This is planning? County Executive Gary is wrong if he thinks school board should dictate development.

March 26, 1998

HAVING NO SUCCESS in prodding the Anne Arundel County Board of Education to redistrict to alleviate crowding in several schools, County Executive John G. Gary has decided to throw a fit.

He has instructed planners to tighten approvals for residential subdivisions in communities with crowded schools: Yeah, that'll show the school board.

Approving subdivisions in areas where the schools can accommodate more students, and denying them where they can't, should be a given. County planners have been following that practice -- to a degree. They have been approving developments so long as the schools in a feeder system had empty seats.

In too many cases, however, schools designated to serve new residents are filled to capacity. Other schools in the feeder system have room, but the school board has been reluctant to redraw boundaries.

Mr. Gary's plan is to permit development only in where schools have space for new students.

While this policy may reduce and prevent crowding in certain schools, it means the school board effectively has control over the location of new development. That's the tail wagging the dog.

Good planning means building public facilities where they are needed or will be needed soon.

The school board's mission is to ensure the education of Anne Arundel's children. It isn't to create master plans or dictate development decisions. Guiding the county's growth more properly rests with planners and political leaders.

Mr. Gary's initiative is nothing more than an emotional response. He is a master at cajoling, arm-twisting and, if necessary, intimidation. It's out of character for him to surrender, particularly on an issue of such magnitude.

This may be nothing more than a strategic feint in a battle that is far from over.

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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