Before last night's public hearing on pending legislation, County Council members were discussing changing the council's rules of procedure.
One of the changes discussed was whether to quit scheduling December meetings. The council has received complaints that members intentionally schedule hearings on controversial issues during the holiday season to avoid confrontations with angry residents.
"If you're going to cancel December meetings [for that reason], you might as well drop them in July because people will complain that you're doing things while everybody is on vacation," said Councilman Darrel Drown, 2nd District Republican.
The council decided to continue to meet in December, at least for now. Meanwhile, Mr. Drown may have been prophetic about July. Only those people who were required to testify -- government representatives and a half-dozen nominees for various boards and commissions -- showed up and testified on the 22-item legislative agenda last night.
Ann Jones Koch of Ellicott City and her father, preservationist Ridgely Jones, were the only people present who were not required to be there.
Ms. Jones, a critic of overcrowded conditions at St. John's Elementary School, showed up to express her support for a resolution that would allow the Board of Education to trade 10 acres at Old Frederick Road and Rogers Avenue to developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. in return for 15 acres across from Patapsco Middle School.
If the swap is approved, the board plans to build an elementary school on the 15-acre site and to open the school in 1997. The extra five acres offered by the developer in the trade were required by the county as a condition of his being allowed to develop the nearby Waverly complex.
"It will relieve the severe overcrowded conditions [at St. John's], which is what we've been looking for. I don't know if it will be good for Waverly. That's why I didn't testify," Ms. Koch said after the hearing.
Mr. Drown, who represents the St. John's and Waverly neighborhoods on the council, said the trade will help both communities. Passage of the resolution "means that we're going to get a school [built] on time to correct the overcrowding that exists at St. John's and Waverly," he said.
Mr. Drown said he feels confident the council will approve the swap at its July 25 legislative session.
Bill Grau, a site planner with the Board of Education, told the council the land swap not only gives the county more acreage for its northeastern elementary school, but that the new site "is flatter, more visible and can be accessed much better" than the one the county has owned since 1968. He said school officials will meet with the owner and the developer of the new site in the next two weeks to iron out the details.