Planners Plot County's Future In A Code All Their Own

The Scene -- County Currents and undercurrents

January 15, 1992|By James M. Coram Donna E. Boller

Never known for making things simple, the county planning and zoningdepartment has taken a tip from "Star Wars."

But instead of C3P0 or R2D2, it's RA-15, R-SC, PEC and R-20. Even spelled out -- residential attached 15 units per acre, residential single cluster, planned employment center and residential two units per acre -- these terms require you to be something of a polyglot to understand what they mean.

The planning board, which has to decipher these codes on a weeklybasis, was itself stumped momentarily last week when slow-growth advocate Susan Gray mentioned "ag-prez" in her testimony about comprehensive zoning of the west.

"What?" board Vice Chairman Kay B. Partridge wanted to know.

"Agricultural land preservation," Gray said.

"Oh," said Partridge. It was poetic justice. Earlier in the week, the planning board had tried some stumping of its own.

While hearing testimony from the adequate facilities commission, board member Nelson Fenwick wanted to know about the "granularity of the measurement"used to determine whether an intersection would be able to accommodate new development.

He was only whetting the appetite. The main course was offered by board member Dale Schumacher. How would the adequate facilities proposal deal with "exogenous boluses of traffic," he wanted to know.

Commission members never flinched.

"At last, someone who speaks my language!" Rosemary Mortimer told Schumacher.

MARCHING FOR TAXES

They brought placards that read, "Our Students Deserve Better" and T-shirts that said, "Education Cuts Never Heal." They brought $3 apiece to pay the bus drivers for passage to Annapolis and snacks in lieu of dinner.

"Well," said one man who was carryinga tray from Hardee's, "I don't think the governor is going to feed us."

That was OK. The estimated 1,200 Howard County residents who joined the 20,000 Marylanders rallying in Annapolis last Wednesday weren't looking for a free lunch anyway. The 20,000 protesters, many of them construction workers, teachers, parents and students, who made up the largest demonstration the state capital had seen in 20 years were there to tell the General Assembly they would rather pay higher taxes than swallow further budget cuts.

A sampling of thoughts from county residents who joined the march down Rowe Boulevard:

* FelixSmith, physical education teacher at Deep Run Elementary School: "I remember in the '70s, I was going to demonstrations saying, 'No war, no war.' Now I'm going to say, 'Raise my taxes.' " The rallies of hisyouth were to express a philosophical belief, he said. This time, facing a practical choice between seeing the school budget gutted and accepting an increase in his taxes, he went to Annapolis to say "something I never thought I'd say."

* James Lee, 15, a sophomore at Oakland Mills High School: "I'm going because I'm kind of sick and tiredof all the cuts they're making in education, and this is a way to voice my opinion. If enough people come, it will help."

* Jodi Diamond-Yur, special education teacher at Glenelg High School: "I'm hopingit (the rally) will make a difference."

Asked how cuts in the school system's budget had affected her ability to do her job, she replied, "The classrooms are absolutely freezing, and that places additional demands on the students." Thermostats in county schools were turned down to 65 degrees during the day as part of $3.9 million in budgetcuts that the school system had to absorb last October when the General Assembly slashed aid to counties.

Diamond-Yur said she also does not expect any additional supplies, so if she gets new students, she will have to stretch existing supplies.

The impact of the rallyon the state's lawmakers remains to be seen, but Gov. William DonaldSchaefer proposed $700 million in new taxes, along with $500 millionin budget cuts for 1992-1993, in his State of the State message.

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