After two hours of meticulous questioning yesterday, members of the planning board lavished praise on the 12-member adequate-facilities commission.

"What you have accomplished is superb -- a wonderful job," said board chairwoman Helen E. Reuther.

"The county has a lot to be thankful for," said vice chairwoman Kay B. Partridge.

Partridge and Reuther were echoing what commission chairman James H. Eacker had said earlier when testifying about theadequate-facilities package.

"I think this will do a superb job for the county -- not just with the backlog of today, but for the future," he said proudly.

The package has three main features: a roadstest to ensure that nearby intersections can accommodate traffic generated by a proposed development, a schools test to ensure that elementary schools can receive pupils from a proposed development without becoming overcrowded, and a building excise tax.

The excise tax would be used to pay for major road projects.

Reuther said she expected the board to air its findings and recommendations Jan. 21.

Later that day, the County Council will have a public hearing on the adequate-facilities package.

The council is expected to vote on the ordinance Feb. 3.

Eacker told the board that as a result of public hearings, the commission made two changes in the package it aired Nov. 25.

It clarified the "rolling average" of 2,500 homes a year it says the county needs to achieve, and it exempted residential additions of 100 square feet or less from the excise tax.

When Partridge observed that 100 square feet was a pretty small "bubble," Eacker responded, "If it's bigger than that, it could be a bedroom. In that case, it generates traffic and we want the tax."

Board member Dale Schumacher told Eacker the 2,500-home provision sounded like a goal rather than a ceiling.

Eacker said it was exactly that -- a target tobe achieved for the financial health of the county.

"The whole package taken together means that the county must do a much better job of long-range planning," Eacker said. "We clearly made an assumption that the county will fund needed capital improvements."

Schumacher, the board's most persistent questioner, was concerned about that assumption. What would happen if the county can't pay for improvements,he asked.

"We may have empty school buildings because we can't hire the teachers," said Maurice Kalin, associate school superintendentfor planning and support services.

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