Group sticks to ideas for building cap; New-home ban should kick in when elementaries hit 115% capacity, it says


The Howard County Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Committee endorsed for a second time last night its recommendation on banning new-home construction when an area's elementary school is over capacity.

Three months ago, the 17-member committee recommended lowering the cap that triggers the ban from 120 percent to 115 percent of elementary school capacity.

The ban's intent is to limit the number of homes built near crowded schools.

The panel again approved its recommendation last night after being asked by County Executive James N. Robey to reconsider in light of a decision by Howard County school administrators to delay countywide redistricting.

"This [recommendation] is much too critical and has too great an impact on our future," Robey said last month. "I am not comfortable moving forward with the process until this committee has a chance to re-examine their decisions based on this new development."

But the committee stuck to its guns.

"I think that the recommendation that we sent him [Robey] was balanced and it represented the best interest of the community," David Berson, committee chairman, said last night. He noted that the committee has been given new information about redistricting.

The current ordinance authorizes county planners to delay proposed residential development around elementary schools with enrollments 20 percent over capacity. Under that ordinance, five schools would be closed to new pupils by 2003.

But some members said that between 1992 and 1998, 22 schools in the county exceeded the 20 percent over capacity mark.

"New developments bring in new kids," said Courtney Watson, mother of three pupils at Ilchester Elementary School.

An earlier suggestion to lower the cap to 10 percent over capacity failed to gain support because members of the committee believed it would shut off too much of the county to development. But the committee did ask Robey to allow no more than 300 new homes in an elementary school district where enrollment exceeds 100 percent of capacity.

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