Frederick County developer sweetens pot for a new school -- Gazette.Net


Developer Mark Matan believes so much in his proposal to build 615 homes and 122,480-square feet of office and commercial space in Frederick County that he is willing to cough up an additional $800,000 to help pay for a new school.

When Matan went before the seven-member Frederick County Planning Commission on April 24, he offered to give the county $650,000 in addition to the required $6.6 million impact and school construction fees to help cover the cost of a new school.

In exchange, he would get county approval to build 615 homes on 210 acres of his Westview South property between New Design Road and Md. 85, also known as Buckeystown Pike, south of Corporate Drive in Frederick.

But when Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R), who serves as liaison to the planning commission, suggested Matan come up with more money, saying it costs $30 million to build a new school, the developer did just that.

“I think it’s a great offer,” said Rand Weinberg, Matan’s attorney. “You asked us to go out and sharpen our pencil, and that’s what we did.”

The proposed homes are projected to add 95 more students to Tuscarora Elementary School, 39 to Crestwood Middle and 55 to Tuscarora High, according to county documents.

After a brief intermission in the meeting, Matan and Weinberg returned with a new offer of $800,000.

Since the original 1994 and 2001 plans for the development stipulated that a school site be set aside as a condition of approval, Matan decided instead to contribute the money.

“We think it [the site] will ruin the project, and we rather give you the money,” Weinberg said.

The planning commission voted 5-1 to recommend Matan’s development proposal to the Frederick Board of County Commissioners for final approval.

Planning commission member Audrey Wolfe was absent from the meeting, while member John McClurkin was the lone vote against the proposal, arguing that the $800,000 was not enough to build a new school.

McClurkin was also concerned because the developer is not setting aside a site on the Westview South property for a new school as originally planned.

Weinberg said his client opted to give money instead of a school site because donating a piece of land does not guarantee a school will be built.

“It’s hard to get money to build schools,” he said. “We put a lot of thought into this, and we don’t think it’s the right spot for a school. We’ve got light industrial, office ... we’ve got a shopping center, But it’s the perfect place for residential.”

On top of the $800,000, Matan will also be paying a school construction fee to meet the requirements of the county’s impact fee and its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a growth plan that stops building if schools and roads are overcrowded. Developers building new homes pay a school impact fee.

Both the impact and the school construction fees will total about $6.6 million.

For much of the two-hour meeting, Matan touted his project as a place where people can live and work. The homes will be walking distance to jobs in the area, which he hopes will be a draw for residents tired of commuting on Interstate 270 to work in Montgomery County, Washington, D.C., and Virginia every day.

“This is a big deal for Frederick,” he said. “Forty percent of people drive down to work every day ... and we’re trying to change that. We need this in Frederick County and [Md.] 85 is the spot ... Let’s do it. We can do it one property at a time. Let’s take those employees off 270. It’s what everybody wants.”

Although no date was announced when the commissioners will review the proposal, Young praised the live-and-work concept, and the property tax money the development will generate.

“It is about jobs and taxes, and like you said, ‘It’s about quality of life,’” he said.

The planning commission also voted 5-1 that the Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement, signed between Matan and the board of county commissioners, is consistent with the county’s comprehensive growth plan.

McClurkin was again the lone vote against the 25-year agreement.

The agreement gives the developer the right to construct homes and businesses while stipulating the infrastructure improvements that must be made to accommodate the new growth, such as providing schools, roads, and adequate water and sewer service.