Howard council delays approval of home building allocations

Uncertainty over the future of a 10.1-acre site for a new elementary school in Elkridge has forced the County Council to delay its decision on how many new homes can be built in Howard.

Council members tabled a resolution Monday that they had previously approved setting limits for the number of new homes that developers can build between 2014 to 2016. Home builders must apply for allocations from the county to build new homes. Those allocations are limited when the schools are at or near capacity.

The council decided it must approve housing unit allocation and the school capacity charts together, but the school chart remains uncertain because the school board has yet to close a $2.64 million deal for a piece of land for the Elkridge elementary school, expected to open in August 2013.

"Because of that, we can't vote on the charts," said Councilwoman Courtney Watson at Monday's meeting. Her district includes Elkridge, which is one of the few areas in the county that has continued to draw interest in new housing unit allocations.

There is an abundance of building allocations because the economy has slowed development everywhere except in the northeastern part of the county, which has seen an influx of smaller, more affordable multifamily units. Nearly 30 housing developments are planned for Elkridge and have been on hold because of the limited number of allocations.

If the deal for the Ducketts Lane site does not go through, the school board would have to submit a different school capacity chart, said Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty at Monday's meeting. Typically, the council approves the charts in July, she said.

The site for the 600-seat elementary school has been held up because of a lien dispute, resulting in a school board lawsuit accusing the sellers — Ducketts Ridge LLC, which includes members Hugh F. Cole Jr. and John F. Liparini, and the Brantly Development Group — of reneging on their contract.

The school system has already invested a quarter of a million dollars in the acquisition of the Ducketts Lane site.

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