Have you heard? There might be a building moratorium in the WJ Cluster.

Have you heard? There might be a building moratorium in the WJ Cluster.

This potential building moratorium has probably flown under your personal news radar, but it could have real consequences in the Pike District. Basically, Walter Johnson High School and five other school clusters could be placed under a one-year residential building moratorium July 1 because the schools are at 120% or more of their student capacity.

Casey Anderson, Planning Board Chair, said during a WAMU interview, “If you have a development moratorium, then you’re cutting off a source of revenue that can help to solve the problem. In fact, you’re arguably cutting off more revenue than it would cost you to accommodate the new students. The other issue is that over the medium term, or even the short term, we’re really constraining our economic development more generally because our workforce needs housing that meets the needs of employers.”

The Planning Department has analyzed data from MCPS and concluded that most new students aren’t coming from new housing — they live in existing homes. Of the roughly 4,000 new students attending schools targeted for moratoria, only about 200 of them — or 5 percent — occupy new developments. That illustrates how, despite the myths, new construction does not necessarily increase school population.

In the same interview, Coalition for Smarter Growth said, “The moratorium is a blunt and counterproductive tool. When the moratorium is in effect, the county misses out on all of the benefits of new development, like providing more homes around transit.”

We’ll be writing more about this issue over the next couple of weeks, but here are a few articles to catch you up.

Video from Fox 5 news. (Ignore the first couple of insipid interviews and get to the part where Casey Anderson speaks.)https://www.fox5dc.com/news/402541493-video

Channel 9 news story and videohttps://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/maryland/montgomery-county-bans-new-housing-developments-due-to-school-overcrowding/65-bea4b904-5131-4b17-8ed0-f0845461a06b

Amy Ginsburg


One comment

Sean F Altekruse

When schools reach 120% of capacity, maybe that’s a hint that it’s time to build more schools. It also makes sense to add more office space and attract business around transit hubs. That was the original concept of smart growth and “the new urbanism.” Maybe there are also clues that it’s time to dial back on residential construction and de-emphasize the bloated retail market in North Bethesda until school capacity reaches equilibrium with all the same old boring profit oriented development that’s going up today. It would be so great to see developers step up to fund the proper mix including public resources that our community needs.

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