Council Expected To Ok Adequate-facilities Bill

Six Pendergrass Amendments Fail

January 29, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Council member Shane Pendergrass fired the biggest salvo yet at the county's proposed adequate facilities ordinance -- but to no avail. The council is expected to pass the legislation intact next week.

Pendergrass, D-1st, offered six amendments Monday night -- most dealing with points of clarification -- to the plan at the council's work session Monday night.

She also sought to allow builders to defer payment of an excise tax until late in the process in order to hold down housing costs. Shereceived support for only one clarifying amendment.

The excise tax, one of three main thrusts of the adequate facilities legislation, also received comment.

The school portion of the proposed legislation most offended Pendergrass. The bill halts development in an area for four years if the elementary schools there are 20 percent over capacity. After that, development may proceed.

She said that the bill will not help Savage and north Laurel schools that are already overcrowded, adding that there are few, if any, school sites left to accommodate growth projected for that area.

"I have a huge problem with this," Pendergrass told council members and the 12-member commission of developers, civic leaders, school officials and county employeesthat developed the proposal.

"You're projecting 7,724 units in the next 10 years and no new schools? Something is wrong, guys. Wrong!"Pendergrass said.

The numbers come not from the legislation but from the 1990 General Plan approved earlier by the council, county planning director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. told Pendergrass.

"Mo, what are we going to do for schools?" Pendergrass asked commission member Maurice Kalin, associate school superintendent for planning and supportservices.

Kalin agreed with Pendergrass that schools in her area will be overcrowded by approximately 264 students next year but said the numbers had been factored into the school systems projections through 1999.

"These numbers have got to be revised," Pendergrass said.

Kalin told Pendergrass that while "finding (new) sites will be almost impossible," the school board's capital budget will probably be revised. The board is "going to have to look at a new southeast elementary and middle school" for 1998, he said.

Commission Chairman James H. Eacker said Pendergrass' attempt to revise General Plan growth projections for Savage and north Laurel will not affect the adequate facilities package because numbers are not part of the legislation.

Pendergrass said she plans a General Plan amendment that would revise the numbers downward in her district.

Activist John W. Taylor, president and founder of a slow-growth lobby called Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, was buoyed by Pendergrass' remarks.

"Shane Pendergrass made history tonight," Taylor said. "She was a ray ofsunlight coming through a very dark sky. It was worth it to sit through three hours of boring discussion to hear one council member finally say what my group has been saying for years. I hope other council members will look at the General Plan and make some cuts, not just reshuffle what's there."

Taylor fears that unless amended, the General Plan and the proposed adequate facilities ordinance will "ensure high levels of growth and development" rather than schools and roads that can accommodate new growth. "They're laying some fearsome groundwork for when the recession ends," he said.

Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, believes otherwise. After listening to the commission respond point by point to 35 comments, concerns and objections ata public hearing on the legislation last week, Farragut expressed satisfaction with the commission's work.

"We've had a year of preparation for this," he said. "We're ready to vote."

C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, wanted a portion of the tax set aside for rapid transit. The bill proposes that the tax be used exclusively for roads. Diverting a portion of the tax to rapid transit may be an option in the future, commissioners told Gray, but it is unrealistic now, given the county's sparse population.

The bill calls for the excise tax to be put into a special fund and used for road construction anywhere in the county.

Public Works Director James M. Irvin said the county would not short-change other projects to build highways. He said he expected the capital budget to continue to average 40 percent for schools and 30percent each for roads and other projects each year.

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