York board chairman supports residential development near Water Country USA

jsomers@dailypress.com

A residential development application from Busch Properties Inc. that was denied by the York County Planning Commission on Wednesday has support from the Board of Supervisor's Chairman Donald Wiggins.

Other supervisors say they need more time or that they won't comment on how they will vote because it's not fair to the public. There is a Board of Supervisors public meeting to discuss the residential development application on Oct. 21.

"I certainly will vote for it," Wiggins said on Friday by phone. "By the time we need a place to put the children we will have places for them. We are certainly not going to have children that we don't have schools for."

Several planning commission members voted against the development Wednesday because they were concerned about overcrowding at public schools and were displeased that the residential development didn't include an offer to help mitigate the costs of an increased number of schoolchildren. The application also didn't include commercial development to make the parcel self-contained. The parcel is northeast of the intersection of Penniman Road and Winchester Road and zoned Economic Opportunity, which is for light industrial to commercial use.

The proposed 77-acre residential development would consist of 110 townhouses, 112 single-family homes, three parks, a pool and a clubhouse. The single-family homes would cost from $300,000 to $500,000 and the town houses would cost from $225,000 to $295,000. Ted Figura Consulting, which works for Mid-Atlantic Communities, predicts the residential development called Whittaker's Mill could add more than $69 million to the county's tax base and that residents would spend more than $2.3 million a year at stores and restaurants in York County.

Whittaker's Mill is expected to add 640 people and of those people, 101 would be schoolchildren.

Forty-five students would be added to Magruder Elementary School, 24 to Queens Lake Middle School and 32 to Bruton High School. Magruder Elementary School is already at capacity, said Mark Tschirhart, associate director for capital plans and projects for the York County School Division. Magruder has had classrooms added to it twice and there is no more land available for expansion unless they get rid of recreational fields, said Interim Superintendent Carl James. Magruder students have also been rezoned to attend Yorktown Elementary School, which is now facing a similar capacity issue, he said.

During the previous years, the York County School Division has proposed adding a new elementary school on the Yorktown Middle School campus, according to the School Board Proposed Capital Improvements Program for 2015-2024. The Board of Supervisors has not approved this request or included it in their capital improvement program, according the county's Adopted Capital Improvements Program, 2015-2024.

"I think the county has done a disservice to our school children because schools should have been built a while ago," said Planning Commissioner Todd Mathes at Wednesday night's meeting.

The School Board requested 2.3 million for fiscal year 2015-2016 and $20.7 million for fiscal year 2016-2017, according to its School Board Proposed Capital Improvements Program for 2015-2024.

Interim Superintendent Carl James said that they will continue to make the request for a new school.

"Our position is we just want to have space available for students when they move into the school division because our job is to have the best possible learning environment for students."

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Thomas Shepperd said that the Board of Supervisors will "probably" approve funds for the planning of a new school next year. He said hopefully there would be a combination of proffers — offers from developers — and bonding, which might cause the tax rate to increase by 2 cents. The current real estate tax rate is 75.15 cents per $100 valuation and could go to about 77.15 cents, he said.

Mid-Atlantic Communities, LLC, has not offered a way to contribute to a new school at this time but they may re-work their proposal before it goes before the Board of Supervisors in October. Shepperd said he wouldn't say how he would be voting but that after the housing market collapsed in 2007 developers aren't proffering as much infrastructure for the community. The housing market is still recovering slowly and developers can't proffer as much if they want to make a profit, he said.

Wiggins said he supported the project because the region near the Marquis shopping center needed more customers to succeed and that the owners of the parcel, who pay taxes on the land, deserve the opportunity to build on their land.

"The main thing you have to realize is the people buy property and pay taxes on it for years, and we can't say we won't let you build on it if it is a good plan," Wiggins said. "They have got a right to develop that property."

Somers can be reached by phone at 757-247-4758.

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