The Howard County Council Makes First Change—Comprehensive APFO Changes Still Pending

The Howard County Council has passed the first Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) changes effective Jan.14, 2017. This is separate from the comprehensive APFO updates under consideration. The modifications allow additional housing allocations in downtown Columbia when the West Columbia school district averages over 100 percent capacity. In addition, the council removed language that would have disallowed modifications to the APFO rules for downtown Columbia for a period of 40 years. This still means that APFO tests for overcrowding will remain at the original levels (115 percent elementary, 115 percent middle and unlimited high school) unless they are updated.

School Board to Hold Public Hearings on Policy 6010

On Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. the school board will hold public hearings on Policy 6010. While Policy 6010 (School Attendance Areas) is not the same regulation as APFO, it is directly related because new projects under development that may add capacity to the school system are officially tested against attendance projections and utilization levels defined in Policy 6010. The current recommendations brought forward are to retain the 90-110 percent target utilization of school facilities.

The next phase of APFO updates announced by the county executive will be a review of the APFO task force recommendations by the Howard County Planning Board, which will in turn pass recommendations to the county council for any legislation proposed. While the Baltimore Sun reported, this could be as early as January. The agenda for the planning board are only posted two weeks prior to the meeting so PTAs may not have advanced notice to discuss with their members in monthly meetings if they want to provide testimony. It is recommended that PTA members read the rules of procedure ahead of time so that their opinions will not be considered invalid. The next scheduled planning board meeting is 7pm Feb 3rd at the George Howard Building. If APFO is not on the agenda, the planning board will meet on Feb. 17.

Capital budgets for school construction are still in progress with sites at Jessup, Turf Valley and Columbia in consideration. In addition, the state of Maryland is actively reviewing school construction costs. All development approval is still operating under older APFO thresholds for capacity

RECAP

What is APFO?
The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance is a set of zoning regulations that test if there is enough infrastructure to proceed with or temporarily limit growth.

What tests are relevant to the PTA?
Key tests are capacity availability in an individual school, capacity availability in a school region, residential unit allocations allowed per year, and various tests for safety such as intersection congestion.

What should the PTA be aware of?

  • Various capacity regulations that allow growth when school capacity exceeds 100%.
  • There are no current or task force recommended tests for capacity of High Schools.
  • Mitigation for growth can be in the form of a combination of delays (which cannot last forever by SCOTUS), or fees (Which cannot exceed actual cost of project’s impact). The present combination is underperforming.

My school is OK, so how does this affect me?
All schools are subject to redistricting in 2017 to balance adjacent student populations that operate over capacity. Capacity issues can affect all schools over time. There is no upper limit to the amount of overcrowding allowed once a temporary delay to an individual development project is fulfilled.

What is the process and timeline?
The exact timeline is unannounced and requires close attention by PTACHC members.

Does the PTACHC have a position on this legislation?
The PTACHC voted to request extra review time from council to go over new APFO regulations when submitted in order to state positions on specific items going forward. The PTACHC also recommended APFO capacity thresholds for additional growth not exceed 100% utilization for elementary, middle, and high school tests.

Are there APFO bills under consideration now that have not been voted on (as of today)?
The planning board is going to make recommendations based on a task force report. The consideration Is open to public input, but the final legislation has not been drafted.

What should I do?
Inform and educate your PTA early. Contribute feedback to PTACHC, Planning Board, BOE and Council by letter or testimony throughout the process. Recommend improvements that promote PTA mission of education and safety.

Where can I find official information?
Review the task force recommendations report.  Check the list of (ALL) new regulations currently under consideration (The list is live, and changes as new regs are submitted).

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