community Association and 7.5 acres owned by St. Andrew the Fisherman Episcopal Church.

The KCI report notes that the Corps of Engineers may prohibit development on the site, because construction on the existing site would not disturb wetlands.

The parents' proposal calls for the Mayo Civic Association to take over the Mayo Elementary building once the new school is built and use it as a community center.

"It is my clients' desire that the new Mayo Elementary School be built on the alternate site," Krause said. "It's much larger and has more advantages."

The KCI report found that a Mayo Community Association building on the alternate site contains several hazardous materials, including lead paint and possibly asbestos. The structure's demolition would require permits from the appropriate reviewing agencies.

The report labels the potential for problems with hazardous materials related to the destruction of the building as "minimal."

If the new school is built on the alternate site, the report recommends field testing "for any possible downstream contamination due to ... fuel tanks," because of an adjacent gas station.

The Mayo parents' appeal stemmed from Parham's plan to bus about 340 Mayo Elementary pupils to a wing of Annapolis Middle school for two years while their 64-year-old school was razed and a new one was built on the same site.

Scores of Mayo parents protested and appealed to the school board, maintaining that the 45-minute one-way bus ride was too long for elementary pupils.

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