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Ducketts Lane Update: Lawsuit, Traffic, Design

School planning officials briefed the Howard County Board of Education this week on the proposed elementary school.

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.

Tammy B. December 22, 2011 at 12:50 PM
I'm hoping that this is held up in court and kills the project. The developers, Howard Co. Dept of Ed and the SHA are listening but are not hearing the residents that live on Ducketts Lane. There hasn't been a fatal crash because we are all terrified to make a left onto Route 1, if you live in the neighborhood you know that making a left onto Route 1 is a Death Trap so all of us go around Bauman to Montgomery Road because there is a light there so we can make a left and still Live! I mean seriously stop talking this issue around in circles, we are not as dumb as you think we are and it is getting frustrating. It is our neighborhood, yet we do not have a choice. Elkridge is the new Howard County dumping ground, I may have to consider moving with the school, casino, tennis courts and inter-modal, our quiet little town will be ruined. The reason people started moving to Elkridge was to get away from all of the traffic and hussle bussle but now we will be wasting our lives sitting in traffic and although I love Elkridge it will not be worth it anymore. HEAR US NOW!!!
Erinn Manack December 22, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Fact: Elkridge needs a new school, if not Ducketts Lane, then where? Again and again I hear people complaining about the location and that Elkridge has turned into Howard County's dumping ground, but no one is saying where a GOOD location in Elkridge would be. As a mom, and a teacher I would love to see a new school. I would also love to see a traffic light at Ducketts lane and the one at Troy Hill removed. But killing the proposal in court doesn't seem like the right fix. The overcrowding of the classrooms is still going to be a problem.
Mike December 22, 2011 at 02:27 PM
I think that a traffic light is IN ORDER for that intersection, especially if the school proposal goes thru. With the amount of increased traffic that will be flowing there with school traffic it will be a major safety issue. Our children and families are more important than the county saving a few thousand bucks by just adding a trun lane. If the school is coming, the traffic light should be a part of the project. Our children and families safety should be first and foremost! Mike A. Hunt Club Rd.
Val McGuire December 22, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Maybe SHA's first female administrator, Melinda B. Peters, can see the logic of placing a working stop light at this dangerous intersection. Does it really take a fatality to make the government understand the necessity of a traffic light here? I hope the Board of Education, our County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, and County Executive Ken Ulman will work together to give Elkridge a traffic light for the safety of all. That's all I want for Christmas. And peace on earth.
Sandy Baker December 22, 2011 at 03:45 PM
I work in The Troy Hill Park and we have to make a left out of Troy Hill Drive. It's always "make sure what works for me" or "not in my backyard" There is a site for the school at Oxford Square but some of the residents in Elkridge only want to fight about it and not work with the community and try to resolve this issue. I believe that some of the residence in Elkridge would never be happy with any site. They just want to fiight until the "Perfect site" is located. It does not exsit.
Pat December 22, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Traffic Circle ! An entrance for the trucks, One for Ducketts, and one for the junkyard.
Merry Steen December 22, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Agreed 100% with TAMMY B.!!!!! Being a resident on Ducketts Lane, when did the morons deciding to place a school here ever poll the taxpayers on Ducketts for their thoughts? More outrageous Dem Govt shoving their agendas down our thoats, are the risk of children's safety! Where is the common sense? When a busload of children are creamed on Route One, then your taxes will jump to pay for the litigation awards!!!! MORONS!!!!!!!
Bernie Trenary December 22, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I'm with you on this one, Tammy! I don't live there and my children are college age now but I DO live behind the proposed Intermodal site, so I know what it's like having something problematic shoved down your throat. A LOT of those intersections off of Route 1 ARE death traps and you shouldn't have to wait 'til the numbers are up to add a light! I get tired of hearing people say "it's a NIMBY issue" or "people just want to fight" . . . wait 'til it's THEIR children at risk or THEIR property value and quality of life that will suffer . . . then we'll see who's ready to "fight"!
Sandy Baker December 22, 2011 at 06:02 PM
My children are also grown and did go to Elkridge Elem, Middle and Howard and Long Reach schools and I do live near the intermodal site and I agree that no one should have to wait for the number to correct a intersection. But no matter where this school goes, someone is not going to be happy. I was one of the parents who's children went to the old Elkridge Elem School and remember when we started to "fight" to have a new school built. That school is Elkridge Elem on Montgomery Road. I do know what it is to fight for a safe school.
Robert Judge December 22, 2011 at 06:18 PM
I lived on Ducketts for 12 years. We were asking for a traffic signal back in the 90's. At one point we were told that we needed two fatalities at the intersection before we could have a traffic light. A new school will bring new traffic, which will absolutely make a traffic signal necessary. The buses coming from the south will cause backups and accidents on northbound Route one. The Ducketts site is not perfect, but it is far better than putting it in an industrial park next to a freight rail line. The site will require extra work and good planning. Of course, if the county government were capable of good planning we would not be in this mess.
Angela S December 22, 2011 at 08:13 PM
I have no clue why they think a right turn lane is going to help any. There already is a makeshift right turn lane. It isn't going to improve the ability to make a left and it will be hard for cars making the right to see past the buses turning left (now it is hard to turn right if there is a truck trying to pull out of ABF).
Concerned Elkridgean December 23, 2011 at 02:00 PM
When the Harwood Park Community Association fought for the light at Loudon Ave, I thought it was related to the amount of traffic not the number of accidents. As far as the school, isn't it the county's job to find land? Who works for whom? I guess Joel Gallihue and Ken Roey need to be replaced since they are not doing their jobs? Joel's numbers as far as student projections are off. But I guess it is ok for people who make decisions that impact children's and people's lives to make mistakes? Right? And how much do these guys get paid by us? I heard around $120,000 per year. I guess the county needs to pay more so we can get people who can intuitively understand what statistics and future high density growth mean. Hey they don't live in Elkridge do they? Do their kids go to school here? It is frustrating to say the least. Route 1 revitalization is a joke! What changes have people seen since it was implemented? More beautification of Route 1, I don't think so! Less Crime because Rte 1 is so beautiful and pedestrian friendly. Schools to walk to.. Think county DPZ and reps.
Angela S December 23, 2011 at 02:14 PM
I've seen lots of positive changes since revitalization. I like the sidewalks near Troy Hill, I don't miss the trailer park across from State police barracks. I was happy to see the Copper Stallion go and am looking forward to seeing what is going in there in place of it and in place of the Three 9s. I think changes for the good are slowly being made. I just wish some private land owners around here got with the program. I would love to see the abandoned building on the corner of Bonnie Branch and Route 1 cleaned up. And some other properties (like the one across from Ducketts) beautified. And yes it is the county's job to find land, but it isn't easy to find land that is in an area where you would want to put a school. The best place to put a school is in a residential area, but there are few places near current residential areas with enough space and the proper zoning.
Tammy B. December 23, 2011 at 02:23 PM
It is absurd for people to think that Elkridge residents just want to fight over the school issue. There have been comments such as "Elkridge needs a new school, if not on Ducketts then where" well let's start by not over building little towns such as ours then there won't be overcrowding. Over the last several years, the County and Developers have been allowed to develop any land in Elkridge that had nothing on it, I mean they even built top dollar apartments by the post office that overlook a huge dirt pile and the back of the nasty industrial site on Route 1, in other words they are cramming houses, townhouses, condos and apartments into places that they do not belong!! This is the work of our great County Executive and Public Works engineers, who probably don't live in Elkridge so why should they care. I have a great idea anyone and I mean anyone who doesn't think this is a problem and that the residents only want to fight...why don't you move into our neighborhood before passing judgement, then you will see this is going to be a big problem!! As for the SHA it makes total sense not to put a light until someone loses their child, husband, father, brother, uncle, aunt, sister, mother, grandmother, grandfather or friend... NOT!!! Think about how damn dumb that sounds... hope you never lose a loved one and feel the pain that someone may feel b/c you didn't want a light just a turn lane!
Sandy Baker December 23, 2011 at 03:36 PM
I remember when Ducketts Lane townhouses and homes were built. Yes there is a lot of building going on in Elkridge - just like when the Duckett Lane community was built - It is not the developers - they are within their rights to build within the current zoning - and as for the "nasty industrial site" that site was here way before Ducketts lane and as for the apartments next to the post office - they sold and were rented so residence must be ok with the post office and "nasty industrial site" - I have heard from so many residence that Why is there so much building going on in Elkridge only to find out that these are some of the residence that now live in these communites and now want the building to stop. I remember the IGA, LeComptes, Dog House - that was when Elkridge was a small community and now I hear "Why do people on Rt. 1 hold on to their property and keep it the way they do". Because they can and that is how is has been for many many years. It is there propery and as long as they are within the zoning rights they can. Just because some people are new to this area does not mean that some of the "orignial small community residence" have to change the way they have lived most of their lives just to satified the new comers. The "nasty industrial park" was there when you moved here so it must not have been to bad then - why is it so bad now
Mike December 24, 2011 at 05:01 AM
I think that it is a terrible miscarriage of justice if they do not put a traffic light on Rt.1 and Ducketts La. if this school proposal goes thru. It is already a treacherous intersection, and the added traffic of the school, trying to turn into Ducketts or onto Route 1 makes this a priority. To WAIT for a FATALITY or TWO is ridiculous. How can a price be put on peoples lives? For alot of us in the area our most precious cargo will be using that intersection on a daily basis. Come on Howard County; for once show you are INTELLIGENT when doing a project and include the cost and placement of a working traffic signal at that intersection!! Mike A., Hunt Club Rd.
S.S. in Elkridge January 03, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Erinn, No disrespect, however, you may want to ask the Board of Ed your question about an alternative site. They are the ones responsible for site allocations. This has been a mess since the get go and the sad thing is, when asked, the B of E has NO alternative location. Whether they've tried or not, there are no other locations. Thus, those of us in the immediate neighborhood, feel that this is being dumped on us. It's a Band-Aid approach to a much larger issue that nobody in the B of E or Howard County Board of Executives seems to want to address. Our Executives approved a Rt. 1 revitalization program, ie. more homes, but didn't seem to adequately address the infrastructure, ie. schools. The sad thing is, we do need more schools and we have them, in western Howard County. How about some better redistricting to utilize the underutilized schools?
S.S. in Elkridge January 03, 2012 at 09:38 PM
After doing a little digging, I find that Howard County has purchased the Belmont Estate property that is 81 acres off of Montgomery Rd. Perhaps they can build an elementary school there. The size is right, the location is right, and it's been purchased, no need for litigation.
edb January 04, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Well then how about the large amount of land that was purchased so that a Tennis Facility could be built. There are still options that have not but will not be explored.
Sandy Baker January 04, 2012 at 05:05 PM
The tennis court facility - Troy Hill park was purchased with Federal Open Space monies. This has been looked into.
Frank in Elkridge January 04, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Duckett's Lane site is in a residential area, where elementary schools should be. Does anyone know of any other lots in a residential area available for building a new elementary school? I can't think of any site in the Route 1 corridor that's not next to a railroad, major highway, industrial, complex, freight yard, or prison.

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