Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young is questioning why a middle school is needed to accommodate the possible construction of 2,050 homes north of Frederick city.
Young (R) sent an email to Frederick Mayor Randy MClement (R) and the five-member Frederick Board of Aldermen on Aug. 22, that said an elementary school — not a middle school — will be needed if the city approves the annexation of the Keller and Crum properties.
“I have heard discussion of your meetings concerning a site for a future middle school,” Young wrote. “However, when I look at the numbers, it is clear that the current capacity issues are at the elementary level, and there is significant middle school capacity for the forseeable future.”
Young did not disclose his numbers in the email.
Ray Barnes, executive director of Frederick County Public Schools’ Facilities Services, earlier this month informed the mayor and aldermen a middle school would be needed if the annexations are approved.
The schools that would serve students living in the Crum development include Lewistown Elementary, Monocacy Middle and Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.
The enrollment at Lewistown currently is 217 students — or 94 percent capacity, according to city reports. The enrollment at Monocacy is 758 students or 88 percent capacity, and the current enrollment at Thomas Johnson is 1,492 students or 71 percent capacity.
The schools that would serve students living in the Keller development include, Yellow Springs Elementary (102 percent capacity), Whittier Elementary (112 percent capacity), Monocacy Middle (87 percent capacity), West Frederick Middle (84 percent capacity), Gov. Thomas Johnson High (71 percent capacity), and Frederick High (85 percent capacity), according to city reports.
In an interview Monday, Young said he is more concerned that the annexations will be approved without a plan to address the need for an additional elementary school.
In 2009, the city annexed 285 acres of the Crum property from the county for the construction of 1,200 homes and a mix of businesses. The property sits west of U.S. 15, south of Sundays Lane and north of Willowbrook Road.
The applicant, Crum Farm Land LLC of Rockville, now is asking the city to annex an additional 252.76 acres that sits adjacent to the 285 acres annexed in 2009. However, the additional land is not slated for more homes, with the 1,200 homes now spread across both properties.
The Crum property site plan does include some land for an elementary school.
The 302.67-acre Keller property, which is currently zoned for agriculture in the county, sits at the intersection of Yellow Springs, Rocky Springs and Walter Martz roads. The Keller Corp. is asking the city to annex the land and rezone it to allow for the construction of 850 homes.
Young said he is concerned the building of an elementary school to accommodate Crum and Keller will be delayed. At issue is a provision that allows a developer to bypass school-capacity limits by waiting three years to build without paying any associated fees toward a new school, he said.
“They can’t sit there and talk about schools, and then allow a developer to wait three years to build and pay zero in mitigation fees,” he said. “It’s meaningless to wait three years.”
The aldermen last year passed a school mitigation fee ordinance that gives developers the option to pay a construction fee when the schools that feed their planned development are at 120 percent capacity. The money from the fee goes to the building of a new school.
Young said he wants those issues addressed by the city before the county commissioners are scheduled to discuss the annexations on Sept. 6. The process requires the county commissioners to vote Sept. 6 on whether they support the annexations into the city. The mayor and alderman are scheduled to have a public hearing on the two annexations later that night.
The aldermen discussed Young’s email at a Aug. 22 workshop, but they showed little interest in eliminating the three-year provision in the city’s growth ordinance.
“Mr. Barnes asked to discuss a middle school, he didn’t ask to discuss an elementary school,” Alderman Shelley Aloi (R) said.
Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) agreed.
“If the school system says, ‘We need to discuss a middle school,’ then I’m not willing to cavalierly drop that concern,” he said. “In talking about Crum and Keller, we need to address the issue of the middle school question. The school system has articulated that regardless of Mr. Young’s question, that a middle school will be needed in that area.”