The Frederick County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to repeal the ordinance that has applied the county adequate public facilities schools test to certain properties in municipalities since November 2009.
The ordinance was not applied in practice before several municipalities challenged its legality in December 2009. Petitions for judicial review of the ordinance were filed by the municipalities of Frederick, Thurmont, Brunswick, Emmitsburg and Myersville, the burgess and commissioners of Middletown, Woodsboro, Summers Farm LLP and Crum Commercial Farm Development LLC.
The county’s stated purpose for adopting the ordinance was to ensure that schools would be built before development could overburden them in areas the City of Frederick annexed — the Summers and Crum farms among them. Municipal leaders balked at the suggestion that they do not plan for school needs when approving development, presented arguments that the county had overcrowded schools in unincorporated areas before 2009, and that the county may have no legal right to impose the ordinance.
On Tuesday, many municipal leaders and builders told commissioners that the previous Board of County Commissioners had soured the relationship between the county and municipalities, and the ordinance worsened the situation. Mayors, burgesses, builders and land-development lawyers assured commissioners that they would work cooperatively with the county to plan for school capacity and would withdraw the legal action if the county would rescind the ordinance.
That order of events is wrong, said Commissioner David Gray. He advocated ideas from speakers who urged commissioners not to repeal the ordinance until something was written to replace it, a memorandum of understanding or an agreement to set certain standards that limit development according to school capacity.
Opponents of the repeal said Gray is the only one who is thinking of the effect that overcrowded schools would have on children. Commissioners President Blaine Young and Commissioner Paul Smith said they have children in public school, and they are taking into account the effect the repeal will have.
Lawyer Rand Weinberg said the commissioners should repeal the ordinance because it did not foster cooperation but represented an attempt to negotiate with a hammer over the heads of municipalities.
“The least productive way to negotiate a good solution … is with a threat,” he said.
Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, whose municipality was at the heart of the original matter before he took office, said he would work closely with the county on a solution. He said he was not speaking for the city aldermen, but believed they would be willing to work with the county to set an adequate public facilities ordinance for the city that would meet county approval.
The ordinance repeal went into effect Tuesday.
Originally published March 02, 2011
By Patti S. Borda