School Board Wary About Access Road To Development

April 28, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

A proposal to build a public road between the Howard County Department of Education headquarters and its former School of Technology has been met with strong skepticism by several Howard County school board members, who question giving up land to accommodate traffic from a new, upscale development.

The proposal calls for a public access road from Route 108 to a development planned for a 160-acre parcel behind the school system's headquarters, between the Gaither Farm and Manor Lane communities.

The development -- formerly called Fox Field Estates and now known as Gaither Overlook -- would include 69 to 74 homes built on 1-acre lots with well and septic systems, said J. Thomas Scrivener, a developer involved in the project. The homes are expected to cost $350,000 to $450,000, with the first ones going on the market next spring.

But residents of the communities on both sides of the development -- along Gaither Farm Road and Manor Lane -- are concerned about the extra traffic from the new homes, particularly if the only access to Gaither Overlook is by Gaither Farm Road.

Residents have gone to the county Board of Appeals over the Office of Planning and Zoning's decision to allow the development without a second access road, said Stephen Bupp, president of Gaither Farm Homeowners' Association. The appeal is to be heard in July.

But in the meantime, the residents and the developer have asked the school board to permit a road to be built from the headquarters parking lot to the new development, allowing traffic past the school system complex.

The road would run between the headquarters and the School of Technology, which will be called the Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL) when it reopens in the fall. The school is being renovated for use by technology students.

The proposal would require installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Route 108, Cedar Lane and the school system headquarters, according to school officials. The proposal by residents and the developer is supported by the county's planning office and the county executive. Supporters say it makes sense to build the road now -- particularly when the developer is willing to pay for it -- and improve traffic safety conditions along that stretch of Route 108.

"We believe this would be a comprehensive solution to traffic in the area and would represent the safest point of access," Bupp said.

But several board members were reluctant to embrace the proposal Thursday night, saying that building a road through the property might jeopardize future school construction possibilities. In the past, the board has discussed building a maintenance facility and warehouse behind the headquarters, as well as possibly expanding the ARL.

"If you give up the land on this particular site, and then if you have to increase the ARL, you've lost a lot of land that can't be developed," board member Jane Schuchardt said. "It has a great effect on the future development of this property."

Board member Karen Campbell said it is "not the Department of Education's or Board of Education's responsibility to provide access to a development."

School board Chairwoman Sandra French wondered whether it is appropriate "to give up taxpayers' land and deny future board land the school system may need."

But the board members didn't take an official position on the request, asking school officials to gather more information on the proposal from the communities, the developers and the county.

Board members said they want to hear more about the development's impact on traffic and the cost of building the road -- and Bupp promised that the residents will do all they can to share information with the board and convince it of the need to build the road. Board members said they plan to vote on the request at their May 22 meeting.

Pub Date: 4/28/97

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