Planner urges language change on schools' form Potential crowding created by new housing is issue

January 13, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

The answer the county planning commission has been getting to whether school construction plans are available to alleviate overcrowding caused by proposed subdivisions is "no." And "yes."

The "no" came from county school staffers, who decided about one month ago that they would no longer risk assuring the commission that school facilities would be adequate when that assurance hinged on construction projects more than five years away.

The "yes" came from County Planning Director Edmund R. Cueman, who began annotating the forms with a "yes" in the margin beside the Department of Education's "no" when he found projects in the county's capital improvement program.

"I wasn't changing their 'no' to 'yes,' but I was annotating that form to indicate that the answer was 'yes,' " Mr. Cueman said yesterday.

He said he explained to the planning commission that the answer should be "yes," and the approval process for new subdivisions continued uninterrupted.

Mr. Cueman announced a compromise solution yesterday: change the language on the adequate facilities checkoff form.

Instead of asking whether there are plans to alleviate potential school crowding, the new form will ask, "Are there any improvements scheduled in the most recently adopted county capital improvement program that would alleviate the problem?"

The answer to that question can be critical to developers. When a subdivision is projected to create overcrowded schools and no plan is on record to alleviate the overcrowding, the planning commission is allowed to apply the county's adequate facilities law.

That law delays approval of subdivision plans in the affected area until the local government agency has a plan in place to provide such adequate facilities as roads and utilities. "When someone checks 'no' on that form where it says, 'Is there any plan in the works to alleviate this?' that's a red flag for me," he said.

But school officials became leery of relying on school building plans projected more than five years into the future, said William Hyde, assistant superintendent of schools for administration. A continuing slide in the economy would affect the county's ability to build those schools, he said.

Mr. Hyde said the school system didn't want to get into a situation where "several years from now, the houses are there, the kids are there, but the economy has changed and the county can't afford to build the schools."

Neither he nor Mr. Cueman indicated any animosity between the two agencies, but Mr. Cueman said failing to rely on the county's capital improvement program could damage the document's credibility. If the program is unrealistic, it should be adjusted rather than having an agency withhold adequate facilities approval on grounds that the projects may not be built, he said.

Mr. Hyde said school officials will sign the revised form "yes" in the future, but still would like county officials to look at commitment they can make to long-term projects.

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