New Law Links Development, School Enrollments

January 26, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Developers planning projects in the county will have to add one moreitem to check on their lists before moving ahead: area school enrollments.

A bill passed last week by the County Council will allow county administrators to reject development proposals in areas where any school would be more than 20 percent over student capacity within three years of building.

The law will take effect July 1.

Called an adequate public facilities law, the legislation would lift the building moratorium only if a new school is built or student populations in area schools decline.

One of the first projects that may be affected by the new law is a proposal to build 462 apartments at Plumtree Road and Route 24, say county administrators.

"At this stage, we hope we're not goingto be affected," said Haran Dahan, whose company, Caddie Homes Inc.,would build the apartment complex. "We've showed them proof we are ready to move ahead.

"We're trying to get them to give us a higher priority to get it through," Dahan said. "But this law is another example of how we hinder every investor. Here we have a $30 million project that would create jobs, develop the tax base and provide roofs overhead that are needed. Yet when people want to invest, we do everything in our power to delay it."

The complex, named Evergreen Farms,has not received preliminary approvals.

Arden Holdredge, chief ofcurrent planning for the Department of Planning and Zoning, said preliminary plans not approved by July 1 "definitely would be affected."

The department will prepare an annual report to identify which schools are most likely to be overcrowded as well as those schools planned to relieve crowding. The report will assist planning and zoning administrators reviewing proposals from developers, Holdredge said.

However, any delays in the approval process for Evergreen Farms overthe next five months could jeopardize the project. That's because itwould be located near the already overcrowded Ring Factory Elementary School.

Joseph Licata, school construction coordinator for the Board of Education, said his estimates show Ring Factory could be 49.7percent over its 610-student capacity by the 1995-1996 school year.

If the new law takes effect before Evergreen Farms is approved, the project could be stalled indefinitely, Holdredge said.

She said it can take an average of four to five months from the time a major subdivision plan is submitted to planning and zoning until it it is approved.

William G. Carroll, director of planning and zoning, said he expects to see more developers try to get their projects approved before the July 1 deadline.

He said his department will immediately begin preparing a report using school enrollment projections to determine what areas might be affected by temporary building moratoriums.

Bill Maloney, president of the Harford County Home Builders Association, said of the new law: "My only real objection is that you mayget into a moratorium and never get out of it."

Maloney of W.P. Maloney Inc., a Bel Air development company, said developers are concerned because other counties have delayed building needed schools, or water and sewer lines, to bar development.

"Let's say there's no money coming from the state and no method of building new schools, andwe're in a moratorium. How do we get out of it? Is there a point at which you decide, 'Maybe we can live with overcrowding for a little while' and allow projects to move ahead again? This law doesn't provide an answer."

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