Balto. Co. to continue moratorium 3-4 month extension of building law would allow finish of study

'It makes sense'

Some on council favor expansion of policy to cover all schools

June 05, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials plan to extend a controversial building moratorium designed to ease overcrowding at elementary schools -- a law that has pitted homebuilders against community groups -- and some are considering expanding it to include all schools.

If the county adopts a full-fledged adequate-facilities law, it would join Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, which have similar policies to slow development.

"That's what I think the end result should be," said Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, referring to a committee that is studying the moratorium. "An adequate-facilities law is up-front action. The word moratorium sends out a bad connotation."

The moratorium, enacted as a temporary solution six years ago, is to expire June 30. All seven council members, even those who once opposed extending the ban, said they are willing to keep the law alive another three or four months to give the study committee time to produce a report.

"It makes sense to maintain the status quo," said council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat.

Meanwhile, Bartenfelder and Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, are leaning toward expanding the county's basic services law to a full adequate-facilities statute.

The county law, which covers only roads, sewers and water, also would cover schools.

The temporary extension, scheduled for discussion at Tuesday's council work session and for a vote June 17, doesn't satis-fy builders or community leaders.

"We've had promise after promise since 1990 that this problem would be solved," said Thomas M. Ballantine, director of government affairs for the Homebuilders Association of Maryland. "A handful of community leaders decides that they won't allow the county to move on."

Builders say enrollment numbers prove that development is not the main cause of school crowding. Demographic changes are more to blame, they say.

Richard W. McQuaid, president of the North County Coalition, an umbrella group of 14 rural community associations, questioned the short extension of the law.

"I don't think that's a very good move," Mr. McQuaid said. He said he fears that "it will take months of arguing" to agree on a permanent solution. If the moratorium ends in the meantime, builders will rush to get permits for hundreds of new homes, he said.

Council auditor Brian J. Rowe, chairman of the seven-member study committee, said projections show that the spurt in elementary enrollments will be over by 2000, before most new developments could be approved and built. Elementary enrollment is expected to drop from a high of 53,612 in 1998 to 49,506 by 2005.

"It takes a long time for development to occur," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight."

Projections for the middle schools don't predict serious overcrowding but high school enrollment is expected to increase from 26,013 this year to 34,313 by 2005, about 5,000 over capacity.

The building moratorium, which bans development around elementary schools more than 20 percent over capacity, doesn't cover secondary schools.

Rowe said his committee -- made up of business, community and education representatives -- needs until August to discuss all the material it is getting.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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