Blaming the provision for a “complete shut down” of new home construction in the very areas where BRAC transplants should be looking for local housing, the president of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce has asked the Harford County Council to allow its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance – which imposes a building moratorium within in area where the school district has crossed a capacity threshold – to allow the legislation to sunset as originally intended.
In an email exchange at about 1:45 p.m. Monday, Harford County Chamber of Commerce President Bill Seccurro told the county council that “construction in the development envelop has been non existent over the past three years and has caused a complete shut down in the very area where construction should be occurring and where families relocating with BRAC should be purchasing housing.”
Seccurro goes on to blame the Harford County Public School System for failing to balance enrollments through redistricting, which has resulted in more than 4,000 empty seats in classrooms across the county.
The APFO is designed to have a building moratorium kick in once the school serving an area has reached 105% of the state-rated capacity or is projected to be greater than 105% of the state-rated capacity within 3 years. The legislation was intended to sunset, but a pair of bills (09-16 and 09-17) on the agenda at tonight’s (Tuesday’s) county council meeting would continue and alter its provisions.
Among other things, the APFO threshold would be changed to kick in at 110% of the state-rated capacity or when projections indicate greater than 110% of the state-rated capacity within 5 years.
“Members of the Legislative Committee encourage the Harford County Council to not enact any additional changes to the APF Law and to allow the 105% of capacity to sunset as originally planned,” Seccurro wrote.
Here is Seccurro’s email addressed to the county council:
To All Members of the Harford County Council:
Please find attached a letter from the Harford County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee which is being sent to oppose any further amendments to the current Adequate Public Facilities Ordnance regarding school capacity. The Chamber’s Legislative Committee opposes proposed bills 09-16 and 09-17 for many reasons including the rapidly declining public school enrollments which will have long reaching impact on future school system programs, the lack of redistricting on the part of the Harford County Public School System which has failed to balance enrollments and has now created over 4,000 empty seats throughout the county in nearly every public school and finally, construction in the development envelop has been non existent over the past three years and has caused a complete shut down in the very area where construction should be occurring and where families relocating with BRAC should be purchasing housing. The unintended consequences of the current APF legislation including the adoption of the State Rate Capacities for each school has caused the school system to reduce elementary school capacity by nearly 2,000 seats thus causing secondary enrollments to plunge to the lowest levels in two decades. Members of the Legislative Committee encourage the Harford County Council to not enact any additional changes to the APF Law and to allow the 105% of capacity to sunset as originally planned. Should you need additional information or wish further clarifications, please feel free to contact me at anytime.
Harford County Chamber of Commerce
108 South Bond Street
Bel Air, MD 21014
Roughly two hours after receiving the Chamber of Commerce letter, Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie, a Democrat representing Edgewood and Joppatowne, fired off an email of his own.
Guthrie said he is disappointed “the Chamber support the overcrowding of our schools, which is the opposite view of all of our teachers and the parents of the children in our schools.”
The councilman also questions Seccurro’s facts and blames the downturn in local home construction not on the APFO, but on the nation’s current economic recession.
“What we need to do here is deal with the facts,” Guthire wrote.
Here is the full text of Guthrie’s response to Seccurro and the Chamber of Commerce:
Bill – It is disappointing that you and the Chamber support the overcrowding of our schools, which is the opposite view of all of our teachers and the parents of the children of our schools. Also the facts do not support your arguments. I guess you forgot when we started down this road 5 and 6 years ago there were schools that were over 140% capacity and the Council Chambers were PACK with parents outrage with the conditions of overcrowding of our schools. In a high school of 1000 that means there were 400 more students that the school would hold. It is disappointing that you support that kind of overcrowding. In March of 2007 at 105% of capacity there were 13 school district in moratorium, 11 Elementary and 2 High schools. Today, at 105% ,there are NO High schools and NO Middle schools in moratorium and only 8 Elementary schools out of 32 Elementary schools with 2 of those schools, Joppa town and Deerfield coming out of moratorium in the very near future. Also you mention the declining of population in our schools, that has nothing to do with the APFO and the fact that the school board will not re-district also has nothing to do with the APFO either. So in your opinion because the School Board won’t re-district, than we should allow our schools to go back to those +140% capacity levels. I will do my best to not allow that to happen. You blame the APFO for the lack of construction in the development envelope, that is ridicules. The cause is the economy, in the entire Nation, I do not know a single person who does not understand that. Also according to the Master Plan building in Harford County is suppose to be 80% inside the envelope and 20% outside the envelope. However the facts are from 1990 thru 2008 it has average 82% inside and 18% outside the envelope. And the lack of construction is the ECONOMY, don’t try to blame everything on the APFO. Remember when I started down this road over 6 years ago to change the school capacity there was not a single school under construction. When we lower the APFO to 105% we forced the County’s hand to forward funding schools so we could lower capacity and start home construction. Since that we built Paterson Mill, building Bel Air High, Edgewood High, Deerfield Elementary and a major addition to Joppa Town Elementary. This has taken 5 school district out of moratorium, with 2 more right behind them. What we need to do here is deal with the facts.