Commissioners Faced With Critical Amish Dilemma
La Plata, MD - 8/1/2012
By Andy Marquis
Should an Amish community pay for school allocations they will not use? That’s the conundrum that faced the Charles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning regarding a possible Amish community near Mt. Victoria.
Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreements (DRRAs) are contracts with the county, approved by the commissioners, designed to have the developer pay the county for school allocations, among other things.
At issue today was an existing DRRA for the Borroughs Hall development. The DRRA is for 36 lots at a total cost of $468,000 to be paid each year through 2017. The Mt. Tirzah Family Limited Partnership requested a three-year suspension of the agreement because the Old Order of the Amish has expressed interest in the property, located near Mt. Victoria.
Charles County Director of Planning and Growth Management Peter Aluotto said the request to suspend the DRRAs had merit because the Amish do not use public schools and would not need the allocations. Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) felt that making a special exception would create a precedent, saying that many taxpayers don’t use public schools but still pay taxes on them. Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D: 4th) said an Amish community would be a great addition to the county.
Attorney Louis Jenkins, who prepared the request on behalf of Mt. Tirzah, says the $65,000 request for five school allocations would be passed down to the Amish and it would be a tremendous burden on the Amish community. Former Charles County Commissioner President Murray Levy, who is a paid consultant for the Balanced Growth Initiative, said that special exemptions are made all the time when speaking in support of suspending the DRRA.
The commissioners did vote to send the matter to a public hearing, however a date was not immediately set.