Citizen Input on Frederick City Annexations

From what I gather, annexation isn’t the problem. The problem is that

under our current zoning policies, we will use the annexed land in

inefficient and risky ways.

The mayor says we need to build large lot commercial office space

there to generate tax revenue. If our goal is to maximize tax revenue,

building big office parks on this land is probably not the best the

way to do that. Here’s why:

1) INNOVATION PAYS BETTER

You can only make so much money by copying everyone else. The way to

make big bucks is to take advantage of your strengths, and apply them

in a growing market.

Many municipalities around the country consider big office parks to be

the epitome of economic development. But regular office space, such as

that in office buildings downtown, works fine for local firms. Only

big companies in mature industries, such as big financial services and

insurance firms, need and want to occupy these spaces. If we build

these sorts of office spaces, the companies we work for will be big

national companies competing with other big national companies in the

same old mature industries. There’s not much growth in these markets.

The land in question for annexation is some of the most fertile

farmland in the world. Frederick County is very strong agriculturally.

Instead of competing with other big companies in mature industries

that aren’t growing very much, why don’t we we leverage our strengths

and become the world leader in a growing agricultural industry like

organic farming?

For example, a biotech firm headquartered in Frederick could develop a

safe, organic insecticide, and test it in partnership with local

organic farms. Frederick could become a world leader in 21st century

food production. These sorts of breakthroughs won’t come from huge

agribusiness concerns such as Monsanto and Cargill. They’ll come from

smart, dedicated farmers like we have here in Frederick, working in

concert with biotech scientists…like we have here in Frederick.

2) OUR ZONING POLICIES ARE OBSOLETE

Building big office parks according to single-use zoning policies is

part of an obsolete, 50-year-old pattern of development that most

citizens don’t want anymore.

You put your office space in a big plot here, your residential in a

big plot there, your retail in a big plot somewhere else, your schools

in a big plot elsewhere, and your parks and recreation in a big plot

in yet another place. This means people spend hours a day in the

car–driving to work, driving to the store, driving their kids to

sports, etc.

This sort of living is stressful and unhealthy. It cuts way down on

the time people can spend with their kids, or contribute to the

community. And, when gas prices rise, it means our daily living

expenses rise right along with them, and suddenly everyone has a lot

less money to spend in local restaurants, with local retailers, on

local charities, etc. Expensive oil shipped in from Riyadh, Saudi

Arabia cripples our local economy here in Frederick, MD.

3) OFFICE PARK TENANTS DON’T CARE ABOUT US

The big, mature companies that want to occupy these sorts of office

parks aren’t headquartered here. This causes problems.

Sure, these big companies employ us, paying us enough to make it worth

our while to work for them, but the profits–the real wealth–is

shipped outside the County. With a local firm, such as Ausherman

Homes, a lot of the profits are reinvested in our community through

organizations like the Ausherman Foundation. With Wells Fargo, for

instance, our community sees none of the profits because they’re

shipped off to investors on the other side of the world.

Also, the people who run these companies are thousands of miles away.

They have no ties to us. If they see advantage in moving somewhere

else, such as a low-wage/low-tax area such as South Carolina or Mexico

or India, they often take it without a second thought. Because they

occupy large facilities, they leave a big employment hole behind when

they go.

4) SPRAWL KILLS ECONOMIC GROWTH

Concentrated development spurs economic activity. Spreading things out

slows it down.

When you spread business out and isolate it, as in big office parks,

it slows down economic activity. It’s like spreading out nuclear

material in a reactor. But when we concentrate lots of businesses

within a given area, it not only increases the degree of economic

development, it expands the kind of economic activity that can grow.

For example, I have a friend who’s a world-class software engineer

with a passion to open up a “green” high-quality pizza delivery

business. In suburban subdivisions and office parks, that model won’t

work–the distances between customers are too great. But in a

mixed-use area in which business/residential/retail are concentrated,

like the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, he can deliver

wood-fired, fresh mozzarella pizzas by electric car or bicycle for $20

a pop and make great money. It’d be a shame to lose him to Del Ray.

5) SMART PEOPLE WANT DOWNTOWN FREDERICK

Creative, innovative, highly-skilled, knowledgeable people starting

and staffing the high-wage, high-growth businesses of the future don’t

want to live in places created according to our current zoning

policies, such as Rockville or Gaithersburg. They want to live in

places like downtown Frederick.

They don’t want to work in cubicle farms and file TPM reports a la the

movie “Office Space.” They want to be part of a vibrant, urban

environment with lots to do and lots of people like themselves to

interact with–withing walking distance. To get that, we’ll need

zoning policies that don’t include big, isolated office parks.

CONCLUSION

The easy thing to do would be to conduct business as usual and allow

big office parks to be built on the farmland to be annexed. But if we

do that, we’re incurring significant problems and risk.

Instead, why don’t we get together and explore alternatives? It won’t

be easy to come up with something better than our status quo zoning

practices, but it will be an improvement. It’ll generate more revenue

for our City government, more economic activity in our business

community, and make life easier for citizens of Frederick.

Want to talk more about this? I hope so!

Thanks for your kind attention,

comments from Chris Charuhas, Frederick City resident, to the Frederick City Planning Commission

Let us bring the Golden Mile back to its name and let it be the Golden Mile

Bringing commercial into a residential neighborhood is not smart growth.

I realize the city of Frederick thinks it will gain a great deal of money from this annexation, but I think we should be realistic.

I would like to quote from the annexation staff report for the Summers Farm:

“This property was specifically listed as part  of the Potomac River Water Supply Agreement which was signed by the City of Frederick on March 16, 2006. The proposed water usage for the 100 acres was estimated to be 86,242 gpd.  The applicant’s estimated is 138,000 higher than the estimate used in the PRWSA.”

There will not be sufficient water for this annexation.

When discussing annexation, it is important to question the possibility of the parcel not being developed as planned.  If this parcel was not annexed, it would be developed under the County Zoning Ordinance, with low density housing units and no commercial.

We must think about the financial impact on the city.  They have not discussed the cost of infrastructure.

Traffic will more than double and commercial will bring in big trucks.

Redevelop the Golden Mile.

There are numerous vacancies.

There is a desperate need to speed up the process of revitalizing the Frederick Towne Mall.

The lack of business there is leading to a bad atmosphere for the community.

We need a combination of residential and commercial at the Frederick Towne Mall and we need it now.

Emphasis should be on what now exists rather than on new development.

It is very important we in-fill and use the property in the city before adding more.

Melinda Yount

County Commissions speak out: Proposed city annexations ill-conceived, irresponsible

We are writing to express our concerns about the City of Frederick ‘s imminent annexation of the Crum and Thatcher properties north of the city along U.S. 15. City officials claim Frederick needs to annex these properties in order to pay for the water that the city requested from the county under a financial arrangement unanimously agreed upon by the mayor and aldermen in 2006.Frederickofficials have previously cited this agreement as an accomplishment. The county commissioners are surprised by comments thatFrederick suddenly cannot afford this agreement and must annex hundreds of acres in order to have new development pay the city’s water bill!

The county commissioners are willing to amend the agreement and buy any excess water that Fredericknow claims to be unable to afford.

The county commissioners have expressed serious concern about the lack of needed infrastructure and services to support the 1,060 new houses and 2 million square feet of office/commercial space. The development of these properties along U.S. 15 will create significant traffic safety hazards on U.S. 15 and magnify those that already exist at Hayward Road.

A letter from the State Highway Administration to Frederick officials clearly states that public safety will be at risk if these properties develop without a full grade-separated interchange on U.S. 15. The developers are not offering to pay for a full interchange and city officials are not requiring them to do so.

The developers have offered a school site outside the property to be annexed that is essentially not usable for a school. The school site being offered is in an agricultural zoned area off Sundays Lane. This school site is not in a water/sewer service area and will not qualify for state school construction dollars, meaning county taxpayers would need to foot the entire bill for a new school. Do we really want to bus students to a school in a rural area and have school buses make a left turn from U.S. 15 onto Sundays Lane?

The city also does not have sewer capacity to serve these properties, and no agreement exists with the county to provide needed sewer. Fire and EMS services will also need to be expanded to serve these properties, and Frederick officials have not even discussed these needs with the county.

The failure of the City of Frederick to properly plan for all the needed infrastructure and services is a recipe for failure.

It will shift a huge burden to the taxpayers of Frederick and Frederick County who will be stuck with the bill to provide the needed infrastructure.

These annexations should not advance until such time as the developers have agreed to pay for the needed infrastructure and services are properly coordinated with the county and the state. In the current budget climate, there is simply no money to provide infrastructure or expand services to support these developments.

The signatories of this commentary include all five Frederick County Commissioners — Jan Gardner, David Gray, Kai Hagen, Charles Jenkins and John L. Thompson Jr.

Originally published August 30, 2009

http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/opinion/display_lte.htm?StoryID=94524

County Commissions speak out: Proposed city annexations ill-conceived, irresponsible

Thatcher and CrumWe are writing to express our concerns about the City of Frederick ‘s imminent annexation of the Crum and Thatcher properties north of the city along U.S. 15. City officials claim Frederick needs to annex these properties in order to pay for the water that the city requested from the county under a financial arrangement unanimously agreed upon by the mayor and aldermen in 2006.Frederick officials have previously cited this agreement as an accomplishment. The county commissioners are surprised by comments thatFrederick suddenly cannot afford this agreement and must annex hundreds of acres in order to have new development pay the city’s water bill!

The county commissioners are willing to amend the agreement and buy any excess water that Fredericknow claims to be unable to afford.

The county commissioners have expressed serious concern about the lack of needed infrastructure and services to support the 1,060 new houses and 2 million square feet of office/commercial space. The development of these properties along U.S. 15 will create significant traffic safety hazards on U.S. 15 and magnify those that already exist at Hayward Road.

A letter from the State Highway Administration to Frederick officials clearly states that public safety will be at risk if these properties develop without a full grade-separated interchange on U.S. 15. The developers are not offering to pay for a full interchange and city officials are not requiring them to do so.

The developers have offered a school site outside the property to be annexed that is essentially not usable for a school. The school site being offered is in an agricultural zoned area off Sundays Lane. This school site is not in a water/sewer service area and will not qualify for state school construction dollars, meaning county taxpayers would need to foot the entire bill for a new school. Do we really want to bus students to a school in a rural area and have school buses make a left turn from U.S. 15 onto Sundays Lane?

The city also does not have sewer capacity to serve these properties, and no agreement exists with the county to provide needed sewer. Fire and EMS services will also need to be expanded to serve these properties, and Frederick officials have not even discussed these needs with the county.

The failure of the City of Frederick to properly plan for all the needed infrastructure and services is a recipe for failure.

It will shift a huge burden to the taxpayers of Frederick and Frederick County who will be stuck with the bill to provide the needed infrastructure.

These annexations should not advance until such time as the developers have agreed to pay for the needed infrastructure and services are properly coordinated with the county and the state. In the current budget climate, there is simply no money to provide infrastructure or expand services to support these developments.

The signatories of this commentary include all five Frederick County Commissioners — Jan Gardner, David Gray, Kai Hagen, Charles Jenkins and John L. Thompson Jr.

Originally published August 30, 2009 http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/opinion/display_lte.htm?StoryID=94524

Alderman Kuzemchak writes on the city’s annexation proposals

All,

Please read all of this.  Some of it might upset you but other parts may make you smile.  I honestly don’t know how I’m going to vote on Thursday.  This note is for informational purposes only.

We shouldn’t even be discussing annexations and zonings this close to an election – nobody has all the information and so much that’s out there is just political jargon by those who want you to believe certain things but please let me correct one misconception.  The extra taxes on these properties will provide for the infrastructure needed as they develop.  They will begin to pay city taxes the minute they are annexed (and even without my vote, I believe they have the votes to be annexed into the city).  No matter what County Commissioners say (and remember, they tax Municipal Residents for services they don’t even provide), EXISTING CITY taxpayers will not be providing the infrastructure and future needs for these developments.

Having said all that, I still may agree with you that it isn’t time to annex these properties.  I certainly don’t plan to vote yes on it unless it is worded very specifically and is in the best interests (economically AND environmentally) of city residents.  But I have a hard time with people thinking these properties aren’t going to be developed.  They will.  And it would be worse to develop land in the middle of the county with absolutely no existing infrastructure because then it really is sprawl.  And 5-10 years from now, these same properties will be on the agenda again for annexation/development.  This group of County Commissioners won’t be in office forever.  I shudder to think what future BOCCs may allow on these properties.

I didn’t grow up here.  I moved in 1987.  I won’t close the gates just because I’ve found my little piece of Heaven.  Instead, I will work to be sure there is legal recourse to force proper development.  The bad developers will get around the law when they can.  I see my part as being the person who reads every single word and fights for every single sentence because I’ve seen what bad developers can do and I may not be able to completely stop them, but I know enough to make it REALLY HARD on them.

I honestly don’t know how I’ll vote on Thursday.  I have many documents to look at.  I will, however, promise that I will read EVERY word and dissect EVERY sentence.  If I think this is best for City residents, I’ll vote yes.  If not, I’ll vote no.  Until then, I have a lot of homework to do.

Thanks for writing.  I appreciate candid, open discussion on this issue.

Donna

The Crumland Farm and Thatcher/COPT Proposed Annexations Analysis and Opinion of Alderman C. Paul Smith

 

 

   August 29, 2009

 

 

The annexations are not being entertained as a way to generate tax revenue. In my opinion that would not be a good reason to annex a property. I will only vote to annex properties that I believe will bring more net benefits to the city than by not annexing them.

 

The only reason these two properties are being considered for annexation is because the property owners are requesting it. I’m sure they are requesting it because they wish to make some money on the sale of their property in connection with development of the property. Because of this incentive, the property owners are willing to pay to be annexed—they are willing to give the city some property for roads, schools and/or other purposes, and/or they are willing to make other valuable contributions. The annexation agreements under consideration secure such benefits for the City. For the right amount of contributions from the property owners, the annexations can be very beneficial to the City. There are two primary benefits that these two properties can offer the city: (1) valuable land and/or cash contributions for the building of the grade-separated intersection on US 15 @ Biggs Ford Road; and (2) land that can be used for major employment campuses for large, Fortune 500 companies—like Bechtel, IBM, MedImmune, State Farm, etc. I will discuss each of these.

 

The building of a grade-separated intersection on US 15 at Biggs Ford Road is a critical road improvement for our future, imminent growth. This intersection improvement has been on City, County and State plans for twenty years. This intersection is the northern terminus of the I-270/US 15 Multi-Modal Study—a 30-mile, $4 Billion improvement project that has many parts that are of critical importance to Frederick City and Frederick County. This intersection would also be the northern terminus of the North/South Parallel Road, which the City has had on its comprehensive plan and maps for many years. The North/South Parallel Road would be a limited access highway that would be an eastern by-pass for traffic coming north on I-270 from Montgomery County and continuing north on US 15 (or visa versa). The building of this road would alleviate rush-hour congestion in the City on US 15. This interchange is extremely important to the long term plans of the City and the County, and through the annexation applications, both of the property owners will be contributing the required land to build it. This is a substantial contribution that is extremely valuable to the City. If the property owners do not commit to pay for this during annexation, then later the government would have to pay them for this land in order to improve the intersection. This is an enormous benefit!

 

The County projects that its population will be 326,000 by 2030. This is an increase of about 90,000. The City projects its population to increase to 90,000+ by 2030—an increase of 30,000+. The growth rate for both the City and the County in this time frame is projected to be about 30-35%. It is critical that the City, County and State make concrete plans and take specific actions to prepare for this growth. The growth will happen because our County is one of the most attractive places to live in the entire state. In addition to this growth, the adjacent jurisdictions will also continue to grow—that is Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington County. And their traffic will go through Frederick City and will add to our already excessive traffic congestion. It is of critical importance for the City, the County, the State and

 

the federal government to anticipate this tremendous growth, and to build the road improvements that are necessary. Otherwise, the terrible traffic congestion we now have will continue to get worse, until it ruins the quality of life for all of us. The traffic congestion is already so bad that most residents avoid going out during rush hours. This hurts businesses, and it wastes time for all of us. And what is the County doing to address this problem? The answer is: “Clearly not enough!” They should not be trying to block these projects that will provide a critical, essential improvement to our already excessive congestion.

 

It is a mistake to pretend that growth and increased vehicle traffic will not occur in Fredrick County. The County’s effort to stop growth is a futile and wasteful approach. The growth will come. But if we plan for it, we can build the needed improvements cheaper. On the other hand, if we pretend that we can stop growth and try to stop it, then we will have to pay a higher price later on when already congested roads become so dire that even the most stubborn officials will acknowledge that road improvements are needed. Those who are looking ahead 20, 30 and 50 years will acknowledge that now is the time to plan for the needed road improvements.

 

Obtaining federal funds is an important part of building the needed road improvements. But we will not get the federal help we need as long as the County refuses to acknowledge the need for these improvements. The No-Growth attitude that is manifest by the current Board of County Commissioners is already hurting the City and the County. The County should be fighting to fund the Biggs Ford Road interchange, rather than debating whether to eliminate this intersection from its future plans.

 

The Crumland and Thatcher/COPT properties offer the City (and the County) the opportunity to bring top-rate employers to the area, so that more of our residents can work near their homes. This is a fundamental principle of smart growth–to bring jobs to the places where people live. Increasing the number of good jobs that the City has to offer our community is exactly the type of growth that we should aggressively pursue. Success at this will allow more local residents to work where they live. This planning approach is acknowledged to be a very desirable sustainability practice. In addition, the businesses that create these jobs will not be a drain on city and county finances, but rather will bring in more revenues than the cost to support them. And the development of such employment centers off of US 15 will include significant green spaces that can be beautifully landscaped; there will be no new residences on the Thatcher/COPT land, and the residences on the Crumland property will be far away from US 15.

The best place for big employment centers is close to the City.

 

The residential development of the Crumland Farm property is contingent upon the developer first improving one mile of Willowbrook Road. This is an expensive and sorely needed road improvement that can eventually be extended to the Biggs Ford Road interchange. This area of residential development can help serve many of the 3,000 new jobs that will be coming to Ft. Detrick. And, again, the Biggs Ford Road interchange can relieve substantial traffic that comes south on US 15 and which currently exits onto Hayward Road or Opossumtown Pike.

 

The Crumland and Thatcher/COPT properties are both very large—large enough to be attractive to national, Fortune 500-type companies. There are very few, if any remaining tracts of land around the City that are large enough, and that have the easy access to a major highway,

so that they could attract the best companies. The Crumland and Thatcher/COPT properties are

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so that they could attract the best companies. The Crumland and Thatcher/COPT properties are uniquely attractive to the employers that the City seeks to attract. This type of growth, in these areas, provides a good transition from the city to the rural parts of the county. And, again, the best planning principles would place the major employment campuses exactly at such a spot. Both properties are right next to the proposed major transit stop at Monocacy Blvd. and US 15.

 

The full development of the Thatcher/COPT site cannot take place until either the Monocacy Blvd/US 15 interchange or the Biggs Ford Road/US 15 interchange is completed and operational. This will insure that the development here does not overly tax the capacity of US 15. In addition, Thatcher/COPT will have significant incentive to contribute financially to the building of both of these intersections. (As stated elsewhere, Thatcher/COPT are committed to contribute the land required to build the Biggs Ford interchange.) The building of a grade-separated intersection on US 15 at Monocacy Blvd. is acknowledged by the City, the County and the State to be a critical road improvement for our future, imminent growth. The City has already put at least $2 million into this project. With the 3,000 new jobs coming to Ft. Detrick, it is extremely important that this interchange be built. It will take a lot of pressure off of the Rosemont Avenue, Seventh Street, and Motter Ave./Opossumtown Pike interchanges. It will allow the State to close down the Hayward Road intersection, which will be an important safety improvement. The Monocacy Blvd. interchange will be one of the final legs to the Monocacy Blvd/Christopher’s Crossing roads that will create a northwestern, beltway type route to connect US 15 to US 40; this can take traffic off of the congested US 15 corridor. And on the northeastern quadrant, this beltway route will connect US 15 with US 40 east of town. This, too, will take traffic off of the US 15 corridor.

 

Some have suggested that it would be better to improve vacant properties in the city, rather than to annex these two properties. This is a faulty comparison. There are no other properties in the city that offer the road improvement opportunities and the major employment campuses that these two properties offer.

 

There is no question that the mountains, farms and rural lands that surround Frederick City are beautiful and add to the quality of life of living in Frederick. I recognize that when these two properties are developed, the cornfields will be replaced by employment office campuses. I will miss the farmland. But I believe that these areas, immediately adjacent to the

current city boundaries are the best locations for these employment campuses. And I believe they can be landscaped beautifully. Again, there will be no residences along either side of US 15 on these two properties.

 

Helping to secure a strong and vibrant economy is the most important thing that elected official can do for his/her jurisdiction; this will help the jurisdiction to survive and even thrive when other communities are struggling. Securing a strong employment base is of critical importance for the entire region, and the two contemplated northern annexations can help to do this. These areas have been a part of the County’s and the City’s plans as projected expansion areas for the city for twenty years. It is bad planning for the County to now change its mind and attempt to undo what City and County planners have envisioned for at least twenty years.

 

Last I heard, the County Commissioners were threatening to deny sewer service to these two properties if the City does annex them. (The City will be able to provide water to these

properties; one of the benefits of the Potomac River Water Supply Agreement was to secure this

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opportunity for the City.) If the County sticks to this threat 5 – 10 years from now, when the properties would be developed, then this would bring about a very interesting conflict. On the one hand, the County controls the sewer system that should serve these two areas. But the Maryland Department of Environment has some influence over the allocation of water to the County and the City. And in this situation, where for twenty years the City and County have planned for the City to expand into this area, the State would not look favorably upon the County

if it were to withhold sewer service, or to require the City to build a separate sewer plant to service this area. I predict that the County will ultimately cooperate, because the consequence of refusing to give service would cost them more than it would be worth.

 

There is no residential development planned for Thatcher/COPT. This is the property east of US 15, next to the Monocacy River. That property is to be entirely dedicated to a major employment campus, which will be beautifully landscaped, including a linear park along the banks of the Monocacy River. The development of this property will have no direct impact on schools.

 

The Crumland Farm property will also feature a large employment campus next to US 15, and it too will be beautifully landscaped. The residences built on Crumland will be on the other side of the employment campus, away from US 15. There will be 10-15 acres dedicated to the building of an elementary school on this property, an additional 10 acres for park land, and an additional 22 acres that can be used for other public purposes, such as a fire station.

 

You and a few others have suggested that maybe some deal has been cut to cause the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to rush into these annexations. As for me, that is absolutely false. And I believe I know the other Aldermen well enough to say that such a notion is absurd. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support such an accusation. I would point out, however, that because of the controversial nature of these annexations, it appears to me that some candidates would just as soon avoid weighing in on this issue. But I am in favor of the annexations (if we can get appropriate concessions from the property owners) because they can be a tremendous help to the City in meeting our future needs.

 

Some have also suggested that the City is rushing into the annexations. That is not my impression. I have and am thoroughly considering the annexation petitions very closely. I have made comments, suggestions and some demands on these annexations to insure that the City is not only protected, but that it is benefited by them. At this point, I am satisfied that we have exacted significant and valuable concessions from both of these applicants, and that the annexations will be extremely valuable to the City. Based upon this, it is in the City’s best interest to secure these agreements now. As I said before, the applicants are willing to pay to be annexed now. If they are not annexed, then the government will have to buy the land (at a higher price) to complete the needed road improvements.

 

To those who contend that it is irresponsible of the City to annex Crumland Farm and Thatcher/COPT, I respond that this is exactly wrong. Based on my thorough analysis of both of these annexation petitions/agreements, it would be irresponsible for the City to deny these annexation requests if it secures the benefits that are now on the table. Both of these annexations are major, positive steps to help the City achieve its long-standing planning goals to improve traffic and to make Frederick an even better place to live and work.

 

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Mega Church (Global Mission Church) moving to build in Shadow of Sugarloaf

The Global Mission Church proposes to build a 138,000 sq foot structure in southern Frederick County, to serve a congregation of between 1100-1500 people.  Please see map and additional information on the Montgomery Countryside Alliance website at:  http://mocoalliance.org/2009/07/global-mission-church/

The Frederick County Planning Commission reviewed the proposal on July 15, 2009 and amended it with the condition:   the Building permit application and approval, including maximum occupant load, must be consistent with these (existing) Site Plan conditions.  For additional information send an email to request it from friends@friendsoffrederickcounty.org.  The Planning Commission will discuss this proposal again on October 14, 2009.   Read about it in the Gazette:  http://www.gazette.net/stories/07162009/frednew135624_32524.shtml

Please get on our mailing list if this issue concerns you.

Citizen response to Alderman Kuzemchak – ref: the annexation proposals

>>>>We shouldn’t even be discussing annexations and zonings this close to an election<<<<

Hear, hear! Decisions on how County land is developed will affect the

City for the next two centuries or more. I don’t understand why anyone

would want to make those decisions right before an election, and with

so little public discussion.

>>>>The extra taxes on these properties will provide for the infrastructure needed as they develop.<<<<

Not according to the latest research. What’s being planned out there

is suburban development, and according to ex-developer Rand Wentworth,

president of the national Land Trust Alliance, typical suburban

development costs $1.15 in services for every $1 in tax revenue it

brings in. Read more: http://citiwire.net/post/707/

A researcher at Rutgers University, Robert Burchell, estimates the

high costs of sprawl development compared to “main street”

communities:

* 20-40% more in land costs

* 15% more in the cost of local and state roads

* 8-15% more in water and sewer services

* 15% more in overall infrastructure costs

Read more: http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki/costs-of-sprawl

>>>>I shudder to think what future BOCCs may allow on these properties.<<<<

What’s being planned for them is a textbook example of sprawl. How can

future BOCCs do worse?

>>>>I won’t close the gates just because I’ve found my little piece

of Heaven.<<<<

Neither will I. Growth is good! Growth means jobs, and prosperity, and

a vibrant civic life…if it’s done well. That’s all I want: growth

done well, like this:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/travel/21surfacing.html

Thanks again for your consideration,

from the desk of Chris Charuhas, Frederick City resident

Plan to use annexation land inefficiently and in high risk ways

From what I gather, annexation isn’t the problem. The problem is that

under our current zoning policies, we will use the annexed land in

inefficient and risky ways.

The mayor says we need to build large lot commercial office space

there to generate tax revenue. If our goal is to maximize tax revenue,

building big office parks on this land is probably not the best the

way to do that. Here’s why:

1) INNOVATION PAYS BETTER

You can only make so much money by copying everyone else. The way to

make big bucks is to take advantage of your strengths, and apply them

in a growing market.

Many municipalities around the country consider big office parks to be

the epitome of economic development. But regular office space, such as

that in office buildings downtown, works fine for local firms. Only

big companies in mature industries, such as big financial services and

insurance firms, need and want to occupy these spaces. If we build

these sorts of office spaces, the companies we work for will be big

national companies competing with other big national companies in the

same old mature industries. There’s not much growth in these markets.

The land in question for annexation is some of the most fertile

farmland in the world. Frederick County is very strong agriculturally.

Instead of competing with other big companies in mature industries

that aren’t growing very much, why don’t we we leverage our strengths

and become the world leader in a growing agricultural industry like

organic farming?

For example, a biotech firm headquartered in Frederick could develop a

safe, organic insecticide, and test it in partnership with local

organic farms. Frederick could become a world leader in 21st century

food production. These sorts of breakthroughs won’t come from huge

agribusiness concerns such as Monsanto and Cargill. They’ll come from

smart, dedicated farmers like we have here in Frederick, working in

concert with biotech scientists…like we have here in Frederick.

2) OUR ZONING POLICIES ARE OBSOLETE

Building big office parks according to single-use zoning policies is

part of an obsolete, 50-year-old pattern of development that most

citizens don’t want anymore.

You put your office space in a big plot here, your residential in a

big plot there, your retail in a big plot somewhere else, your schools

in a big plot elsewhere, and your parks and recreation in a big plot

in yet another place. This means people spend hours a day in the

car–driving to work, driving to the store, driving their kids to

sports, etc.

This sort of living is stressful and unhealthy. It cuts way down on

the time people can spend with their kids, or contribute to the

community. And, when gas prices rise, it means our daily living

expenses rise right along with them, and suddenly everyone has a lot

less money to spend in local restaurants, with local retailers, on

local charities, etc. Expensive oil shipped in from Riyadh, Saudi

Arabia cripples our local economy here in Frederick, MD.

3) OFFICE PARK TENANTS DON’T CARE ABOUT US

The big, mature companies that want to occupy these sorts of office

parks aren’t headquartered here. This causes problems.

Sure, these big companies employ us, paying us enough to make it worth

our while to work for them, but the profits–the real wealth–is

shipped outside the County. With a local firm, such as Ausherman

Homes, a lot of the profits are reinvested in our community through

organizations like the Ausherman Foundation. With Wells Fargo, for

instance, our community sees none of the profits because they’re

shipped off to investors on the other side of the world.

Also, the people who run these companies are thousands of miles away.

They have no ties to us. If they see advantage in moving somewhere

else, such as a low-wage/low-tax area such as South Carolina or Mexico

or India, they often take it without a second thought. Because they

occupy large facilities, they leave a big employment hole behind when

they go.

4) SPRAWL KILLS ECONOMIC GROWTH

Concentrated development spurs economic activity. Spreading things out

slows it down.

When you spread business out and isolate it, as in big office parks,

it slows down economic activity. It’s like spreading out nuclear

material in a reactor. But when we concentrate lots of businesses

within a given area, it not only increases the degree of economic

development, it expands the kind of economic activity that can grow.

For example, I have a friend who’s a world-class software engineer

with a passion to open up a “green” high-quality pizza delivery

business. In suburban subdivisions and office parks, that model won’t

work–the distances between customers are too great. But in a

mixed-use area in which business/residential/retail are concentrated,

like the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, he can deliver

wood-fired, fresh mozzarella pizzas by electric car or bicycle for $20

a pop and make great money. It’d be a shame to lose him to Del Ray.

5) SMART PEOPLE WANT DOWNTOWN FREDERICK

Creative, innovative, highly-skilled, knowledgeable people starting

and staffing the high-wage, high-growth businesses of the future don’t

want to live in places created according to our current zoning

policies, such as Rockville or Gaithersburg. They want to live in

places like downtown Frederick.

They don’t want to work in cubicle farms and file TPM reports a la the

movie “Office Space.” They want to be part of a vibrant, urban

environment with lots to do and lots of people like themselves to

interact with–withing walking distance. To get that, we’ll need

zoning policies that don’t include big, isolated office parks.

CONCLUSION

The easy thing to do would be to conduct business as usual and allow

big office parks to be built on the farmland to be annexed. But if we

do that, we’re incurring significant problems and risk.

Instead, why don’t we get together and explore alternatives? It won’t

be easy to come up with something better than our status quo zoning

practices, but it will be an improvement. It’ll generate more revenue

for our City government, more economic activity in our business

community, and make life easier for citizens of Frederick.

Want to talk more about this? I hope so!

Thanks for your kind attention,

comments from Chris Charuhas, Frederick City resident, to the Frederick City Planning Commission

Land Value Taxation: what is it, how has it worked elsewhere, and how would it work in Frederick City?

Guest Speaker:    Josh Vincent of The Center for the Study of Economics, http://www.urbantools.org/

When:  Thursday 8/27 6:30-8:30pm
Where: C Burr Artz Community Room

Background information: Land Value Taxation (LVT) can be a tool to promote economic justice, responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources, and as a way to promote growth where wanted. The Center has worked since 1980 to help communities decide forthemselves is the< /font> right choice for them. The Center then studies theimpact of LVT on a community, as well as providing technical assistanc e in implementation and tax administration.  Where appropriate, the Center promotes the adoption of Land Value Taxation. LVT is a fair method of taxation that not only provides for public needs but can also solve manyof the problems facing our communities today. The current system of taxing labor and capital inevitably results in negative consequences for our lives and our communities. We believe there is a better solution: taxation of land and site values is the sanest, safest way to fund our systems ofgovernment.  LVT is the best way to attain what we all want: a world that rewards initiative without privilege and yet never forgets that there are those who have been left behind and must be helped. This method of taxation also serves as a brake against the epidemicof boom and bust land speculation that is so detrimental to our Main Street cities and towns. We hope that this site, http://www.urbantools.org/ , will be a resource for those who think that there must be a better way to finance our governments, to combat sprawl without breaking the public bank, or to help thedisadvantaged without establishing new layers of intrusive and uncaring bureaucracy.

For any questions contact Alan @ (301) 606.6717,

or feindesign@aol.com