Rockville, Gaithersburg vow to revise school capacity standards -- Gazette.Net


Elected officials from both Rockville and Gaithersburg agreed Monday to begin a joint revision of their planning policies, starting with how they look at school capacity.

The mayors and city councils of Rockville and Gaithersburg met Monday to discuss their adequate public facilities ordinances (APFO), policies adopted to dictate a balance between development and infrastructure.

While these policies govern how new construction is restricted by local road, sewer, water, fire and emergency, and schools infrastructure, the conversation Monday focused almost solely on schools and how the cities should balance new growth with overcrowding at local elementary schools.

Rockville’s ordinance does not allow development to push enrollment at local schools beyond 110 percent. Gaithersburg allows up to 120 percent, the same as alloted by Montgomery County.

Officials from both cities said this standard has not prevented overcrowding at their schools and they needed to find a new way to address overcrowding. Currently, this is done by halting new construction of residential properties in areas with overcrowded schools.

“The APFO is not a solution; it’s a commitment to not make a problem worse,” Gaithersburg City Councilman Jud Ashman said.

Rockville City councilmen John F. Hall Jr. and Tom Moore called their city’s ordinance too restrictive. Moore said the city often has to block low-cost housing because of overcrowding concerns.

Last school year, 11 of the 20 schools that service Rockville exceed their capacity, according to city records. In Gaithersburg, nine of 15 schools exceed its 110 percent capacity.

Both municipalities vowed to meet again to discussed more specific changes to their ordinances, starting with provisions related to schools. No meeting has yet been scheduled.