The Howard County Public School System filed suit Tuesday against the owners of property on Ducketts Lane where it plans to build an elementary school.
"We have a contract with the owners which they have not fulfilled," Ken Roey, director of facilities for the school system, told the Board of Education at its Dec. 20 meeting, during his report on the school's construction documents. "Today we filed suit against the owners of the property."
Officials plan to open the Ducketts Lane elementary school by 2013 to ease overcrowding in the northeastern part of the county. According to the timetable Roey presented to the board, construction must begin by June 2012 for the project to remain on track.
The sale of the property at 6501 Ducketts Lane must be resolved by spring 2012 so construction contracts can be executed, Roey last week at an Elkridge PTA meeting.
The owner of the property is Ducketts Ridge LLC, a development corporation that has a lien against the property pending with one of its lenders. School officials that the lien violates the terms of the contract, which stipulates a clear transfer of title.
“We are pursuing litigation and we hope to resolve that soon so we can get back to the real task of getting the school built,” said Roey at the Dec. 20 meeting.
Another issue in the development of the property is the community's concern over traffic. Residents have requested that a traffic light be installed on Washington Boulevard at Ducketts Lane.
Rather than a traffic light, the State Highway Administration (SHA) advised putting a right turn lane in at Ducketts Lane to US 1, reported project consultant Melissa Wilfong.
“We’ve discussed traffic counts, wait times [and] crash data” with the SHA, said Wilfong. "What they see as a problem at that light...is wait times."
One Elkridge Patch reader at Ducketts Lane and US 1 a “recipe for accidents" when the choice of the site was made public over the summer.
School board member Brian Meshkin echoed the Elkridge community’s sentiment at this week’s meeting.
“My concern is not the wait time....Making that left-hand turn can be very problematic,” said Meshkin of exiting Ducketts Lane onto US 1. “I think that’s something as we go through this process that we need to put a lot of pressure on to get done.”
Board member Sandra French agreed. “Can you ever make a left turn without feeling that you are taking your life in your hands?” she asked.
According to the SHA, no lives were lost in vehicle crashes at the intersection, at least along Route 1, which is a state road, between 2008 and 2010.
During that three-year timeframe, five crashes were reported to police in the intersection, said SHA in an email.
“Three of the crashes were property damage only (fender-benders), two were injury crashes and there were no fatalities,” said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar in an email to Elkridge Patch. “The average daily traffic at this location is approximately 35,500 vehicles per day.”
Wilfong said, "We’ll continue to pursue the conversations with them [about] how the road gets reconfigured" to accommodate the right-turn lane. "It’s an uncomfortable intersection; there's no doubt about it."
Wilfong also showed the school board construction plans for the school, which officials said would meet the gold standard for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).
It would be the county’s first LEED-gold school and include features like a "touching stream" (or flowing waterway) in front of the school's facade and an enclosed space containing plots for projects, called the "science courtyard."
“There are a number of firsts,” said Roey. “Some of them may not prove to be what we want to do in the future, but this in many ways will be a first-in-kind school…building-wise.”
“It is such that it could become a prototype,” said school board member Janet Siddqiui.