School crowding in Carroll seen over by 2003 Homebuilding could go on without current limits, planning official predicts

September 11, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll's school crowding problems should end in five years, allowing residential development to proceed without current restrictions, Deputy Planning Director K. Marlene Conaway said yesterday.

"By 2003, all schools should be on line to take care of inadequacies," Conaway told the County Commissioners while briefing them on planning staff recommendations on where residential growth should occur.

Under a growth-control measure enacted March 5, the commissioners are to decide each fall where to direct or restrict residential development. The law allows them to direct residential growth to areas where schools, roads and public services are adequate, and restrict it elsewhere.

The county's police protection -- 1.1 officers for every 1,000 people -- is adequate, as are the county's roads, Conaway said. The problem is in areas where schools have not caught up with growth, she said.

The county should restrict development in the area served by North Carroll Middle School to 75 units again next year, Conaway said, because a new school is behind schedule.

The county needs development of 266 residential units a year in the Freedom area in South Carroll and 50 units a year in the Hampstead area to pay the debt on water and sewer service in those neighborhoods and maintain current rates, Conaway said.

One goal of the growth-control law is to help the commissioners determine how much money to put in the capital budget to ensure that needed facilities are adequate to handle growth.

Although county roads are adequate, road construction will cost $61 million over the next six years, Conaway said. The cost of school construction is $116 million for the same period, she said.

To pay the school construction cost without raising taxes or impact fees, the county would have to add 950 residential units a year, she said. The growth-control law calls for the county to add an average of 1,000 units a year to its housing stock.

Conaway's remarks were asides during a number-filled slide presentation that Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said was not helpful. "It's like going into a restaurant, ordering a steak and getting a 3-pound slab of raw beef," he said. "What do I do with it?"

Conaway said the data she presented might be more useful for county staff members putting together a draft of the next capital budget -- or for the planning commission, which will use Conaway's data to make recommendations to the commissioners.

Brown said that even those audiences would benefit from a clearer presentation. "We really need some frank discussions on how things are presented," he said. "It's like having a computer in the office but not knowing how to use it. What I'd really like to see here is the use of media skills -- the ability to look up to the screen and see what it means."

Planning Director Philip J. Rovang told the commissioners that Conaway's purpose was to give the commissioners "a heads-up" on data likely to be the source of recommendations given them for action in November. But Brown found that unsettling.

"I'm concerned that we are now having to wait until mid-November" to make decisions in accordance with the growth law, he said. "Developers have been counting on predictability in the fall in order to prepare for construction in the spring. We have always said we would do this in September. Is it possible the door will be slammed on somebody in May?"

"Not this year," Conaway said. "There shouldn't be any surprises. We're looking ahead six years. There shouldn't be any blindsides in this."

Commissioner Richard T. Yates advised Conaway "to just wait until next Wednesday," the day after the primary election, and share the numbers again. "You'll pretty well know who's on this board, and you can present them with the information," he said.

Yates and Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who are seeking re-election, were silent through most of Conaway's presentation. Brown, who is seeking a seat in the House of Delegates, was not.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.