While knocking on doors during the election campaign, I indicated to many of you that I hoped to have a conversation over the next two years about development and the long-term future of the city.  The quality of our schools should be a big part of this discussion.

One in three homes in Takoma Park include young children and Maryland's schools are among the best in the country.  We currently have 2,008 children in Takoma Park Middle School, Elementary School and Piney Branch Elementary School and another 850 in Rolling Terrace Elementary.  The Middle School is overcapacity today and projected to stay that way through 2018.  Rolling Terrace170 more students today than its capacity of 672 students.  Takoma Park Elementary is overcapacity and projected to stay that way for at least 2 more years. 

During an earlier discussion about redevelopment along New Hampshire Avenue and University Avenue, especially associated with the Purple Line, I asked City staff for some hypothetical projections of what our school population would look like if residential development were fully built out as envisioned in the Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan.  I've attached the document provided by our staff here - it is full of interesting information.
 
responses_to_questions_from_council.docx
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City staff estimate that full construction of projected residential space envisioned under the plan would create housing for more than 6,200 new residents, including 900 more K-12 students.  Obviously that is just a projection and reality never quite comes out that way.  But given the school crowding we already have, where would even another 200 students go? 

For me, our past County Councils have been too focused on development as simply more dense buildings, and not enough on quality of life issues like schools and traffic.  I've also heard others express criticism of the County Council for investing far more in building new and improving
old schools in the upper and western parts of the County and less down here.  I'd like to see us get more investments in school construction before NH Avenue or University Avenue projects start breaking ground.  Especially since many of our schools are already beyond their capacity. 

Are there ways to get more development (like the construction of the new transit center on University Ave and nearby services) including some more housing without creating worse traffic and school crowding?  I hope we can find ways to do so.... and that you will join me in asking candidates who want to be part of our County Council how they are going to deal with questions like these.  Concrete answers rather than simplistic statements like 'transit-smart mixed use development' are at least part of what I hope to hear about from candidates.


*note, these school enrollment statistics are approximate; I've found slightly varying numbers in County, city and online resources. 



 


Comments

12/03/2013 12:57am

Tim, thanks for sharing this info. My first thought is, "take a holistic approach that benefits existing residents and the newcomers (how's that for simplistic?)." In plain English, that means managing development so that there is no net loss of affordable units and assessing impact fees so that developers are essentially paying for improvements to existing schools (or building a new one if necessary). The city and the county should have the ability to be very clear about the amenities we need for development to make sense (something not guaranteed with the current zoning revisions being debated at County Council). That may slow the process but we'll end up with better growth; no one will want to live in those new homes if the quality of local schools decline because of more overcrowding.

School construction & maintenance are already issues right here and right now (e.g. temporary buildings and mold), along with social services for the neediest kids. There is room to be creative, but there is not much point to additional development without resources being put on the table to address those challenges. That said, it is possible and has been done in MoCo and other nearby areas before.

A Rapid Transit System will partially mitigate an increase in traffic if it ultimately includes the route into DC down NH Ave., but it's no panacea until carbon footprint reduction becomes a larger part of our culture as a whole. It's not enough to build it, we have to use it.

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11/10/2014 1:50am

Thank you Kevin for sharing your work and findings with us. I know how tiring this work is, but the only thing that makes it enjoyable is at the end we discover something new. The raising issue of school constructions has already started and the problem of excessive traffic is also observed

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