For the third time, the Baltimore County Council extended the law banning the construction of new homes in areas where elementary schools are crowded -- this time until July 1, 1999.
The law was set to expire Feb. 1, but the council extended it last night by a 5-2 vote.
After the vote, Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican, withdrew his rival bill, which would have extended the deadline for six months.
McIntire and Councilman Douglas B. Riley of Towson, a fellow Republican, voted against the 30-month extension, reasoning that the shorter period would force the council to replace the law with a broader one that would regulate homebuilding around all schools.
"It gives us the opportunity not to deal with the issue," Riley said about the longer extension.
Sponsors of the successful bill argued that the council needs time free of pressure to devise a new law that all members say they want.
Responding to Riley, Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, said the idea that the council could pass a new law in six months is "ludicrous. We've had this thing for two years and no one has acted."
With more time, "hopefully, we can come back with a bill everybody can agree with," Gardina said.
If the council had taken no action, the 6-year-old law -- which was extended in 1992 and in July and October -- would have expired Feb. 1.
The law, which prohibits home construction around elementary schools more than 20 percent over capacity when no other remedy is available, has been denounced by all sides.
Builders complain that most crowding now results from demographic changes in older neighborhoods, not from development.
Parents complain the law hasn't alleviated the problem of crowded classrooms.
In addition, a consultant hired by the county projected recently that most classroom crowding in the county will move to high schools in three years.
The Ruppersberger administration has moved vigorously to confront the problem by pumping millions into school construction projects.
Following his lead, the council last night approved transferring $9.8 million in cash from the county's surplus account to new classroom projects, plus another $1 million to assess the repair needs of all county school buildings.
Voters approved an $89.6 million bond issue for school construction in November and County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger is leading a contingent of county officials and legislators to Annapolis today to plead for up to $37 million more in state funding for school construction.
Pub Date: 1/22/97