Adequate facilities report on hold

Panel members raise concerns, delaying vote

another draft due

July 13, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A long-awaited report evaluating the effectiveness of a 7-year-old law that ties development in Howard County to the construction of roads and schools is being held back a little longer.

The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Committee -- with two of its 15 members absent because of vacations -- met last night in a conference room of the Columbia Gateway Building to approve a final draft of a list of recommendations for submission to County Executive James N. Robey.

But debates over wording and new suggestions prompted some members to wonder aloud whether the committee should meet again.

At one point, members quibbled over whether "few" should be changed to "some" to reflect the importance of an issue.

David Berson, who chaired the committee, agreed that another draft of the report would be e-mailed to all members, who would express their approval or denial in the same electronic manner.

The rewrite likely will keep the report from going to Robey for a few more days.

The committee of civic activists, business leaders and county officials was formed in April by Robey to analyze the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a daunting assignment when one considers that the law regulates growth by limiting the number of new houses according to capacity of roads and schools.

To better inform themselves, committee members researched the Internet, called officials in neighboring counties and debated several topics that they later dropped from their scope.

The discussion yielded key recommendations such as:

Reducing the cap for elementary school enrollments from the current 20 percent over capacity to 15 percent over capacity.

This would give county planners the power to delay proposed residential development around elementary schools with enrollments 15 percent over capacity. If adopted, 10 elementary schools would be closed to new pupils in 2003.

Limiting to 300 the number of new homes in a school district where enrollment at elementary schools exceeds 100 percent of capacity.

The proposal would prevent a repeat of the crowded conditions at Pointers Run Elementary School in Clarksville, which is closed to new students in 2002 and 2003 because of rapid growth around it.

Extending the roads test applied to intersections near planned subdivisions from a mile to 1.5 miles.

Developers now contribute money to pay for improvements to intersections within a mile of a proposed development that would suffer a drop in the level of service because of the growth.

The recommendation was sparked by dense residential development in the Worthington section of Ellicott City, where homeowners are worried that traffic from new growth will overburden three scenic roads.

Voting to ask Robey to form a five-member group made up of one representative each from the PTA the development community, the Department of Planning and Zoning, the school system and the public to annually review a chart produced by the school system that determines the seats available in each school district.

Robey is to review the committee recommendations this summer. If he agrees with any, the Department of Planning and Zoning will draft them as amendments, which likely will be reviewed by the County Council this fall.

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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