Several Harford County Council members say a growth-control bill offered by County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann will be ineffective unless it is strengthened.
Rehrmann's "adequate public facilities" bill, which was the subject of a hearing before the council last night, would allow the county to block a new housing subdivision if it would increase a school's enrollment beyond 120 percent of the school's specified capacity.
The council is expected to act on the bill in several weeks, after considering amendments.
Council members questioned the threshold of 120 percent, saying they believe schools can be crowded before reaching that level.
Council members questioned the threshold of 120 percent, saying they feel schools can be overcrowded before reaching that level.
"The worst thing we can do is pass a bill that says adequate public facilities on it, but we still have the same crowded conditions," said Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, a Republican.
Some schools are not yet at 120 percent of capacity, as cited by county planners, but they still need portable classrooms to keep class sizes reasonable, said Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C.
Bruce Wells, speaking for the Community Coalition of Harford County, an umbrella group of civic organizations, told the council that his group also regards the threshold for stopping development as too high.
He said 10 of the county's 44 schools already are over 100 percent capacity.
A representative of local builders, however, said his group could not support imposing building moratoriums. "We are not in favor of stopping growth," said Bill Maloney, president of the county chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland.
Moratoriums would result in the loss of many jobs that support the construction industry, Maloney said. In addition, he said, the bill has no mechanism for forcing the county to build new schools to alleviate crowding.
William G. Carroll, the county planning and zoning director, acknowledged the difficulty of ensuring adequate space for students while not placing too big of a burden on developers. "We tried to be sensitive to two sides," he said.
Carroll added that the threshold for stopping development in certain areas cannot be set too low, because then the county would have difficulty getting state funding to build new schools.