Crowding leads Carroll to deny 4 subdivisions

Overfilled schools prompt unprecedented rejection of permits

March 29, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

In an unprecedented move, Carroll County's planning department will deny building permits to four proposed South Carroll subdivisions because of crowded elementary and middle schools around Sykesville, Mount Airy and Eldersburg.

Crowding has been a high-profile issue in South Carroll for the past several years, with parents there calling for a halt to development until the problem eases.

Carroll has reached the point where school construction plans for the next six years don't promise enough relief of crowding for construction of the subdivisions to proceed, County Attorney Kimberly Millender told the Carroll commissioners yesterday.

The proposed subdivisions would send children to Eldersburg, Mount Airy and Linton Springs elementary schools and to Sykesville and Mount Airy middle schools, Millender said.

Temporary situation

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said the Carroll developments probably won't be halted for long, with plans for school redistricting and a new elementary school in Mount Airy on the horizon.

"These are areas we know we need to work on, so we should have plans to address these areas soon," she said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, however, said more subdivision plans could be halted if Carroll tightens its standards for what constitutes a crowded school.

The county uses the state standard, which says a school is crowded when it reaches 120 percent of capacity. But county leaders have discussed lowering the standard so that any school above 100 percent capacity would be formally designated as crowded.

More crowded schools would mean more subdivisions that could not go forward under what the county calls its concurrency management plan. That plan is designed to prevent houses from springing up in areas where roads, schools and sewer and water systems are strained to capacity.

Carroll residents have complained about the system the past several years because they say it's not strict enough.

Gouge, however, said the four denials in South Carroll will "at least show the citizens [the plan] works."

Names withheld

While she said she could not reveal the names of the four subdivisions that will be denied permits because the county has not formally contacted their developers, Millender said the developers have been warned of the potential denials. The permit denials mean construction cannot start.

Though the permit denials are a first for Carroll, parts of Howard County have been closed to development for years.

The developers of each subdivision can appeal the permit denials to the county's board of zoning appeals and, ultimately, to a Circuit Court judge.

The subdivisions automatically will get an opportunity at review when measures to alleviate crowding are added to the county's six-year school plan.

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