County Council kills plan to halt subdivision OKs Evans had sought ban to ease overcrowding in the county schools

'Very little impact' seen

June 16, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council last night defeated a proposal by Councilwoman Diane R. Evans that would have banned subdivision approvals until December in areas where schools are filled to capacity.

In pushing for the ban, Evans has attacked County Executive John G. Gary for planning policies that she said have contributed to school crowding.

Evans, an Arnold Democrat, is running for county executive against Gary, a Republican.

Evans' proposal would have temporarily halted waivers to the county's adequate facilities ordinance, which requires that schools have room for students that might come from a new subdivision.

Administration officials mounted last night a statistic-laden defense of their planning decisions, showing that fewer subdivision proposals have been granted waivers under Gary than in previous administrations.

They also predicted that fewer schools will be crowded in coming years.

"They have very little if any impact at all," said Steve Cover, director of county planning and code enforcement.

As a result of waivers granted since 1995, Cover said, there may be 109 students across the county who will not find sufficient class space at neighborhood schools. But there is no guarantee that subdivisions that were granted waivers will actually be approved and built, he said.

And in the school year just completed, 25 schools were overcrowded, down from 32 schools in the 1994-1995 school year when Gary took office, Cover said.

Evans had proposed banning waivers while a committee appointed by Gary studies school crowding. She was the only person to vote in favor of her bill. Councilman George F. Bachman, a Linthicum Heights Democrat, was absent.

Evans later accused Cover of "dancing around" the issue of whether schools in some areas are severely overcrowded by focusing only on countywide numbers.

"There are trouble spots in the county," she said. "There are a lot of holes in their arguments."

Under Gary, the number of waivers peaked at 63 (representing 759 lots) in 1996.

The county has granted waivers to the adequacy of public facilities ordinance since 1991, allowing subdivisions in areas where schools were over 100 percent capacity.

Policy on limits set

But Gary put in writing how far over the limit development would be allowed, issuing a policy in 1996 allowing waivers for subdivisions in areas where elementary schools were up to 15 percent over capacity and secondary schools were up to 20 percent over capacity.

That policy also allowed planners to consider capacity in an entire feeder system or set of elementary, middle and high schools, assuming school officials would redistrict if schools became crowded.

But while some redistricting has occurred, the school board has avoided wholesale redistricting to accommodate development.

Criteria changed last year

County planners narrowed the criteria for approving waivers in 1997, banning them in the Davidsonville Elementary, Southern Middle and Arundel High districts and granting only 19 countywide, representing 113 lots.

But Evans said after the vote that residents want neighborhood schools, not countywide redistricting to bus students to schools with empty seats.

In other business, the council voted 6-0 to approve budget transfers to balance the books at the Board of Education, Anne Arundel Community College and in various county offices.

The school board will use $13.2 million in additional federal, state and county revenues, including $3.37 million left in a health insurance reserve fund to meet costs. The board showed $4.9 million in overruns in special education, $2.2 million in salaries and wages, and $2.6 million in fixed costs such as health insurance.

The community college expects to take in $1.3 million more in tuition and fees than was budgeted this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Community college officials needed council approval to spend more than $800,000 on instructors and other costs associated with the extra students and $515,000 on a new information management system and $21,000 on computers and software.

$2.3 million covers raises

The Gary administration will transfer $5 million from the chief administrative office contingency account and $700,000 from the Public Works Department to cover expenses in the current fiscal year.

Of the contingency money, $2.3 million will cover raises in county offices.

Officials also got permission to spend over $6 million in additional grants for the police and other departments and to pay back money to the operator of a private wastewater jTC treatment plant and to pay $75,000 in additional employee health care expenses.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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