Linkage Of Development Limits, School Capacity Sought

September 22, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

The county government hopes to introduce legislation tying development limits to school capacity next month as the first step in its proposed adequate public facilities program.

The County Council and Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann reached a consensus Thursday night at a meeting that schools should be the first priority as Harford devises growth management measures to assure government's ability to provide services.

During the next year, the county will consider how to stay ahead of growing demands for sewer and water, roads, public safety, parks and recreation and other tax-supported functions.

The county Board of Education projects a 29 percent increase in

the public school population by 1996. It is seeking support for a $108 million expansionplan to make room for 9,000 new students.

"We're really striving to keep up on elementary schools," said William G. Carroll, director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning.

"There may be some slowing of development. That's the whole purpose of this."

The adequate schools legislation would include a cap on development in an area when an affected school reaches 120 percent of its planned capacity.

Exceeding capacity by 20 percent would seem to contradict thegoal of adequate facilities. But Carroll explained that the county must use that figure to justify state aid for school construction.

The Interagency Committee on School construction parcels out money tolocal governments only if existing schools are already overcrowded.

"You can absorb a certain amount of capacity with portable classrooms," Carroll said. "We're trying to meet IAC standards."

The school system already has 44 portable classrooms and is buying 10 more.

With an adequate public facilities law, county planning and zoning officials could issue temporary building moratoriums because schools are overcrowded or other services are strained.

Despite general agreement that schools are the most pressing component of the adequate facilities program, Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, said introducing legislation next month might be premature.

She said the county should wait until a citizens panel Rehrmann appointed to study creative school construction financing methods reports to her inJanuary.

Writing legislation to assure adequate classroom space might be among the county's easier tasks in managing growth of services.

Some of the challenges of measuring the adequacy of other services came up Thursday night during a final legislative work session between the council and executive.

"We all decide to push schools first. That's the critical need," Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, said.

With fixed numbers of students and classrooms, the demand and supply relationship is easily measurable, she said.

Butit could be more difficult determining how to peg growth to some other services that don't have such a direct relation, Pierno said.

She questioned how the executive intends to judge whether the county has adequate service from the Sheriff's Office.

The planning and zoning adequate facilities draft proposal identifies 2.1 sworn Sheriff's Office staff per 1,000 residents as the optimal standard.

But Pierno said the minimum standard of 1.6 per 1,000 that the county currently meets is not good enough.

"I think we're setting it low, because if we set it higher, we'd have to hire more deputies," she said.

Pierno suggested tying the number of deputies to building permit activity as a "hammer" to require new positions as the county grows.

"There's nothing compelling us to add new deputies," she said.

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