Proposal would speed up development moratorium in northeast Howard

School-crowding fears prompt effort by Merdon

April 30, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A Howard County councilman is hoping to cut off approvals for new home developments June 7 to prevent more school crowding in the booming Ellicott City area -- raising developers' ire.

Christopher J. Merdon, a Republican, said he plans to introduce a resolution at Monday night's council meeting that he hopes will be approved and take effect a month earlier than the law requires.

The county's adequate public facilities ordinance was to invoke the same kind of ban in northeast Howard County starting July 6 -- a process Merdon's bill would short-circuit.

"My thought is that if people know about the closed status now, they'll get their plans in [faster]. I don't want this [last-minute] flurry of plans. We can't keep cramming kids into these schools," he said.

But developer Jim Schulte, vice president of Security Development Corp. and a member of a new county committee formed to re-examine the development law, criticized the move.

"This is the sort of thing that gives counties a black eye. It's tough to make investments when something can be done the next day for political purposes," he said.

Parent leaders, in contrast, praised the move. Mary Turanchik, PTA president of Worthington Elementary, said so many new homes are planned near her that "the school is just going to be bursting at the seams."

Affected are the areas around Deep Run, Elkridge, Ilchester, Rockburn, Waterloo and Worthington Elementary schools in the county's northeastern corner.

Merdon needs approval from his council colleagues to introduce his measure Monday night because he did not follow normal procedure and prefile it last week. He is confident of getting that support, he said.

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., the county planning director, said he cannot tell how many new homes, if any, would be affected if Merdon's measure is approved.

"There's no way to tell," he said. "This turns the adequate public facilities law's very straightforward procedures into a political process."

The proposed building moratorium was triggered by the school board's postponement of controversial plans to redistrict pupils out of crowded schools.

The development ban could be eliminated next year if district boundaries are changed to move some pupils out of the affected schools and into less crowded buildings, or if additions are built.

Rutter said that if nothing is done to relieve crowding, the building ban -- under new estimates -- would remain in effect until 2008.

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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