The cost to developers for mitigating the impact of residential projects on schools is a negotiated process, but it would be replaced with a standard formula under a plan outlined Tuesday for the Washington County Board of Commissioners by Planning and Zoning Director Stephen T. Goodrich.
Currently, under the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, or APFO, a developer with seven or more residential lots would pay a mitigation fee if the schools in its region were above certain thresholds for state-rated capacity, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said. Those are 90 percent of student capacity for elementary schools and 100 percent of capacity for middle and high schools, according to the APFO.
“As development continues to pick up ... sooner or later, the questions of these mitigation plans is going to come up again,” Goodrich told the commissioners.
A standardized formula would be fairer to developers, easier to administer and, while it might not generate the same money per unit as the current system, the certainty of a formula might ease the way for future development, Goodrich told the commissioners.
The formula is the cost of a school seat, divided by the useful life of a school building, multiplied by the number of pupils generated by particular types of development, times the number of years a student would be expected to attend the schools in his or her region.
As an example, recently built elementary schools have cost about $25 million and a single-family dwelling is projected to add 0.43 elementary school student, Goodrich told the board. Combined with the useful life of a school and the number of years a student would be attending elementary, middle and high school, a contractor’s contribution to school construction would be about $3,000, he said.
Murray said the average mitigation fee in 19 past agreements with developers was $6,880 for each of the more than 1,500 lots involved. However, the average could vary by several thousand dollars, he said.
Often, developers whose projects triggered the mitigation threshold came up with their own rational for what they should pay in mitigation fees, Murray said. Those negotiations sometimes required multiple meetings with the commissioners, he said.
The pupil-generation rate for town houses in 2013 is 0.24 elementary student per town home and 0.36 student per multifamily dwelling, according to Washington County Public Schools.
“It gives structure to the APFO,” Commissioner William McKinley said.
With a standard formula, a developer also can move forward with a project, rather than waiting for an agreement on mitigation fees, Murray said.
The board could hold a public hearing on adopting a formula and changing the APFO by July, Murray told the commissioners.