Planned school's entrance assailed Linton Road unsafe, say residents who opted for Route 26

April 05, 1996

With the four existing elementaries in South Carroll all above capacity, residents of Linton Springs are convinced they need a new school. But now that one is planned, they are vowing to fight its entrance.

The elementary school would be on 25 acres, west of Linton Road and north of Route 26. The opposition of residents -- which could delay the school's September 1998 opening -- centers on the proposed entrance at Ronsdale and Linton roads.

To get to the school, many students will walk along Linton, a narrow and curving road that runs from Route 26 (Liberty Road) to Bartholow Road and carries about 1,550 cars a day.

One of the worst curves with the poorest sight distance is at the Ronsdale intersection.

The county Planning Commission approved, by a 6-1 vote Tuesday, an access that would extend Ronsdale west across Linton and onto the campus. The commissioners also said plans must include design drawings for an access east from Klees Mill Road.

Early in the planning process, many parents pushed for a separate entrance from Liberty Road, an option they said would keep traffic off neighborhood streets.

"We really want this school and got into the process a year ago to find the right solutions," said Ed Haser, a Linton Road resident whose property will adjoin the school. "Last fall, the school board agreed to Liberty Road."

But two months ago, the State Highway Administration announced plans to widen Route 26 to four lanes from Route 32 to Route 97. State officials said they do not want another traffic light on the highway.

"With that information, we had to change direction," said Vernon Smith, director of county school support services.

Rebecca Davieau, a Linton Springs resident, said the state allowed Wal-Mart to erect a traffic light on Route 26, about 100 yards east of an existing light at Route 32.

"They bend over backwards for Wal-Mart," she said. "Why can't they do the same when we are trying to preserve our neighborhood? Couldn't the school light be operational during school hours only?"

"I don't disagree with the residents' legitimate concerns about traffic," said Thomas Hiltz, planning commissioner. "But if we didn't think [Ronsdale] was a safe entrance, we wouldn't have approved it."

Joseph Mettle, the commissioner who cast the dissenting vote, said the change in plans might have an effect on state funding, about 40 percent of the $8 million cost of the school.

"The state wants to give money to counties where the people know what they are doing," Mr. Mettle said. "Now the county has to go back to the state with a new set of plans for an access."

But a definite decision from the Planning Commission eliminates any negative effect on state funding, Mr. Smith said.

Even if it means a delay in funding and construction, residents said they will continue arguing that a Liberty Road entrance is best for school traffic.

"Who cares what the state says; the county will be funding this project anyway," said Barry Marsh, president of the Linton Springs Homeowners Association.

"I wish they had deferred the vote to allow time for proper planning and traffic studies."

Residents want assurances there will be sidewalks and more traffic controls. Also, they are asking if Linton will be widened to accommodate 15 buses a day and other increases in traffic.

Many residents in the 20-year-old community of 200 homes also are concerned that increased traffic will destroy the atmosphere.

"They want to turn Linton into a feeder road," Ms. Davieau said.

An 88-home subdivision, under construction on property adjoining Linton Springs, will use Ronsdale for access to Linton.

Other homes are planned along Bartholow, and those residents will travel Linton to Liberty Road.

"Unless there is more clarification, we will appeal this decision to the County Commissioners," Mr. Marsh said.

"It may delay the project, but we want to do the right thing today, because this school is going to be here for 50 years."

Plans call for a 70,000-square-foot building on about 25 acres of the 126-acre site. Eventually, the county hopes to add middle and high schools on the property.

The Board of Education is planning a building for 745 students, the maximum enrollment recommended for an elementary. Its opening will reduce enrollment at nearby surrounding schools to capacity levels.

Bids will be advertised this summer, with 18 months of construction projected to start in the fall.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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