After some debate, Rockville planners are not recommending major changes to the city’s development standards that are designed to limit overcrowding in schools.
The Planning Commission voted Wednesday on its recommendations for the city’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance’s school capacity test, which limits development in areas where schools are overcrowded.
Rather than recommending drastic changes, the recommendations focus on areas where further study is necessary.
Commissioner Don Hadley said the city will have to continue studying its APFO over a period of time, especially as conditions affecting development change.
“The city needs to be nimble ... in our thinking about this,” he said.
Hadley said it will take time to see what part of the APFO is basic and lasting. He recommended baby steps, rather than a big change right now, and said the recommendations are only a starting point to explore the issue.
The commission recommended that the city keeps its school capacity test, which is more stringent than the county’s testing, rather than raising its limits to match the county’s. In fact, the commission said the county should adopt the city’s tougher standards.
“The quality of education is most important, and quality should not be sacrificed to budgetary concerns,” the commission stated in its recommendation.
Rockville’s APFO sets a cap on certain development when school capacity is projected to reach 110 percent. The county, which manages the public school district, sets its capacity limits at 120 percent.
Another recommendation made by the commission was to continue to calculate capacity on a per-school basis, rather than averaged over entire school clusters. The commission also recommended exempting accessory apartments, minor subdivisions, places of worship and some other uses from the school capacity test, since they will bring in no or few school-age children.
Commissioners also held a public hearing on whether Rockville should participate in the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority program by joining the Montgomery County Heritage Area.
If Rockville joins the program, historic sites in the city can apply for grants for capital projects and programs. The county will also add Rockville’s historic landmarks to its marketing materials, which supporters say should help bring more tourists to the city.
“It’s really a carrot; it’s not a stick,” said Robin Ziek, Rockville’s historic preservation planner. “If you don’t want to play, you just don’t.”
Ziek added that there is no cost to sites that do not apply for grants.
So far, all the public comments have been in support of Rockville joining the program. The public record will remain open for comments until Oct. 31.
The commission will likely vote on a recommendation to send to the Mayor and Council Nov. 14.