The Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted in favor of a concept plan for a new developer-funded elementary school, allowing the school system to enter into negotiations with the builders of the Preserve at Two Rivers project.
By a 5-4 vote, the board gave a nod to plans by Koch Homes and Classic Communities Corp. to construct a $38 million elementary school just south of the Waugh Chapel Towne Centre.
School officials are now permitted to enter into negotiations for a construction agreement.
The school board was not originally scheduled to vote on the plan Wednesday. But after hearing testimony from school and community officials, members asked that it be brought to a vote. They narrowly approved the measure, with board president Andrew Pruski and members Stacy Korbelak, Deborah Ritchie and Teresa Milio Birge casting “no” votes. The five other board members said they believed the school would help the school system deal with a growing student population without taking on new construction costs.
“What is the downside? I’m looking at a $38 million elementary school when we need facilities,” said board member Patricia Nalley.
Developers have proposed building the elementary school to accommodate 2,060 new homes at the Preserve at Two Rivers. School system leaders had endorsed the plan because the school would also accommodate students from other future developments nearby.
“I do honestly believe, both as an individual and an employee of this school district that this school will provide an immense benefit,” chief operating Alex Szachnowicz said.
School officials said the matter will come to the board again before any construction can take place.
“There will be multiple opportunities for this board to reconsider,” Szachnowicz said.
Some members of the community, including representatives of Piney Orchard, had opposed the plan and urged the board to postpone their vote until at least September. They have raised a series of concerns, including impact of a proposed extension of Evergreen Road, proximity to industrial operations, and the potential for long bus routes.
Jeff Andrade, president of the Piney Orchard Community Association, urged the board to postpone a vote because some community groups, including the Greater Crofton Council, had not been formally briefed on the plan. Meanwhile, the Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Association (FOTPIA) remained in negotiations with the developers regarding changes in the covenant agreements to lift an age-restriction on the homes.
There is some debate over what that current covenant agreement allows. Pages 5 and 6 of the covenant agreement state that the age-restriction can be lifted only if the development complies with RA zoning, which only allows for one home for every 20 acres. But Michael Leahy, an attorney for the developers, said that if a new deal isn't reached, the developers can still move forward with homes complying with uses allowed in R1 zoning.
Developers and school officials are scheduled to meet with FOTPIA on Aug. 27.
“To try and ram this through to a vote is not in the best interests of the county,” said Andrade. “This issue is not ripe.”
For comprehensive coverage of the Two Rivers proposal, check out the Two Rivers Topics Page.