School Planning for Downtown Columbia – Garbage in, Garbage Out

When it comes to planning for the number of students to be generated by the Downtown Columbia development, it unfortunately appears that Howard County does not know what they are talking about. Garbage in, garbage out.

The County cites the Metropolitan as a real-world example of how many school-age children are generated. The Baltimore Sun reports (here) based upon a DPZ school yield memo that the 418 units produce only 13 students–far fewer than expected. The student yield is 3.5 times lower than in other parts of the County. Based on these numbers, the County would conclude that 45.5 students would be expected. The County says don’t worry, be happy there will be plenty of room in the schools.

The problem is that the County’s numbers are well–wrong. There are not 418 units in the Metropolitan; there are only 380. And in the testimony provided to the County Council on July 18 by the Assistant Property Manager Ashley Hull (here) there are not just 13 school aged children; there are 55.

The number of units is less, and the number of students is higher. Thus, while the County believes that the Metropolitan generates only 3.11 students per 100 units, in actuality the apartment building has generated 14.47 students per 100 units–4.65 times more than the County believes. So much for the belief that the yield is 3.5 times lower than expected.

The Sun article states that the 6400 Downtown units will yield 755 students–11.80 students per 100 units; though this is less than the 1165 students anticipated based upon development in other parts of the County. 1165 students would yield 18.20 students per 100 units. However, using the actual numbers from the Metropolitan as a guide, there will be 926 students generated by the 6400 units–not 755.

The County is setting itself and the public for a rude awakening when it awakes from the dream that the Metropolitan is larger and has far fewer students than it actually does.