Some protest proposed school near Dorsey MARC train station

Handful of residents say site is too close to tracks

August 20, 2010|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

About an hour before the Howard County Board of Education heard the proposal Thursday for a new school site near the Dorsey MARC station in Elkridge, a small group of residents protested outside the board's offices, arguing that, among other things, members have not sufficiently reached out for their input.

The informal group also argued that the proposed school would be built too close to the rail tracks, concerns also raised by some board members after school planning and facilities executive director Ken Roey outlined the construction plans. The elementary school would be built by 2013 on 20 acres near Route 100, 800 feet from the tracks.

The proposed school is part of a 122-acre, mixed-use project that is being built by Preston Partners, which is also offering the county $4 million for the venture. The development calls for 954 residential units to be built; developers project residents in those units would include slightly more than 100 schoolchildren.

Before the board meeting began, about half a dozen adults, many of whom were accompanied by their children, staged an informal protest before the board offices, the children having made posters that read, "No Toxic Waste Around My School," and "No School By The Tracks." The parents argued that they believe the board hasn't received adequate input from the community.

"The board of education is really neglecting to get community input," said Heather Cindric of Columbia, "but on this issue, they have a school site in mind and they've been very secretive about where the site is. The site is not suitable for what they need to do in Elkridge.

"They have a 120 percent capacity for schools in Elkridge, and so they need three schools," Cindric added, "and they're planning just one school from a developer that wants a school next to his 954 apartments."

Some board members questioned the proximity of a school to the railroad tracks, arguing that, at 800 feet, the school would be the closest to any railroad track in the county.

"I just don't feel comfortable saying that we're going to have a school there and place students there for the next 30 years," said board member Allen Dyer. "This is not a Walt Disney railroad. This is a working railroad."

But board member Larry Cohen argued that the distance would be sufficient. "Understand how far 800 feet is," he said. "It's almost three football fields. Eight-hundred feet ain't around the block." Board members also probed whether the site could be moved farther from the tracks.

The board will have a public hearing on the site next month, with voting scheduled for October.

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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