Howard council may delay vote on key growth-limit legislation

September 28, 1990|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

The Howard County Council, feeling the heat on a proposal to limit growth in areas where roads and schools are overburdened, may put off a vote on the most controversial aspect of the legislation.

Several council members said yesterday they expect to pass enabling legislation for the adequate-facilities ordinance before November, but to delay action on the complex manuals that outline what a developer must do to comply with the law.

The legislation, proposed by County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, has drawn heated reaction from business leaders, who warn that quick action may lead to a flawed law that could shut down development and shake the county's fiscal stability.

Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, said the council was placed in an awkward position because the administration did not introduce the enabling legislation until this month, with the manuals to arrive Monday.

"The administration had promised to introduce it in May," she said.

If the council does not vote on the legislation before November election, then no action can take place until the new council is seated in December.

Council members Angela Beltram, D-2nd, Paul Farragut, D-4th, and C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, agreed with Ms. Pendergrass that it might be best to delay action on the manuals until after the election.

"I am very serious about understanding the impact of the manuals," Ms. Pendergrass said. "At this time, quite frankly I don't think I can vote on them."

Ms. Beltram noted that even with a delay, the council would likely have the new regulations in place before the county's 18-month cap on new residential development expires at the end of March.

The council's lone Republican, Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said he was somewhat reluctant to postpone action until after the election because he felt the council should not hide behind such a delay.

"But we may need more time to get better legislation," said Mr. Feaga, who favors an adequate-facilities bill but believes there will be "a huge number of amendments" to the proposed legislation.

The enabling ordinance is scheduled for a vote Oct. 28 and would take effect in 60 days. The manuals, which would be approved as resolutions, would take effect immediately.

Under the legislation, a new residential or commercial project could not be built if it would cause nearby roads to become so congested that they would drop below level D on the state's A-through-F scale for measuring traffic flow.

If a developer failed to meet that standard, he could seek approval for a portion of the development or come up with a plan for improving roads enough to handle the traffic generated by the project.

Otherwise, construction would have to be delayed until the state or county improved the roads.

Similarly, a residential subdivision could not be built if it would cause schools within a specified distance to be filled beyond the capacity the county has set for them.

If the schools would not be more than 10 percent over capacity, the developer could build the subdivision if he donated a site for a new school.

If the schools would be more than 10 percent above capacity, the developer could build only if he donated land for a new school and submitted a plan to build the project in phases.

The methods of implementing the law are spelled out in manuals for road design and school capacity, which include a complex point system that will be used to determine if a developer has gone far enough in addressing the problem to allow his project to be built.

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