The Brunswick City Council unanimously approved an updated version of its adequate public facilities ordinance, but residents will have a hard time telling the difference.

APFOs are meant to lay out the guidelines for development in municipalities, such as the amount of open space, water and sewage capacity, and school capacity. Brunswick’s APFO was updated to address grammatical errors, Bruce Dell, planning and zoning administrator, said at the Tuesday council meeting. But nothing else was added or changed.

Brunswick first examined the plan in July to update the language.

Adding exemptions for age-restricted housing is a trend among municipalities, Dell said. A previous version of the proposed changes to the ordinance would have also added an exemption that would make affordable housing complexes exempt from school capacity restrictions.

Under Brunswick’s current APFO, which remains the same except for the grammatical and spelling changes, new development would not be approved if it would cause Brunswick Elementary School to exceed 105 percent capacity. The school is already at 145 percent, with 2019 enrollment projections estimating the school will be 227 students over capacity, according to previous News-Post reporting.

Adding a school enrollment exemption to the APFO for age-restricted housing caused few problems for the council when the update first came up. But at their last meeting, council members pointed out that age-restricted housing did not need the exemption since, by definition, it would not add more students.

It was the exemption for affordable housing developments that grabbed the most attention. When the APFO first came up at the July 23 meeting, Councilman Nathan Brown requested that the city attorney look into the possibility of school enrollment exemption waivers. In August, the council decided to strike the exemption instead of using a waiver system.

There were two issues at the core of the debate: school enrollment and the potential new affordable housing development.

At the time, developers were seeking tax credits that would allow them to construct an affordable housing development in downtown Brunswick, a project known as Railroad Square. The developers ultimately did not receive the needed tax credits.

Brunswick Elementary School’s capacity concerns would prevent the development of the Railroad Square complex without the exemption, creating a situation where downtown development was pitted against school capacity.

Brunswick is supposed to get a new elementary school, or at least updates to the school that would give it a bigger capacity. Since those are planned in the coming years, it would address any school enrollment capacity concerns.

If the Railroad Square developers come back to the council with plans, they would likely pass the APFO’s enrollment guidelines as the school, theoretically, would not be over capacity.

The council passed the updated APFO 5-0. Councilman Vaughn Ripley was absent.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

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