Mayor Pantelides’ Hypocrisy: Giving Developers a Pass on School Overcrowding

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Annapolis Elementary School students. Image courtesy of Maryland GovPics.

One of the accomplishments Mayor Pantelides cites in recent campaign literature is that he “Passed an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that stops development from overcrowding our schools.”  The fact is that he opposed the ordinance initially and only joined as a sponsor when the capacity limit was raised above 100% (i.e., overcrowded).  This is described soon after the ordinance was passed in an August 8, 2016 Guest Column in The Capital Gazette written by Jared Littmann, one of the original sponsors of the ordinance.  Other details are contained in Jared’s August 8, 2016 newsletter to his constituents.  The Adequate Public Facilities (APF) ordinance to include school capacity in APF determination was passed in July, 2016.

The purpose of a local APF law is to determine during the development approval process whether the government has sufficient public services available to accommodate a particular development. If it can’t, then the developer is responsible for providing sufficient services, or waiting until the government can address the shortfall (no more than six years). For instance, if the city does not have enough sewer capacity for a new development, then it wouldn’t approve that development until the developer installs bigger pipes to handle the additional need. This applies to water, sewer, police, fire, roads, and now, thanks to original sponsors, Aldermen Ross Arnett and Littmann, school capacity.

The amendment ensured that the schools serving a proposed development would not exceed 100% of capacity. Hard to believe this was controversial as it is what is done in the County already.

However, developers have a major influence here in Annapolis.  After 13 months of work, the original sponsors gained the reluctant support they needed. The Mayor and Alderman Paone insisted on adding amendments to allow overcrowding of schools by 10%. The Mayor wanted to allow even more overcrowding for the high school, something requested by developers.  But, on the day of the vote, the sponsors learned that the Board of Education changed the projected enrollments. Based on this new information, they amended the proposed increase from 110% to 105% for elementary and middle schools.

Right before the final vote, after sufficiently weakening the bill, the Mayor added his name as a cosponsor.

Not everyone can afford to send their children to private school. Hopefully, we will have new leadership soon that won’t fold to developer pressure.  Annapolis children deserve that leadership.

Dawn Lamonica is a writer and editor in Anne Arundel County.

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