A petition that would have allowed voters to decide whether to lower the minimum age for City Council candidates has failed in College Park.

The council passed a statute last month that lowers the age from 25 to 21, which would allow University of Maryland students living in the city to run for office. Students make up nearly half of the city's 24,000 population.

The decision exacerbated longstanding squabbles between longtime city residents and students, with some residents complaining that students in office would allow students to further dominate the city and disturb its family-oriented neighborhoods with loud parties, litter and increased traffic.

But the petition challenging that decision fell short by about 300 signatures at last week's deadline. Signatures of 962 residents, or 20 percent of the city's 4,810 registered voters, were needed to place the question on the November ballot.

The age reduction became law yesterday.

Robert Bryan, 65, who began the petition May 5, said, "I guess I didn't do a good enough job. I couldn't get enough people to move the petition around. The people I talked to said, 'I would have signed it.' I don't think we need 21-year-olds running for council. I go by what I knew at that age. {Young people} are not ready to make decisions for people in the city."

Council member William Salmond, whose district represents the largest concentration of students in the city, urged the council last month to recognize that other municipalities and college towns have lowered the age limit without serious repercussions.

U-Md. students had called the higher age discriminatory. Similar age-lowering measures have been defeated in the past, the last time in 1983 by a referendum vote of more than 2 to 1.