The Howard County Council's decision this week to redraft a proposal to restrict development near overburdened schools and roads follows concerns by members that the original proposal would not work as well in practice as it did on paper.

"The old one is dead. We need to take a look at a new bill," said council member C. Vernon Gray (D-District 3).

Council members had hoped to pass the "adequate public facilities" proposal Monday, the night of their final meeting before the Nov. 6 general election. But it quickly became clear during their work sessions that several members are uncomfortable with elements of the legislation proposed by County Executive Elizabeth Bobo (D).

As originally drafted, the proposal would prevent developers from breaking ground until road congestion problems within two miles or two major intersections of their projects are corrected. Residential builders would carry the additional burden of having to provide land for a new school if they want to build in an area served by crowded schools.

Council members passed a non-binding resolution Monday night endorsing the adequate public facilities concept and pledging, if reelected, to adopt a law before a controversial 18-month limit on building permits is lifted. The limit is scheduled to expire in March, but members said they would consider extending it if they have not adopted an adequate facilities ordinance by then.

Developers and their consultants who have studied the proposal say it would impede construction in most of the county. In the short run, "nobody can do anything if this is adopted as proposed," said developer John Lipiarini, president of the county chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. "There has to be modifications."

According to County Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass (D-District 1), one traffic consultant found that only residential development in the far southeast corner of the county would be able to proceed without a builder first having to provide land for new schools.

Pendergrass, who represents the area, said she would fight to change the law if that assessment were found to be true. She said southeastern Howard County already is burdened with crowded schools and that the new schools scheduled to open in the next few years will be near capacity immediately. "My common sense test tells me that only a small amount of development should be able to go on, if any at all," Pendergrass said of the area.

She said there may be a problem with the way the proposed legislation counts school enrollment. The Bobo plan looks at existing enrollment instead of projections. Therefore, a school that has room one year might be filled by the time a construction project is completed.

County planners, however, said the consultant's study was done incorrectly. They identified one theoretical project in the final stages of development that would have to provide school land before moving forward in the southeast corner of the county. Overall, they said about half the projects they studied could proceed without having to provide land for a new school. Half of another set of sample projects would be forced to make road improvements.

Regarding the road requirement, council member Angela Beltram (D-District 2) said members have been concerned about the two-mile limit. She said it might be more appropriate to allow planners and developers to come up with a study area that is based on the location and type of project being considered.

Not all members agree on what developers should be required to provide in terms of public facilities. Gray said the administration's proposal appeared to unfairly force developers to not only address the problems that would be created by their projects but to correct existing problems caused by past builders. He said the county should outline a program for correcting existing deficiencies so the work is not "charged off to future residents" who ultimately pay the costs when they buy houses in the new developments.

Development attorneys have testified the proposal might be subject to legal challenge if builders were required to fix the problems of others. But county officials said the builders are not required to fix anything: They can instead choose to scale back their projects or wait until state or local governments make the improvements on their own. As long as the county makes a good faith effort to correct problems within a reasonable time, say 10 to 12 years, it probably could withstand most challenges, a county consultant said. Still, "there's no question this {proposal} adds a motivation for the county to fund its capital improvement program," said Uri P. Avin, the county's planning director.

Sticking to its funding schedule could be increasingly difficult if the economy doesn't improve and the county sees bigger drops in revenue, said John J. Delaney, a development lawyer. He recalls that it didn't take long for Ramapo, N.Y., to dismantle its 1969 adequate public facilities law -- the nation's first -- when the economy there soured and local officials could no longer live up to their capital commitments.

The council's delay in passing the proposed law could create other problems. Administration officials said they hoped to win approval to rezone the mostly rural, western third of the county before March. It is uncertain whether the council will meet that deadline."I can't promise that I can work as fast as the county executive thinks I can work," Pendergrass said.