Crowded schools a factor in rezoning

February 17, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The lack of adequate classroom space will weigh heavily in the county Planning Commission's decision on allowing higher-density development at Belt Farm in South Carroll.

"We give [overcrowding] firm weight in our decisions," said Louis Pecoraro, commission chairman.

School facilities serving new properties in South Carroll are "very seriously inadequate at the middle school level," said Vernon F. Smith, county director of school support services, in a report delivered to the commission Tuesday.

The commission discussed rezoning the Belt Farm property off Route 26.

The reclassification of that property would allow Carroll Development Associates to double the number of homes in the original plan for the 205-acre site.

Planners said they will review testimony and visit the site before making a decision.

Sykesville Middle, the only school for nearly 1,100 children in grades six through eight, is more than 200 students over capacity.

The county classifies the building as "severely inadequate" for its student population and, with elementary feeder schools at capacity, says the problem will continue until another school is built in the area.

Carroll officials have been unsuccessful in acquiring state money for a new middle school planned for Oklahoma Road, off Liberty Road. They are appealing the latest denial to the state Board of Public Works and expect an answer in April, Mr. Smith said.

"The school system must stress that adequate classroom space may not be available at the time that this property is developed," Mr. Smith concluded in his report on Belt Farm.

Mr. Smith finds himself repeating the statement frequently as planned subdivisions seek approval from the commission that would let them proceed with construction.

"When there are no new school projects to relieve overcrowding, new building [of homes] compounds our problems," he said. "I could make the same statement elsewhere in the county."

But, said Mr. Smith, "all we can do is advise. It is up to the Planning Commission whether to allow the development to proceed."

Mr. Pecoraro said the panel considers school enrollments.

"We look at projections all the time," he said. "We also look at the capital budget to see if school construction looks credible."

Mr. Pecoraro said he doesn't expect the commission to make its decision on rezoning Belt Farm until the end of the General Assembly session.

He said he is certain that the county delegation will work for a resolution to the overcrowding in South Carroll.

The county Board of Education met recently with legislators to push for money for Oklahoma Road Middle School.

"I'm convinced that's a much-needed project," Sen. Charles H. Smelser, a Carroll Democrat, said of the new middle school during that meeting.

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