County residents accused school officials last week of waiting untilthe last minute to select possible sites for new elementary, middle and high schools, resulting in locations that are less than ideal.
"They are under the gun because they have not determined the sites earlier," said Carol Filipczak, president of the Howard County Citizens Association.
"The whole process of identifying and acquiring sites is not going well for the school system," she said.
But at a hearing last week, school officials said that available property for school sites is severely limited due to competition from developers.
"The problem is, where there are large parcels of land, the owners prefer to use them for more profitable housing developments, rather than to sell it to us for institutional use," said school board chairwoman Deborah D.Kendig.
About 30 county residents complained to the board last week. The objections involved all three of the proposed sites identified last month for construction of three new schools.
The elementaryand middle schools are scheduled to open in 1993 and the high schoolis planned to open in 1994.
Most of those testifying were residents of the Trotter Road area opposed to the 69 acres between Route 108and Trotter Road selected as a possible site for the western high school.
The owner of the land, Howard Research and Development Corp., has offered to donate the land to the school board.
Once completed, the new high school would serve students from the final Columbia village, River Hill.
Neighborhood residents said the site will create traffic congestion and destroy the rural character of the area. Other drawbacks, residents said, are the site's awkward C-shape and its proximity to Clarksville Elementary School.
"Most parents don't like the thought of having elementary school students so close to high school students," said Nancy Parlette, president of the Trotter Road Citizens Association.
Residents were also extremely concerned that the proposed site is adjacent to the Columbia Memorial Park.
They said that students might vandalize and deface the graves and were also worried that cheers from athletic events might intrude on a graveside burial service.
"A school alongside a cemetery could detractfrom the serenity and peaceful setting we are trying to create," said Harvey Geller, president and owner of Columbia Memorial Park.
The Howard County Citizens Association's biggest criticism was directedtoward the proposed site for the western middle school. The 40-acre site is part of a 187-acre tract at the corner of Folly Quarter Road and Route 144 owned by 5th District Councilman Charles C. Feaga and his four brothers and sisters.
The association said the extension of water and sewer service to the site will encourage more developmentin the area, which contradicts the county's General Plan.
"It just nibbles away and expands development further and further at a time when the county is having a hard time meeting service requirements for existing developments," said association president Filipczak.
The proposed northeastern elementary school site on eight acres in the Rockburn Branch Park drew criticism from residents who were concernedabout losing parkland to a school site.
The board has said it will pay for replacement park land, but has not designated the new property yet, Filipczak said.
"They have a responsibility to come up with a really super site to replace what they are taking," Filipczak said.