Glade Valley Government 

Planning Commission Gives Preliminary Approval to New Rock Creek School

The Town of Walkersville’s Planning Commission held its monthly Public Hearing on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. The only item on the agenda was the continuation of a Public Hearing in January on the proposed Rock Creek School that Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) wants to build on the Walkersville Middle School Property.

The Planning Commission held a Workshop with FCPS two weeks ago to review a revised site plan that made drastic changes to the plan presented in January. The plans presented by FCPS featured large cement swales, retaining walls that were eleven feet tall along Glade Village properties, the elimination of the walking path from Mill Run to the school property, and the elimination of a tree line along Mill Run properties.

During the Workshop, FCPS agreed to explore solutions to the many concerns raised by the Planning Commission and members of the public.

At the Public Hearing, new plans presented by FCPS showed many changes to address concerns raised two-weeks earlier.

The thirty-feet wide cement swales were moved away from the property line and changed to forty-five feet wide grass swales. This allowed all grading to be moved from the property line with Mill Run, and the tree line will not be removed. An engineer for FCPS explained that they were exploring the idea of piping some of the extra water under the swale. A large field at the end of Maryland Avenue will collect storm water in a similar fashion to the fields on the existing site. Overflow during storms will spill into the swale.

The existing swale along the Glade Village properties will flow into a new underground pipe. This change combined with narrowed drive lanes on the property eliminated most of the retaining wall. As a result, a small section of retaining wall that is six feet tall will be built at the north-west corner of the property.

The path from Mill Run to the school property will be replaced with an ADA-compliant path.

The lighting on the property was reduced in the plan to reduce impact on neighboring properties.

Planning Commission members raised a few concerns about revised plans.

Commission member David Ennis asked if the Town’s engineers had reviewed the plans which were submitted on Good Friday. The Town Engineer stated that a thorough review was not possible due to the time constraints, and that the storm water management plan had not been provided, yet.

Mr. Ennis also raised concerns about the continued parking of buses on the property. Commission member Timothy Pollack disagreed that the parking is an issue, because it has been done for decades. Commission member Michael Kuster pointed out that approval of the plan with bus parking would be an approval of the parking that has never been an explicitly approved use of the property. He pointed out that a memo from the applicants state that they will not exceed the current seven buses that park on the property, but eight buses were parked there all weekend.

Commission Member Russ Winch disputed the Planning Commission’s authority to restrict the parking. Mr. Ennis argued that the use as a bus depot needs to be approved. He asked why the buses could not be parked at the B Building across West Frederick Street. FCPS stated that evening programs at that building make that impractical. Mr. Kuster asked about parking the buses at the High School or the FCPS bus depot on Hayward Road. FCPS again stated that there is not enough parking at the high school nor at the bus depot.

Commission Chair Dick Brady asked if FCPS had acquired an easement to use part of the former library property for its driveway to the Rock Creek School. Mr. Bruce Dean, representing FCPS, stated that they had indeed received the easement, but it had just come by e-mail earlier in the day. Mr. Brady asked for a copy, and Mr. Dean agreed to provide a copy.

Board of Education President Brad Young, who is also a Walkersville resident, spoke on behalf of FCPS. Despite voting twice against locating Rock Creek School in Walkersville, Mr. Young urged the Planning Commission to approve the site plans.

Rock Creek Principal Mary Malone discussed her school’s programs and their excitement to join the Walkersville Community. She introduced a parent from her school who described the value of Rock Creek School to her, her son, and the community.

Several other residents explained that they do not question the value of Rock Creek School, but that they were worried about the impact of the building on their properties and the community. Specifically, several worried about the impact of storm water on their properties.

Mr. Winch moved to conditionally approve the site plan. Planning Commission member Ray Santullo seconded the motion. Mr. Ennis stated that he could not vote in favor of the motion without seeing the storm water management plan. Mr. Kuster agreed that the number of drastic changes to the plan and lack of review by the Town’s engineers made it impossible to approve the motion. Mr. Brady agreed that the Planning Commission did not have enough information for an approval.

Mr. Winch amended his motion to give preliminary approval of the concept presented. Mr. Santullo seconded. Mr. Ennis moved to amend the motion to deny overnight and weekend parking of buses on the property, and Mr. Kuster seconded the motion. The amendment failed. The originally amended motion passed with:

  • In Favor:
    • Dick Brady
    • Timothy Pollack
    • Ray Santullo
    • Russ Winch
    • John Zimmerman
  • Opposed:
    • David Ennis
    • Michael Kuster

The plan also requires permission by the Planning Commission to remove a specimen red oak tree, and a waiver to allow two principal use buildings on a single lot. Mr. Winch wanted to move ahead with those approvals.

Mr. Pollack worried that other trees may need to be removed after reviews of the storm water management plan.

Mr. Winch moved to approve two principal uses on a single lot. After a quick second, Mr. Kuster reiterated that he cannot vote to approve the motion without more information. He complained that the lack of a storm water management plan, the numerous inaccuracies, and drastic changes failed to meet the requirement that plans meet a standard of excellence, “in particular the impact on neighboring properties.” The Commission then voted to approve two principal uses on a single lot with:

  • In Favor:
    • Dick Brady
    • Timothy Pollack
    • Ray Santullo
    • Russ Winch
    • John Zimmerman
  • Opposed:
    • Michael Kuster
  • Abstaining:
    • David Ennis

FCPS will have to come before the Planning Commission again for approval of their site plan after a storm water management plan is presented for review by the Commission and Town Engineers.

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