Panel OKs site for high school

Vote is unanimous

Marriottsville choice to be fought, foes say

January 25, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Board of Education members approved last night a much-contested Marriottsville site as the home of Howard County's 12th high school, despite a sketchy 11th-hour offering of nearby land from a developer and protesters' vows to continue to fight to keep the school out.

The board unanimously approved a 37-acre site adjacent to Mount View Middle School for the high school, with a condition that school district officials continue to vigorously pursue other, more suitable locations.

Parents and Marriottsville neighbors near the school site have taken extreme measures in trying to convince the board the location was inappropriate for a building as large as a high school. Concerned about parking, increased traffic, crowded playing fields and student safety, the neighbors sought legal advice, took out an ad in the newspaper and, yesterday, waved colorful posters declaring their opposition.

Boundary Lines Advisory Committee members have expressed concerns about the location of the site as well, and even parents who lobbied the board to build a 12th high school had problems with the size of the lot.

School officials have said that, although they prefer to build high schools on 50 acres or more, they could adequately situate the high school on the smaller site - with some creative placement of playing fields and parking lots.

Board members said last night that after an exhaustive and fruitless search for bigger, better-located sites, Mount View was the best they had.

One option that schools Chief Operating Officer Sydney L. Cousin said just "popped up" would solve some critics' concerns, but would undoubtedly cause more serious problems. Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. - who is developing an Ellicott City parcel in and around Waverly Woods for residential and commercial use - apparently offered yesterday morning a portion of the commercial lots to the school system to build the school.

The parcel is larger than the Mount View site and has its own water and sewer systems, but is surrounded on two sides by a landfill, Cousin said. School officials last spring had to pass on an elementary school site near a closed landfill because of health and safety concerns of parents.

French also said the site does not solve an even bigger issue: the lack of high school seats in the county's crowded northeast.

Marriottsville engineer Chuck Lacey Jr. said those parents and community members who are against the school being squeezed into their small neighborhood aren't finished fighting.

"They were forced to make a decision tonight because of the redistricting that is totally dependent on this location," Lacey said. "I may not like it, but I understand it. They boxed themselves in. [But] we're going to appeal them [on a zoning regulation detail]. It's going to get caught up in the courts, and they're going to miss their deadlines."

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