Sunday, January 7, 2018

Fact: Superintendent's Estimate of School Population Does Not Consider Future Mixed-Use Projects

Mayor Palazzolo recently wrote a constituent an email that included the following statement:  

"My goal is to remove the emotional, anecdotal assumptions and hysteria toward this subject to a factual and data driven strategy with a process of extensive due diligence before we take a step forward." 

Oh, really? Citizens who are wondering why this factual, data driven process wasn't done before the Planning Commission and BMA decided to double the number of apartment complex units are guilty of hysteria?   

In this post I follow up on the last one, adding more detail as to why the proposed moratorium is inadequate. I submit that if the Mayor's version of the moratorium is passed unamended, it is conceivable that as many as 800 students could be added to our school system from additional residential units being added to our City as a result of various developments, rather than the 500 estimated by Superintendent Manuel.

Let us examine the facts, without hysteria:  

I previously explained the fact that our Superintendent, Jason Manuel, assumes .31 students per residential unit to calculate the projected student population (also see video embedded below). I also revealed the fact that Director of Economic Development Cameron Ross used a figure of .18 students per residential unit. This is the estimate proposed by the Watermark developers, and they based it on an apartment complex located in Colorado Springs. Rather than continuing to hammer this .18 vs. .31 factual discrepancy, I would like in this post to switch gears and discuss the number of new residential units being used to estimate the future school population.

As I explain below, GMSD, when projecting student population, did not consider additional units that might come on line either in single family homes nor as part of a future multi-use project. Yet, it is a fact that future multi-use projects are excluded from the moratorium proposed by the Mayor. In other words, multi-use apartment complexes will go forward without the moratorium's benefit of "a factual and data driven strategy with a process of extensive due diligence." 

You may listen to two minutes of Superintendent Manuel's discussion of the number of residential units he is using to estimate student population. (This was the November Planning Commission Meeting). 

In these remarks, Mr. Manuel observes, among other things, that the new school will have at least some excess capacity because, if necessary, the school could use the "extra" spaces (for example the STEM room) as classrooms. Of course, that is precisely what is taking place now in the newly renovated and severely overcrowded Riverdale School. The mere fact that Mr. Manuel is even contemplating this possibility suggests an ominous beginning for the new school.

It is a fact that Mr Manuel, in projecting that roughly 500 students would be added to the overall school population, assumed a total of 1400 new residential units. In my earlier 1-05 post, I actually arrived at a total of 1500 residential units. But, again the fact is that neither my calculation of 1500 units nor Mr. Manuel's 1400 includes future multi-use projects not yet in the pipeline. Nor do these calculations include any future single-family units.

It is undisputed that when future multi-use residential units are approved, they would, when added to the single-family units likely to be built, generate a total of new residential units that substantially exceeds Mr. Manuel's 1400 and my 1500 estimate. This is so even if Mayor Palazzolo's proposed moratorium is adopted. Consider the following:

1. At the December Planning Commission meeting, the Parc proposal for Forest Hill Heights was pulled by the out-of-town developer at the last minute. A source told me that the Planning Commission told the developer to resubmit the plan as a multi-use project. It was at this meeting that  Mayor Palazzolo, responding to negative feedback from citizens, proposed the toothless moratorium currently under consideration. It is a good bet, I think, that Parc will  be reworked as a multi-use project-- perhaps an apartment complex with a coffee shop attached to it.

2. Citizens residing near the Cordova Road Triangle have been approached by Former Director of Economic Development Andy Pouncey, who now consults with multiple property developers. The would be out-of-town developers of this land are thought to be planning to propose a multi-use residential project (apartments plus something arguably multi-use in order to exclude it from the proposed moratorium).

3. It is a fact that, in the December BMA meeting, the BMA decided to modify the zoning for the entire Forest Hill Heights area so that it would be governed byT5 Smart Growth. This opens the entire area up for potential multi-use apartment projects. One cannot help but ask: What new projects are being contemplated for the Forest Hill Heights area?

4. When considering anticipated total housing units, in order to project school population, we not only need to discuss the multi-use projects that would be exempted from the moratorium, but also future single family developments. 

For example, the Reaves property next to the new school  was redesignated R1 residential. It had been zoned for estate lots. When this property is developed for single family homes, it of course will not be included in the moratorium. Such development, nonetheless needs to be considered when projecting the future student population. 

How many additional residential units, beyond 1400-1500, will actually be added in the months ahead? Obviously, no one knows. Indeed, at the current time, it is hard to even come up with a ballpark figure. We can say that it makes sense for the City to actually follow the Small Area Plan rather than giving it lip service while simultaneously changing the zoning to allow more apartment complexes in the area.   As I showed in my earlier 12-20 post, the number of apartment units in Forest Hill Heights (Watermark plus Viridian) already exceeds the number of units contemplated by the Small Area Plan.  But, with Parc still hanging out there, not to mention what may happen in the newly designated T5 area, there is no telling what is in store.

It is not farfetched, I submit, to conjecture that, unless the current way of thinking substantially changes, the City, even if the moratorium is adopted, could, in the next eighteen months approve as many as 2400-2500 residential units rather than the 1400-1500 units estimated by Mr. Manuel and me. Please pardon me if I am being hysterical.  Fact: 1000 new residential units over and above our original estimates would, using Mr. Manuel's ratio of .31 students per residential unit, add approximately 310 students more than the 500 additional students projected by Mr. Manuel, for a total of 810.  And, again, this influx of 810 new students would take place if the proposed moratorium passes in its current form. 

Fact: All three of our elementary schools are well over maximum capacity, and far exceed ideal capacity. Our high school and middle school are also at or over capacity.

Fact: There is evidence that overcrowding of our schools is detrimental to our students.  Please refer to this article: Do Crowded Classrooms Affect Learning?  

In conclusion, the moratorium, as proposed, because it  excludes multi-use projects as well as those already in the pipeline, will do little to prevent the continued overcrowding of our schools. 

If Mayor Palazzolo is genuinely interested in a "factual and data driven strategy", the proposed moratorium should be expanded to include both projects in the pipeline and multi-use residential projects.

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