Proposed developments for older or lower-income residents will not be allowed to bypass school capacity restrictions in Brunswick.
The mayor and City Council unanimously decided to correct language in Brunswick’s adequate public facilities ordinance, which guides development based on items such as school capacity and open space, but declined to add any exemptions or waiver processes.
In addition to correcting and updating language, the APFO had come before the council two meetings prior regarding the possibility of adding exemptions for new affordable housing or age-restricted housing. The exemptions would make it so the developments would not be affected by school enrollment requirements. Councilman Nathan Brown asked at the July 23 meeting that instead they seek legal advice about waivers instead of exemptions.
Under Brunswick’s current APFO, if a school is at 105 percent capacity and redistricting is not available, new developments should be denied. Brunswick Elementary School is at 145 percent capacity, with 2019 enrollment projections estimating the school will be over capacity by 227 students.
Age-restricted developments would not affect the school enrollment projections as most residents are 55 and older. But affordable housing developments, such as the proposed Railroad Square complex, could bring more students to an already crowded school.
The Frederick County Board of Education is conducting a feasibility study for Brunswick Elementary School looking at capacity and whether a new school is needed.
With a new Brunswick elementary school added to the Board of Education’s Capital Improvement Program, there would be no need to add an exemption, Brown said. The new school would adjust the enrollment, meaning that new development would not push the school over capacity.
The Railroad Square project did not receive the needed tax credits, so it would not come before the council this year. If it comes up again, it would likely pass the APFO due to the new school plans, Brown said.
Councilman Andrew St. John agreed with Brown.
“I don’t want to burden us with any additional regulations or waivers or exceptions beyond the basics,” St. John said.
Not including a waiver and denying new development based on school enrollment concerns might be a signal to the Board of Education that Brunswick needs a new school, Brown said.
Councilman Vaughn Ripley agreed that the APFO should not include exemptions or waivers. But he did not think the APFO would give the city any leverage.
“I don’t think the Board of Education really cares whether we say we are not going to build or we are going to build,” Ripley said. “I don’t think that’s an issue that we should be thinking about. I think we should be thinking about what we want to do for the kids going to school but also what we’re going to do for downtown.”
Brunswick has long called for a new school. Students are going to bust out of the walls soon, Mayor Jeff Snoots said.
“They’re going to have to move and build us a school,” Snoots said. “We’re going to be like Urbana and Tuscarora. We’re going to get something. And the more vocal we are about it, the better off we’re going to be.”