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Fallston's development conundrum [Commentary]

SchoolsHouse BuildingElementary SchoolsExecutive Branch

One of the things I have a hard time squaring about my hard-earned tax dollars is the plan to build a new Youth's Benefit Elementary School on the same site as the existing school.

You would think we've all learned by now that septic systems just don't cut it in Fallston and yet, the county keeps approving new home building permits for relatively small lots all over Fallston, so why not the new school, too?

Given the history of septic failures in the community, spending $30 million, $40 million, $50 million - pick one or go higher because I've heard bigger numbers than these - to build another school on a septic system is nonsensical.

OK, I know you are saying: "So where are you going to build it?" That's a reasonable question, because there's no land down closer to Route 1 and the sewer system that's owned by the county/school system. Moreover, if a site has to be acquired, then that just inflates the cost of an already expensive project even more.

Not much thinking went into this problem back in the days when the county and the school system might still have been able to find an alternative site on public utilities for a reasonable price. I suppose it's Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst to revisit this question now, but I still don't get it. And, while I know it's sacrilegious to suggest it, the Mt. Soma and Edgeley Grove properties are both county-owned and big enough to accommodate an elementary school and still support their stated uses as open space and parkland.

All this talk coming from the governor's office about so-called "smart growth," and we still build schools out where they have to rely on wells and septic. Frankly, I'm surprised the state will sign off on funding a project, but apparently our state representatives have assurances they will, or so I'm told. Talk about dumb growth.

I haven't even touched on the water at the Youth's Benefit site, but that's also been a past concern. Just as it should be a concern to everyone who has a well when more development comes to your neighborhood. It's pushing the envelope. A house here, another there and soon there are problems. Just hope it's not you who has to deal with it.

So, why not build the school on the parkland also acquired with state money and located near existing water and sewer lines?

Clearly we haven't reached the point in Harford County where the politicians are willing to say, "That's it." Too many people of influence have too much at stake financially if strong curbs are put on building away from public utilities.

Farmers hoping to cash in some day and speculators and developers all too happy to accommodate them have always been a potent political and economic force in Harford County. That's not changed in my four-plus decades here, and I doubt if it ever will until the last piece of ground has a house on it, or some other kind of development.

Call this all human nature, if you wish. Population grows; people need a place to live; you have a right to live where you want; and so on and so forth.

What it comes down to is this: Some day there will be water and sewer lines running the length of Route 152 from I-95 to Upper Cross Roads. You and I may not like it, but it's inevitable, given the political and economic inertia.

Stop it, you say. Elect people to office who are willing to say, "No more!"

Ha. When have you ever seen a candidate for office in this county say he or she is in favor of more development?

That only happens after they get elected.

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