3/31/13 Citizen makes good planning points

Voting for a different approach to planning

Originally published March 31, 2013 in Frederick News Posthttp://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/opinion/display_lte.htm?storyid=148832#.UVzP3qtAS9c

While the city of Frederick’s small area planning effort achieves a positive force for local residents to share community goals and hopefully incorporate those objectives into a planning process generally dominated by private interests, they are but a stepping stone towards the kind of holistic planning efforts that make a city great and sustain its economic vitality and quality of life.

We like to talk a lot about building the future while we actually approve plans that either fit the past or stamp approval on a vision that is more dumb density than smart growth. While, like Josh Bokee, I admire the vision of residents in the small area plans of the Golden Mile and East Frederick Rising, these imagined benefits are far removed from their affects in the face of market realities.


And while they sleep soundly on opposite sides of town, the city engages in slash and burn quality of life by retail dominance on the north end of town. Clemson Corner offered better design with a tree-lined front to Md. 26, and they chose what I call the “great wall of Frederick.” Market Square juxtaposes three-story, narrow townhouses against parking for a strip mall. Both contribute to long-term traffic failures in the north end. The shifting focus around town also puts a drag on resources for both further private market investments on the sides of town, while also draining the municipality with infrastructure costs. Where is the balance? Where is the vision that benefits all?


What has occurred is we’ve weakened the standards for growth that fits alongside residential neighborhoods via zoning by devising this concept called mixed-use zoning. Mixed use is like scrambled eggs. You can’t tell one place apart from another, and it all ends up looking like a tangle of dense residential with retail and parking amenities.


Smart growth was supposed to be a tradeoff between density and green spaces, a sustainable community of walking and biking, not auto-centric stores and concrete alleys with next to no yard space.


I’d rather see us guide our development with design standards than a zoning that cans residents like sardines. The city long ago did some of its best planning vision with the East Street extension studies. The report justified community design standards with economic benefits.


Our current planning mainly counts up extra tax dollars, which then get thrown into projects like Carroll Creek and a downtown hotel, rather than quality of life improvements, like a Baker-type park on the east side. We seem to be on track to keep spending tax dollars to benefit bad development, rather than craft a place of real value and community vision.

You can bet I’ll be voting for something different.


Jack Lynch

writes from Frederick