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Council to weigh land swap


The Howard County Council will consider tonight a resolution to exchange 10 acres with a developer so that it can build a new Ellicott City elementary school at a more desirable location.

The county Board of Education wants to acquire 10 acres at Rogers Avenue (Route 99) across from Orchard Avenue for a new northern elementary school to help relieve crowding at other schools, said Sydney L. Cousin, the school system's associate superintendent of finance and operations.

The school system owns 10 acres nearby, at Old Frederick Road and Rogers Avenue, but the other site would provide better access and visibility for vehicles and is better suited for development, school officials say.

The new northern area school would be near Patapsco Middle School.

The county's agreement with Percontee Inc., a Silver Spring-based developer that owns about 120 acres planned for residential development in the area, also calls for a donation of an additional five acres when the property is subdivided. That donation would provide enough land for a 15-acre school site, a minimum requirement for a county elementary school.

"We've been fighting for another school here for a while," said Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd District, who represents the Ellicott City area. "There's just not 15 to 20 acres lying around in Howard County that you can get very easily. We're happy they're going to get this and hope they start building as soon as possible."

The new school is expected to open in fall 1997, a year ahead of schedule, to relieve crowding at St. John's Lane Elementary School, where roughly 870 students are expected to enroll this fall.

Parents in the community were divided last school year over whether some students should be redistricted to another school or whether St. John's Lane should bear with crowded conditions until a new school opens.

School board members eventually voted not to transfer students to another school, citing the conflicting views in the community.

Parents from the Valley Mede, Greenway Drive and Enchanted Forest areas later signed a petition asking to have their children transferred to the new Manor Woods Elementary School in Marriottsville and lodged an appeal with the state Department of Education. No hearing date for the appeal has been scheduled yet.

Mr. Drown said the new northern area school planned for Rogers Avenue also would help relieve crowding at Waverly Elementary School, several miles west of the proposed site. The site for Waverly Elementary also was donated by Percontee Inc., which is owned by the Gudelsky family of Montgomery County, said Jonathan Genn, counsel for Percontee.

Mr. Genn said the development company is considering donating land adjacent to the proposed school site to the county for a park.

Mr. Drown said the council "basically approved" the new school during its recent budget deliberations.

The school board will schedule a public hearing to discuss the proposed site before taking final action.

Also at tonight's meeting, the council will consider a resolution calling on county residents to observe "Try American Day" on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

The resolution suggests that residents celebrate the day by purchasing U.S.-made goods and services and by urging Congress to designate the observance of "Try American Day" on Labor Day each year.

The resolution is sponsored by Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, and co-sponsored by Mr. Drown and Councilman Charles Feaga, R-5th.

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