Additions to overcrowded Urbana Middle School may be moved up a few notches in Frederick County’s proposed spending plan for construction projects.
County officials unveiled a proposed $553.1 million, six-year capital-improvement plan at a meeting Thursday of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners.
One of the projects that could be moved up in the process is an addition to Urbana Middle currently slated for 2017, following an offer from a Frederick developer to contribute $1.6 million to the project in exchange for expediting his residential project along Md. 355 in Urbana.
The $2.5 million addition would add 300 seats to the school that is currently at 124 percent capacity, Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young said.
In a Jan. 14 letter to Young, developer Mark Matan of Matan Acquisitions offered to pay a $1.6 million lump sum payment to the county to help finance the addition.
Matan plans to build a 352-unit multifamily residential project on the Giesler property along Md. 355 in Urbana, but the project is currently on hold because Urbana Middle School is over capacity.
If county approvals for the project are granted, Matan could break ground for the project in the spring of 2014, said Karl Morris, director of development for the company.
Helping finance the addition would allow the project to move up about two years. The company felt it was prudent to make the investment in the school project to take advantage of a window of opportunity it sees in the marketplace for multifamily housing, Morris said.
Urbana Middle opened in 2006 with a “shell” that would allow for the expansion to accommodate an extra 300 students. The school’s current capacity is 600 students.
The commissioners voted 5-0 to continue to look at the possibility of moving the Urbana Middle project up two years in the capital plan, contingent on Matan providing the $1.6 million.
The county currently has about $1.1 million in mitigation funds on hand from developers to be used to cover the cost of new schools generated by residential construction.
Although the Matan project is slated to provide 352 homes, it’s only projected by Frederick County Public Schools to provide an additional seven middle school students who would feed into the Urbana Middle School, Young said.
Young said the project still has to go before the Frederick County Planning Commission and get approvals for various permits.
Commissioner David Gray (R) questioned the projection that the additional homes would only add seven students to the already overcrowded middle school.
But Eric Soter of the county Community Development Division said the process for projections has proven remarkably accurate over the years.
“People don’t believe the numbers, but the numbers work out,” Soter said. “Multifamily [houses] just do not generate a lot of students.”
One of the main goals of the capital improvement plan, which covers fiscal 2014-2019, is to keep renovations of North Frederick Elementary and Frederick High schools on track, as well as critical systems and transportation projects, according to a county memorandum.
In December, a steering committee of school officials, parents, residents and architects suggested replacing the 73-year-old high school with a new $91.9 million building constructed on the current school’s parking lot.
To keep those projects in place, county officials shuffled various road, sewer and other projects back and forth or out of the six-year plan altogether, the memo said.
The commissioners will discuss the capital spending plan at their meetings Thursday and Feb. 21, followed by a public hearing on March 19.
“This is just the first pass,” Young said. “We’ve got a long way to go in this process.”