Buying Time in Howard

October 29, 1990

After two months of negotiating with business and community groups, the outgoing Howard County Council has been unable to come up with an adequate public facilities bill that everybody can live with.

So it has decided to buy time with a resolution that commits the next council to finish the job it started three months ago -- forcing builders to help shoulder infrastructure costs in areas plagued by overcrowded schools and gridlock. If no legislation emerges by the time the current cap on building permits expires next March, the lid stays on -- indefinitely.

It is tempting to chide the Howard council for failing to come up with a workable bill -- or even a consensus within its own ranks. But County Executive Elizabeth Bobo was hopelessly tardy with the complex set of formulas needed to make the law work.

This resolution doesn't solve Howard's mounting infrastructure problems, but it does guarantee future action -- or the continuation of the building cap.

Left to the next council is the tough job of wading through the concerns of special interest groups to come up with legislation with teeth. Ideally, this law should apply to the flood of new development in the pipeline.

Tying the passage of an adequate facilities bill to the permit cap makes sense. It will undoubtedly encourage developers -- the measure's most vociferous opponents -- to work with the county to come up with a sensible compromise.

Still, the county council should realize that another five months -- or five years for that matter -- isn't likely to produce a bill that makes everybody happy.

A sluggish economy is already working in Howard's favor by reducing development activity. It is up to county government to seize this opportunity to make sure that future growth is accompanied by adequate roads and schools.

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