Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"... I am here today to support Dr. Starr’s recent recommendation ..." [Testimony at today's Board of Ed meeting]

Good morning, Dr. Starr, Ms. Brandman, and members of the Board.

My name is James Pekar, and I am here today to support Dr. Starr’s recent recommendation to re-do the B-CC Middle School Site Selection, as doing so offers a much-needed period of reflection and assures input from all affected interested parties. I am grateful that you are recognizing some of the significant challenges associated with the Rock Creek Hills Park site.

Dr. Starr noted that all sites considered will be considered again. As I testified and Dr. Starr acknowledged, threshold issues exist regarding the availability of Rock Creek Hills Park for conversion to school use. Given the controversy surrounding the process up to this point, it is imperative that the status of the park be clarified in an open and transparent manner, with specific documentation available for inspection and analysis.

For example, under the Maryland Code, conversion restrictions apply to land “acquired or developed” with Program Open Space funds. Absent is any language limiting enforcement of this restriction, which is noteworthy because, as you know, there is third-hand information indicating that DNR may draw such a distinction as a matter of “practice”. This lack of clarity, coupled with the fact that the only documentation found so far states that the park was developed with Land and Water Conservation Fund money, is what prompted the inquiries pending with the state and with the federal government.

As you conduct your review, we ask that you join our request to secure the following information to clarify this situation:
  • The sources of the development funds used for development of the park;
  • The specific documentation that DNR has regarding the use of LWCF and/or POS funds for the development of the park;
  • The documentation regarding any limitations that were attached to the funds used for the development of that park;
  • Should any reported DNR “practice” to limit enforcement of any statutory conversion restrictions exist, the statutory basis for that “practice”; and
  • The statutory or regulatory provisions supporting any conclusions on the legal status of the LWCF and/or POS funds discussed.
As always, we stand ready to assist the Board in finding a site that maximizes educational benefits to all students in this cluster.

Thank you.

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