Citizens implore state to review school site selection


The State Board of Education could decide today whether to review the Howard County school board's site choice for the planned western high school in response to a citizens group's appeal.

"The Trotter Road Citizens Association feels that the placement of the school is not appropriate. It was placed there by the [county school] board under less-than-complete information," association president Shirley Geis told the state board yesterday during an appeals hearing.

The group asked the state board to overturn an administrative law judge's recommendation not to review the Howard board's choice of a 64-acre site between Route 108 and Trotter Road for the high school.

The estimated cost of the school is $26.3 million.

Geis and her husband, Al, who represented the association, said they were not optimistic that the state board will grant their appeal.

Maryland law gives local school boards strong rights and allows very narrow review by the state board, Al Geis pointed out.

If the state board decides to hear the case and rules that the county board acted illegally, arbitrarily or unreasonably, it could order the county board to repeat the selection process.

However the state board does not have authority to order the school site changed.

If the county had to repeat the selection process, site work, scheduled to start this summer, would be delayed.

Shirley Geis argued that county board members chose the site before they knew the school system would have to: extend sewer lines to the site, because development of nearby housing, part of the village of River Hill, will not be on line by the school's 1994 opening date; buy 7.5 additional acres to fit the building on the site.

Associate Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin reported earlier that Howard Research and Development, the development arm of the Rouse Co., will reimburse most of the estimated $500,000 cost of sewer line construction. The school system will pay for the extra capacity required to serve a school building.

The U-shaped tract was donated by Howard Research, but the developer wants compensation for the additional 7.5 acres, which otherwise would be used for residential development.

Cousin was unavailable to comment yesterday. But he said late last week that an agreement has not been reached on price.

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