Richmond City Council has passed a resolution asking for “school impact statements” on new home and apartment construction.
It's is an attempt to address the effects of new developments popping up across the city. Nearly 20,000 people have moved to Richmond since 2010 and the growth isn’t showing any signs of stopping. The resolution was sponsored by City Council members Kim Gray and Kristen Larson, both of whom previously sat on the school board.
Larson said she drafted the legislation after hearing from a mother who had no way for her child to walk to school safely.
“That’s a good example of why we need something on the books and a process in place when a development is going in that will have a large number of families,” Larson.
The details of what will be included in these school impact statements haven’t been worked out yet. The resolution suggests looking at things like increased traffic and demands on public transportation, but it will ultimately be up to Richmond’s Planning Department to finalize a process for preparing the statements. Larson said it’s important the city also understand how new development will affect enrollment at neighborhood schools.
“As a former school board member, I have seen where development comes in and you as the school system are sitting there saying ‘We didn’t know about these 100 new families that are coming in and populating our schools,’” she said.
The impact statements will be created by Richmond’s Planning Department and shared with the Richmond School Board and Planning Commission before projects are approved. It will then be up to city officials and the school board to work together on a plan to mitigate any problems.
Mark Olinger, head of the Department of Planning and Development Review, said his department has already been tasked with evaluating proposed developments for their proximity to parks, schools, and transit. He said the changes shouldn’t affect the efficiency of issuing new building permits.
“A lot of this information is already there, it’s just changing our staff reports,” Olinger said. “I think the real idea is that development doesn’t occur in a vacuum and we need to make sure that what gets developed compliments and supports the other activities around it.”