Nothing Odd About Gorman Road FightThe editorial titled...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 26, 1995

Nothing Odd About Gorman Road Fight

The editorial titled "Odd Twist: Fighting a New School" (Feb. 23) offered a misleading view of what the residents of Gorman Road are trying to accomplish with regard to the proposed plans for the school site. The residents are not trying to "block" the proposed schools. In fact, they have clearly stated they want the schools built on this site. The residents recognize that the schools are needed, and they feel the schools would be "good neighbors."

The residents are certainly not "fighting the schools." Nor are they questioning the Department of Education's proposals because they "simply don't like change," as suggested in the editorial.

The Gorman Road residents are concerned about the current school site proposals because they feel insufficient attention has been paid to environmental and traffic safety issues. They believe the schools can be built without damaging the environment and without creating traffic safety problems. The citizens are "mobilizing" because they feel county officials have not yet explored all reasonable options for developing the school site in ways that serve these other valid goals as well.

The issues the Gorman Road residents are asking county officials to consider more carefully are the following:

* The proposed school site is in the center of a very small area zoned "Residential Environmental Development and Preservation Area." County laws define such areas as having "a high proportion of sensitive environmental and/or historic resources," and state that "protection of environmental resources is to be achieved by minimizing the amount of site disturbance and directing development to the most appropriate areas of a site, away from sensitive resources." The residents want the schools to be built. They are asking only that county officials plan the school site and related development in accordance with these directives.

* The 1.8-mile section of Gorman Road directly affected by the current proposals is designated as a scenic road. Existing county law provides for controls over changes made to scenic roads and to developments along such roads. More importantly, as anyone who has driven this stretch of Gorman can attest, even current traffic levels on this narrow "twisty" road create safety concerns. Such problems would greatly increase if Gorman Road is used as the main access to the school site, as currently proposed. Given the topography of the area, it is questionable whether the extensive road improvements necessary to make Gorman Road a safe main access to the schools are even feasible. At the least, such road improvements would ruin the scenic character of Gorman Road forever.

* There is a rather obvious alternative to making Gorman Road the main access to the school site -- the so-called "loop road" shown on the Highways Map 2010 of the Howard County 1990 General Plan. This loop road is scheduled for near-term construction, and the residents think it's sensible to link the new loop road with plans for the school site's development. This would also help soothe the residents' qualms about environmental protection and traffic safety.

* The 145-year-old house located on the school site is a major element of the history and "scenic" nature of Gorman Road. Residents feel it makes no sense to destroy this house to build the largest school parking lot. The parking lot could be placed elsewhere on the site, thus saving both the house itself and its contribution to the history and scenic nature of the area.

These are the things Gorman Road residents are asking the Department of Education and other county agencies to address more completely. The residents feel their concerns are valid and their requests reasonable.

Contrary to the editorial's statement that many of the people involved in this community's response to the school site are "recent arrivals" to the area, a number of the people who have testified at hearings have lived on Gorman Road for more than 30 years. One individual's family has lived on Gorman Road since pre-Civil War days.

Not mentioned in the editorial is the fact that the citizens of southeastern Howard County have actively fought to protect what little remains of this scenic and environmentally fragile area. In recent years, residents of this area have testified about a State Highway Administration proposal for a major truck stop facility; about Department of Planning and Zoning proposals for road construction on Gorman and Murray Hill roads, and about developer-requested mixed-use development zoning changes.

Community participation in county planning is an avowed goal of both county politicians and the 1990 General Plan. The residents of Gorman Road are trying to participate. Please don't tune us out.

Gregory K. Fries

Laurel

Bus Driver Alert

What is it going to take to get the school bus contractors, drivers, attendants and support personnel to band together for a common goal?

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