County Executive Jan Gardner (D) will likely veto a bill for the first time during her terms in that office after County Council members approved an update to the county’s impact fees for public schools.
Council members approved bills regarding that topic and modifying water buffer language at its meeting Tuesday night—but the latter bill’s sponsor voted against his own bill, and Chief Administrative Rick Harcum said Gardner would veto it.
Harcum said Gardner did not agree with expanding impact fee waivers for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that were up to 1,000 square feet. Before an amendment from Councilman Phil Dacey (R) that council members passed weeks ago, those waivers were capped at 800 square feet.
Donald also opposed, choosing not to vote for his own bill based on that amendment. He had introduced the legislation on behalf of Gardner.
He said he got into local politics in the 1990s, fighting for impact fees to be established to order to avoid portable classrooms in public schools. Donald has taught in Frederick County Public Schools for several years.
Dacey’s amendment would weaken and “punch holes” in the county’s public school impact fees, Donald said.
Some, including Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) and Vice President Michael Blue (R), agreed with Donald, worrying that the extra 200 square feet could be enough for families to reside in those structures, and add kids to the school system. But Dacey argued the 200-square-foot increase was meant to encourage developers to build more accessory dwelling units.
The bill also gives developers a monetary credit if they donate land for a school site, and also prevents developers from paying the same impact fees twice. That latter would occur, for example, if a prior developer had already applied for permits but never built on a parcel of land.
Councilmen Kai Hagen (D) and Steve McKay (R) sided with Dacey on his amendment, and voting for Donald’s bill. They were joined by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) in a 4-3 vote to pass it.
“We are trying to balance multiple policy initiatives ... the fact we’re talking and having such consternation about going from 800 to 1,000 square feet is blowing my mind,” McKay said shortly before the vote.
It would take five votes to override Gardner’s veto, per the county charter.
Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.