Howard County's adequate facilities legislation is now official.
Opponents failed last week to meet the deadline for obtaining the necessary number of registered voters to sign a petition that would haveput portions of the law on the ballot this fall. A successful petition would have held up the legislation until voters decided whether toapprove it.
Opponents needed 4,636 signatures to put the law on the ballot. Signatures of 2,319 voters would have given opponents a 30-day extension to collect the remainder.
"We were of course very disappointed we didn't make it happen," said John W. Taylor, president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, which along with Citizens Allied forRational Expansion circulated the petition.
Taylor said the groups never bothered to count the signatures because "they were clearly well under 2,500." He estimated the signers to number about 1,000.
Failure to get the required number of signatures is not surprising, Taylor said, "when you consider the number of things thrown at us thisyear -- Waverly Woods, comprehensive rezoning of the west, and of course, the adequate public facilities ordinance itself."
The five-bill, five-resolution adequate facilities package has three main features: a roads test to determine whether intersections can accommodate traffic generated by a proposed development; a schools test to determine whether nearby schools will be overcrowded when new residents move into a proposed development; and an excise tax imposed on all new residential and commercial construction.
The excise tax money wouldbe used to complete major highway projects across the county. A developer who failed the roads test could proceed by either paying a fee or improving the intersection. But if the schools test is failed, thedeveloper must wait four years before proceeding.
Taylor's petitions challenged three of the bills.
"One of the lessons we learned," Taylor said, "is that we tried to do too much. We tried to take three bills at once. I was at a shopping center for two hours and gathered only 22 signatures -- 66 if you count the fact that each person had to sign three times."
County Executive Charles I. Ecker said last week he is pleased that the law is now official.
"We put together a coalition (a 12-member commission of developers, civic leaders, school officials and county employees that spent a year working on theordinance) with wide-spread community support," Ecker said. "The citizens of the county realize the law is in the best interests of the county. There are some things they may not like, but on overall balance, it is good for Howard County."
Taylor continues to disagree. "The law was billed as a compromise," he said, "but the only thing compromised are the citizens of Howard County.
"This will become know as the the developers' relief act of 1992 unless we can convince three members of the council to change parts of it. We may be losing individual battles, but we are not going to lose the overall war."