Extension of construction ban stirs no fight from businesses

June 12, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Business groups sat on the sidelines yesterday as community groups pressed the Baltimore County Council to extend and broaden a building moratorium around crowded elementary schools.

Saving their strength for later in the summer when the council tries to find more lasting solutions to school crowding, business groups did not oppose a 120-day extension of the building ban, which expires June 30. The measure is to be voted on Monday night. County business groups oppose the 6-year-old moratorium on building, arguing that new housing is not the real culprit in school crowding. But rather than fight over a four-month extension, business lobbyists said they will wait for a council-commissioned study of the problem, due to be completed by August.

"Everybody should wait until the committee report comes out," said Thomas M. Ballentine, lobbyist for the county chapter of the Homebuilders Association of Maryland.

Several community activists who contend that new homebuilding causes crowding did not want to wait. They urged the council to extend the moratorium for another full year, as called for in a bill sponsored by Republican Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, or to broaden it to include all schools.

Richard W. McQuaid, president of the North County Coalition, a group of 14 rural community associations, urged the council to reject any amendment shortening the effective time of the moratorium. He warned that crowded schools are sending young families to Harford and Carroll counties, which is hurting economic development in Baltimore County.

"New legislation will take a minimum of a year" to enact, McQuaid said, and warned that such a delay would create a "window of opportunity" for builders.

He and other community leaders favor a permanent adequate-facilities law that prohibits new development around all crowded county schools, not just elementary schools, as the current law provides. Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard and Carroll counties have similar laws barring new construction around schools that have enrollments more than 20 percent over capacity.

But Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, said the council has a consensus to extend the building moratorium for another 120 days. No other members objected.

A seven-member committee headed by the council's auditor, Brian J. Rowe, has been looking for remedies to school crowding since March.

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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