Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Monday night's Mayor and Council meeting extended into Tuesday morning, as Rockville leaders again took feedback from the public on proposed changes to the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance standards. The proposed changes, spearheaded by Councilmember Tom Moore, would bring the standards in line with those of Montgomery County's, including allowed schools to reach 120% of capacity, and measuring overcrowding and capacity by school cluster, rather than by individual school. Many residents, and current and former Rockville elected officials, have argued the change will weaken the APFO, allow more development, and overwhelm classrooms, roads and other infrastructure. One city planning commissioner has even suggested the changes would be unconstitutional, as cluster averaging would not treat each child equally.

Montgomery County Council Deputy Administrator Glenn Orlin made a surprise appearance at the end of the public hearing, offering to answer questions. Orlin said the city's APFS "has no impact at all on where the money goes," when the County allocates funding for school construction. Newton, former Mayor Larry Giammo, and Planning Commissioner Jack Leiderman, among others, have vigorously disputed that assertion, pointing to two school projects about to commence in the city.

A vote on the changes is expected on February 9, but Mayor Bridget Newton said she was concerned that the council had not yet had a public discussion on the issue. "I think it's incredible that we haven't had a discussion about this," Newton said after citizen testimony was completed. Moore said the matter had been a topic of public discussion for years, public hearings had been held, and that the vote should go ahead. Newton suggested delaying the vote, so that County and Montgomery County Public School officials could be brought in for a discussion of ways the school overcrowding issue could be addressed. Future meeting agendas made it difficult to set up such a delay, and it was eventually concluded that the APFS discussion will take place at the February 2 meeting next Monday. It was unclear if that would permit all of the hoped-for officials to participate on such short notice.

Newton has said it would be more productive for the city to partake in a school standards discussion being planned by County Councilmember Roger Berliner. Orlin disputed that such an event was going to take place. "I've heard it from the horse's mouth," Newton asserted, citing conversations with Berliner, and discussion she had with Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman and County Councilmember Sid Katz earlier Monday, which confirmed the conference was in the works.

As the meeting stretched past midnight, city staffers greeted the council with, "Good morning." Some midnight oil will have to be kept for next week's meeting, which now will have a sure-to-be-contentious APFS discussion added to its already-packed agenda.

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