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Two Rivers Project Could Move Forward Even Without School

The county school board held off voting on developers' plan to build a new elementary school west of the Waugh Chapel shopping centers. Discussion of a road extension into Piney Orchard remains a sticky issue.

Plans for more than 2,000 homes near the border of Odenton and Crofton could move forward even without the construction of a new elementary school in the area, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education learned Wednesday.

Developers of have offered to pay $38 million for a new elementary school to the west of Maryland Route 3, but could legally take advantage of planned new capacity at Crofton Elementary School and Crofton Middle School instead, school officials said.

Koch Homes and Classic Community Cos. said they will pay the full cost of the new school, and said 373 elementary school aged students would come from Two Rivers by the year 2023. The school would have a capacity of 700, thus providing capacity for additional students from other new developments in the area.

School officials said the proposal would address the need for new school capacity in west Anne Arundel County without adding new capital costs.

“It puts an asset in west county at no cost to the taxpayers,” said Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

Szachnowicz told the board that while Two Rivers could move forward by taking advantage of planned expansions at Crofton Elementary and Crofton Middle School, the school system would prefer that a new school be built.

The new school, Szachnowicz said, would ease school congestion in the expanding west county area, and would prevent the need for school buses to cross Maryland Route 3.

The school board held off on voting on the concept plan for the school, citing a need to collect more information. Board member Deborah Ritchie said the board may have “jumped the gun” in considering a vote to begin with. The proposal first came before county school officials on July 2.

The Two Rivers project had long been slated as a community for people over 55 years of age, but developers recently decided to open it up to everyone.

Under the Two Rivers school plan, the school would actually be constructed several miles from the actual Two Rivers development. This would allow the school to more easily accommodate students from other new homes in the area.

Community groups had urged the board to postpone a vote on the school concept, citing a lack of notice. New board president Andrew Pruski, a Gambrills resident and former president of the Four Seasons Community Association, questioned why the developers did not meet with community groups before presenting their plan to the board. He noted that a portion of the developers' presentation, labeled "Partners in Learning," did not include the name of any community groups.

“What discussions have occurred with them? Have there been any at all?” Pruski asked.

Gary Koch, President of Koch Homes, said that he believed it was more appropriate to speak to the board first.

“To talk to them first before coming to you all, we thought that was putting the cart before the horse, so to speak,” Koch said.

School board members and community groups said they want more information about plans to extend Evergreen Road to allow buses to travel on back roads instead of Route 3. Initial plans call for the road to be extended into Piney Orchard to Strawberry Lake Way, cutting through GORC Park—an unpopular prospect among Piney Orchard residents.

"My concern is with the road and the traffic," said new board member Stacy Korbelak, a Piney Orchard resident. "Why does it have to go through Piney Orchard and GORC?"

Koch said the road would take away about 0.9 acres of park space, but that the developer would donate about 2.2 acres back.

“It does not diminish the fields in any way,” Koch said.

Koch and Szachnowicz said they have considered other routes that buses could take, but they would have required passage through sensitive environmental areas. Residents of the Woodwardville section of south Odenton have also opposed any expansion of their road network.

Board vice president Teresa Milio Birge, an Odenton resident, said that while Evergreen Road is an issue to consider, it may be irrelevant to the broader issues of development and school capacity.

“I’m not going to make a decision based on whether a road gets extended,” she said. “I have to look at it as, if someone is offering to help with my overcapacity problem when I have an overcapacity problem, is that an offer I should consider?”

Joe July 11, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Hope all these developers realize that a large percentage of people working in this area work for the government or a company that provides services to the government. Even the DOD is taking cuts. Right now we have he large condo buildings going up around Arundel Mills, 200+ houses on the Boyer's Farm property, the condos off 170 in Odenton, Parkside condos/townhouses off 175 near Blobs Park (500-1000 units), and now these 2000 houses. I think they are going to develop along 198 south of Ft. Meade as well. I wonder when they are going to build a subway for our new city.
Jeff Andrade July 11, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Since the developer's school construction costs are credited against their impact fees there is not much of a net benefit to the county, if at all, at the end of the day. The County should just take the impact fee money and put a school where they think it is needed and makes sense, not where the developer wants to put it. Or they could use the impact fees to expand capacity at existing schools. In fact, this is how the new Crofton/Gambrills Elementary School funded in the 2013 County Budget is paid for and the price tag was $21.7 million. But that would make too much sense. And actually, debt service costs on new debt obligations are at their lowest rates in our lifetimes. This is why the developers -- including those for Two Rivers' -- have been getting the County to set up special taxing districts for them and issue bonds to fund their infrastructure costs, rather using privately-financed front foot assessments
Dave July 12, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I suspect that Piney Orchard would strongly get behind the school on the condition that the landfill idea is nixed. That landfill makes no sense and makes a mockery of the County land use process.
Jeff Andrade July 12, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I was just noting that contrary to the point you raised earlier, municipal financing is cheap these days. You're also not right on the impact fee issue -- they have to be used for "capital improvements within the development impact fee district from which they are collected, so as to reasonably benefit the property against which the fees are charged." So while they COULD be used for roads in the area instead of schools, the resources are there for the school expansion, and it's better to not forego the impact fees entirely (which is what this would do) and have money with no strings attached than to accept a poorly-sited school that is within a stone's throw of three other elementary schools, the closest being half a mile and also the newest elem school in the area with 700 students. It would require having to build a major road that DPW already rejected the initial plan for, and then busing kids over 7 miles to it each day. We should be expanding and updating current elementary schools to the 600-650 student level and siting any new elem schools within new development. The current middle school and high school assignments are also a mess, with kids in Crofton Middle split between Arundel and South River HS. This may be growth, but it's sure not smart growth.
Jeff Andrade July 12, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Neither of the landfills make sense as they try to shoehorn them into 20-year old special exceptions that were required to be implemented in 2 years. The proposed Chesapeake Terrace site would be right near Two Rivers and the trucks going in there would share the access roads to that community, and now apparently with the school buses traveling 7+ miles to school. There are only 4 rubble landfills in the entire state, and 2 permit applications are being considered in the middle of all this current development here in West County. The Tolson/Cunningham site alone, would handle twice the volume of the state's largest permitted site (Brandywine in Prince George's) or put another way 40% of all the construction/demolition waste currently disposed of within the state each year. Put both of them together and Anne Arundel and the state become net importers of solid waste from the entire East Coast. Fine legacy our county and state officials are leaving.
Jeff Andrade July 12, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Playas gotta play and haters gotta hate...
Dave July 12, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Frankly, its seems to me that if the developers of this project are willing to front tens of millions of dollars to make the school happen, why not kick in a few more million to fill up the sand and gravel pit and put the school on top? To my way of thinking, West County stands at a precipice - either it could be developed in a way that turns it into a thriving suburban residential zone with lots of job opportunities and wealthy neighborhoods, or it could be allowed to become a place where large land owners game the zoning laws to put massive landfills next to extremely dense urban residential developments connected to nowhere in particular via two-lane country roads. One of those vision will result in prosperity for the land owners and current residents. The other vision will make the land owners, the political class and the state and local government the laughing stock of the entire nation, as they blow this golden opportunity given to them by BRAC on their short-sighted parochial interests.
Ronald July 12, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Tolson and Company are doing nothing more than the owners of the apartment complexes that you, Jeff, are supporting.
Jeff Andrade July 12, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Ron, did you get the judge's final Order yet in your frivolous lawsuit against POCA? He denied all the motions you filed since he dismissed all your claims with prejudice a few weeks ago? Have a nice day.
Michael July 12, 2012 at 08:34 AM
Scott, thank you for posting your comments on the Patch. Makes me very confident that you will NEVER be voted into a position of power in Piney Orchard. For the record, I strongly oppose this new school/road and the landfills.
Chris W July 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM
@Jeff If the land remains somewhat rural, it's easier to justify the landfills. Once the area is developed, it makes it a bit easier to point out how ridiculous the landfills are sandwiched into a residential area.
Greg Craig July 12, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Michael: Regardless of Mr. D's opinion on the matters (which I agree with him on most), at least he has a sack and uses his real name, and stands behind his viewpoints. He doesn't hide behind just his first name. While I disagree with Jeff Andrade on almost everything, I give him credit too for using his real name. Why don't you man up and use your full name? Until then, your viewpionts have zero credibility.
Erin Freitas July 12, 2012 at 02:43 PM
What about middle schools and high schools? 700 more kids to go where once they are out of 5th grade/ Thats my only concern. How are the parents of these new schools going to feel when thier kids are shipped to middle schools and high schools 20-30 min away due to overcrowding?
Jim Abbott July 13, 2012 at 07:32 PM
What about the teachers that HAVE NOT gotten a pay raise the past few years!
John July 13, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Jim, what about private sector people who have not had a JOB in the past few years?

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