LEGISLATION BEFORE the Howard County Council could make a mockery of a growth law that has worked wonderfully to help predict and manage development since it was enacted five years ago.
If the council votes tomorrow to amend the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, however, it would set a terrible precedent of choosing the arbitrary over the analytical.
Chairman Dennis Schrader and Councilman Darrel Drown are backing the amendment to speed up the allocation of construction permits in Ellicott City, a proposal that stabs at the very heart of the growth law's existence.
Remember, the county adopted its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance after many years of planning headaches. Scattershot development in the 1980s and early 1990s made it impossible for school and county planners to predict growth. Usually, they reacted to it.
During that time, Howard County became a leading consumer of portable classrooms needed to handle the overflow of new students.
It was nearly impossible for planners to get enough lead time to plan, design and build schools before new homes went up. The growth law brought order to the process, preventing developments from moving forward until it was certain that roads and schools were in place to handle growth in specific areas of the county. Helped by a sluggish economy, the law was the perfect medicine for Howard's growing pains.
But the headache could return if the council approves the Drown-Schrader bill tomorrow.
The belief that change was needed came after a developer discovered a technical error and pointed it out to the county Department of Planning and Zoning. DPZ Director Joseph Rutter proposed to correct the error by asking council to more than double the pace of growth in Ellicott City. After protests, a "compromise" backed by Mr. Drown and Mr. Schrader arbitrarily drew a number of housing permits to allocate to Ellicott City out of a hat.
So much for analysis.
Councilman Charles Feaga, who has a personal interest in the matter, will recuse himself from voting. Councilman C. Vernon Gray opposes it. It will be up to Councilwoman Mary Lorsung, whose position is not known, to stand behind the county's efficacious growth law or reduce it to mere whim.
Pub Date: 7/22/97