03-05-2011 FNP: Friends of Frederick County wrongly vilified by New Market-area resident

Cline Farm, New Market (Harry Richardson, artist)

This letter is in response to Mark Koehler’s Feb. 28 letter titled “Not Friends …” in which he takes to task Friends of Frederick County’s involvement in the politics of New Market. I, too, have a New Market mailing address, albeit not in the Town of New Market; however, I live very close to the town and have had the opportunity to attend their Town Council and planning and zoning meetings. I have followed very closely many discussions and decisions by the New Market elected officials as they pertain to the surrounding environment in which the residents of New Market live.I am a concerned citizen who is writing to factually rebut Koehler’s accusations against Friends of Frederick County. HB 1141 is a clearly defined law that outlines how municipalities are to address their Municipal Growth Element (MGE). After the town submitted their MGE, the Maryland Planning Department’s, as well as the State Highway Administration’s, response to the town’s submittal outlined in very clear terms how poorly this document was executed and provided very distinct recommendations for aligning the town’s MGE with HB 1141.

Town officials chose to ignore the majority of these recommendations. During their Nov. 17, 2010 meeting an individual who was providing guidance to the town officials stated that “if the Maryland Planning Department doesn’t write their response in bold then we don’t need to worry about it.” Perhaps it would have been more helpful to suggest that the Maryland Planning Department, as well as the State Highway Administration, were much more versed in the requirements of HB 1141 and as such their comments should be taken seriously.

Friends of Frederick County has not been “frequently meddling in New Market’s affairs” as stated by Koehler, but rather became involved once it became apparent New Market town officials chose to ignore the recommendations made by the Maryland Planning Department with regard to their MGE.

The fact of the matter is, had town officials worked with the State Planning Commission, as well as the State Highway Administration, to design their MGE to meet the requirements of HB 1141, the Town of New Market would not now find themselves in the position of being sued. I would also venture a guess that if town officials would be willing to reconsider the wording of their MGE so that it unequivocally met the requirements of HB 1141, no monies would be have to be spent defending a plan that appears to be fallible.

I would invite all concerned citizens to visit the Maryland Planning Department’s website to gain factual insight into this situation.

Vitriolic rhetoric accomplishes nothing. I believe if everyone comes to the table with an open mind we would understand that everyone is seeking quality of life. This is not about stopping development but rather about developing our community in a smart, well-thought-out way that does not force us to live in an extended Montgomery County. If we all try to work together I believe we can all achieve that which matters most to us.

Brenda Harlow lives near New Market.

Originally published March 05, 2011