Even before the stadium's Astroturf is laid at the new North Point High School in Waldorf, a waiting list of developers who want to build homes in the neighborhood is growing.
The reason: The county has begun rationing building permits in the community because North Point High will be brimming with students when it opens this year.
Like other rapidly expanding counties, Charles cannot build schools quickly enough to keep pace with housing construction. Home builders often wait three or four years for permits, which the county issues based on the number of students its schools can handle.
So Charles is poised to offer the equivalent of a highway fast-lane pass to developers who pay for the privilege. Developers probably would pay $15,000 to advance to the front of the line to build one home in a community where classrooms are full. In turn, the county would use the money to build schools or expand crowded ones.
The county Board of Commissioners agreed last month to make 900 fast passes available starting next year. Six hundred permits will be offered each year to builders who are willing to endure the traditional waiting period.
County planners are bracing for a flood of applications. Planning Director David Umling declined to pinpoint a date when the county would begin reviewing such proposals because, he said, "there is such a pent-up demand."
David Cooksey, a vice president of the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association, said developers would pay for predictability.
"If you're not at the top of the freebie list, you'll buy your way onto the other as long as the market is strong,'' said Cooksey, who helped draft policy recommendations.
Though developers are satisfied with the framework of the county's Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, Cooksey questioned "whether the entire costs for construction for all new schools in Charles County should be on the backs of new homeowners."
Two years ago, the county imposed a tax on residents who purchase new homes. The roughly $10,000 tax, spread out over 10 years, covers a portion of the county's share of school construction costs. The projected $15,000 price tag for the fast-track program represents the state's share of those costs.
Commissioner Robert Fuller (D-St. Charles) said setting aside 600 permits for developers who choose the traditional route addressed his concerns that small local builders would be shut out of the process.
Proposals from developers would need approval from the commissioners after review by county planners, the county attorney and the Planning Commission.
Under the voluntary agreements, developers also could propose fast-forwarding the process by paying for new roads or water and sewer systems. But schools are by far the biggest obstacle to building, largely because state funding for construction is lagging.
In Charles County, more than 5,000 students attend classes in some 200 trailers. Over the next 20 years, the school district estimates it will need to spend more than $500 million to build 18 schools.
The tightest squeeze is in the neighborhood surrounding the new North Point, a special high-tech high school scheduled to open next month. Nine subdivisions are planned for the area with a waiting list of 1,373 home projects. The county released just 22 spots in January and expects to hand out another 22 this month.
"Of all the I's and T's you have to dot and cross, it is the one element that's most limiting," said county planner Jason Groth. "The only way to do it is to wait your turn until there is capacity or pay into a fund to create the capacity."