Mobilize HoCo Schools Statement on Council Resolution 97-2019

The goal of Mobilize HoCo Schools is to support and advocate on behalf of all children – existing and new – in our school system. We firmly believe that each and every one of our students deserves a seat inside a brick and mortar classroom. Anything less is unacceptable.

For this reason, we have serious concerns about the Robinson Overlook project (Council Resolution 97-2019).

The Robinson Overlook project is the first affordable housing project exemption request to come before the County Council under Amendment 3 to the 2018 Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) legislation (CB1-2018). Amendment 3 was added in during the final deliberations of the bill and gives the Council authority to allow certain developments to skip the schools test and proceed to be built in a school attendance area that is otherwise closed for development due to overcrowding.

The Council’s action on Council Resolution 97-2019 will be very important as it will set a precedent on exemptions going forward. We believe that for any APFO exemption, we should be looking at the school system capacity holistically to determine whether the infrastructure can support it. While one development may be projected to add just 10-15 students to the school system, that number of students coming from many developments across 250 square miles certainly adds up. And, as we heard during budget discussions, taken as a whole, our school system is already overcapacity.

Exemptions for development when our schools are well over 100% as a whole should not be granted. We simply do not have the infrastructure to support it. Kids need to be inside their schools and every exemption risks moving us further and further away from that.

As a community, Mobilize HoCo Schools acknowledges and understands that we have an affordable housing issue in our county. That has been allowed to happen because of fee-in-lieu options and other loopholes that our county has provided to let developers off the hook for building affordable units. The irony is that developers are now flipping the script and making it seem like affordable housing is a priority for them, because they want the exemptions to move their projects forward.

We are concerned about those who seek to make affordable housing a wedge issue that pits our community against itself. Calling each other names during this discussion only serves to divide our community, which is exactly what developers and certain politicians are hoping to see.

Our group will continue to focus on identifying and addressing the root causes of school overcrowding and education funding shortfalls. We will seek to forge a holistic path forward to create a solid infrastructure which serves all children, rather than continuing to make myopic decisions which set us back.

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I came across this statement last night on social media (and asked and got permission to share it on the blog).

There will be a special public hearing on Council Resolution 97-2019 immediately following the monthly Howard County Council meeting today at 2:00pm. Here is more information on that from Howard County Council Member Liz Walsh:

The Howard County Council voted unanimously to table this legislation back on July 1st during the Legislative session. It should be interesting to see what is said at the special public session this afternoon.

Have thoughts in this topic…let me know in the comments.

Scott E

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