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Builders say moratorium isn't working Only 6 schools are crowded


The controversy over how to ease crowding in Baltimore County classrooms erupted anew yesterday, as builders charged that new statistics show the 5-year-old building moratorium law is useless.

Because of additions at nearly a dozen schools, the number of elementary schools crowded enough to trigger the moratorium shrank to six this year -- the lowest level since the law was enacted, county planners said.

That led John D. Clark, president of the county chapter of the Homebuilders Association of Maryland, to call for an end to the moratorium. He said it will have little effect on schools or on builders.

But Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, who supported a moratorium extension in July, said he still supports the law.

If classrooms get too crowded, a school gets a bad name that's hard to shake, Mr. Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat said. "It's unfair to severely overburden teachers and students."

The moratorium was intended to prevent more crowding from new homes. Each fall, planners issue a list of elementary schools where enrollment is at least 20 percent over capacity, and the law prohibits issuing permits for new homes in those areas.

But the new list doesn't always appear to limit crowding.

For example, Featherbed Lane Elementary in Woodlawn, the most crowded school on the list at 31 percent over capacity, has a 155-home development called Claybrooke already under way within its district boundaries.

Only a handful of developments -- involving fewer than 100 homes countywide -- might be affected by the moratorium, according to information provided by planners.

Nine elementary schools were on the moratorium list last year. The six named yesterday are Catonsville, 5th District and 7th District schools in the rural north county, Featherbed Lane, Reisterstown, and Riderwood near Towson.

Three others -- Hampton, Kingsville and Seven Oaks -- also had enrollments at least 20 percent over capacity. But they are adjacent to underused schools, meaning a boundary change can solve the problem.

The County Council extended the moratorium law for one year in July, despite opposition from homebuilders, who claimed along with County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III that new home construction does not cause school crowding.

Council Chairman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, vowed in July to convene a committee to find a solution to the school crowding problem and end the moratorium by next summer, but he still has no chairman for the group, he said yesterday.

Eleven school additions this year helped reduce the size of the list.

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