FNP: citizen questions city permitting the Tough Mudder, and links bad planning to votes of current elected officials

 Put blame in the right place

(Frederick News Post, Sept 23, 2012)

The traffic snarl and resident complaints regarding the Tough Mudder race held at Crumland Farms last weekend are not the story of an organizer who misled anyone. It is the story of incompetency among Frederick city and Frederick County officials. On Sept. 5, an article inThe Frederick News-Post quoted Tough Mudder media representative Ashley Fallick as stating the event is expected to attract approximately 27,000 people. In that same article, Frederick city Economic Development Director Richard Griffin remarked, “Having 27,000 folks here for the Tough Mudder Race this weekend is sure to increase hotel room nights and sales at restaurants and other retail establishments.” He goes on to say, “Additionally, it highlights Frederick to folks from other places as a great place to live, invest and do business.”

Were these individuals misquoted? I doubt it. Regardless, Mayor Randy McClement and Police Chief Kim Dine claim they were caught off-guard and the debacle was a result of poor planning on the part of Tough Mudder LLC. When an organization from outside of Frederick applies for a permit and the city grants it, should they not assume the officials would understand the implications of said permit? Are McClement and Dine unaware of the issues we face on U.S. 15 every day? Were they shocked that 27,000 people going to a parking area off Willow Road could pose a problem? Should it have been their responsibility to recognize the possible problems more than an out-of-town organization that is bringing its business to Frederick? And why is the local government being so difficult about revealing the details of the permit to the public? It is laughable that Alderwoman Karen Young, an elected city leader, was, by her own admission, not even aware that two major events were scheduled for Frederick on the same weekend. What about County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who seemed to sense there might be work involved? He made sure to keep the mud off his hands.

But this was only one event on one weekend that went wrong. What is more frightening is that several of these individuals are behind the annexation of several farms in the area, including the race venue, Crum Farm, so that the lands can be developed heavily. These are the people that claim issues regarding school crowding, congested local roads and highways, and public safety will be addressed satisfactorily once thousands more housing units are added to the area.

How many portables are already on our public school grounds? How often is traffic congested on 15 and other main roads in the area? How well-staffed are our police forces and other emergency response organizations? Last weekend, Frederick city’s leadership proved they were incapable of ensuring a decent quality of life for residents of the city and county. Sadly, I am glad this weekend’s events wreaked so much havoc on Frederick. Consider it training. It is the kind of discomfort we will need to get used to in the coming years. As Commissioners President Blaine Young stated in the Sept. 7 edition of The Frederick News-Post, the annexation and further development of local Frederick farms “supports the best aspects of Smart Growth,” the urban development plan initiated in Maryland under Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening in the ’90s. That is a rather ambiguous remark, for it overlooks the worst aspects of the Smart Growth initiative. A week ago Saturday was just a taste of what is to come in the all-too-near future of Frederick, and I fail to see anything smart about it — or the elected officials behind it.

DONNIE CORNELL

writes from Frederick.

Frederick City Planning Dept Staff Report – Crum II Annexation and Development

CRUM II STAFF REPORT

5-15-12 FNP City needs more details on Crum annexation

Features of planned development

  • $572 million: total value at completion
  • $181 million in commercial and office development
  • 700 single-family homes
  • 300 townhouses
  • 200 condominiums
  • 1 million square feet of office
  • 120,000 square feet of retail
  • 80,000 square feet for a grocery store

The Frederick city planning commissioners agreed unanimously Monday that they want more details about Crum Farm Land LLC’s request to annex an additional 250 acres before they make a recommendation to the mayor and Board of Aldermen.

The proposed annexation cannot change the 2009 terms of Crum Farm Land’s 285-acre annexation of adjoining property, but it does open the door for new negotiations concerning the additional land, staff said. For the conservation group Friends of Frederick County, the original Crum annexation and its conditions do not adequately address the impact the annexation will have on schools and roads.

The proposal, for 1,200 houses and 1.3 million square feet of nonresidential development, includes a 15-acre school site, a 22-acre park and improvements to Willowbrook Road.

Commissioners Rick Stup, Lib Fetting and Josh Bokee said they would like to see some guarantees that the concessions and park connections, pedestrian trails and road construction would happen as envisioned.

Crum Farm Land representatives said they are not trying to get out of any of the 2009 agreements, but are also not looking to make more concessions because the new proposal is to build the same amount of commercial and residential development over a greater area. The result is a less dense development that does not increase the need for water and sewer service that has already been approved.

The annexation would add 252 acres west of U.S. 15, southwest of Sundays Lane, and north of Willowbrook Road. The land adjoins 285 acres of Crum Farm Land that were annexed in 2009, and would allow the developer to use 535 acres instead of 285 acres for the approved 1,200 homes and 1.3 million square feet of commercial and office space, said Bruce Dean, the property owner’s attorney.

Although the 2009 annexation took in land in what was considered the city’s Tier I imminent growth area, the current proposal involves Tier III land, which is not scheduled for growth or to have water and sewer service for 20 to 30 years. The land was originally all part of one tract, Dean said.

Commissioners said it could set a dangerous precedent to allow Tier III properties to cut ahead of the order of development envisioned by the city’s comprehensive plan.

“I’m concerned about the Tier III thing,” Fetting said.

Dean said the Crum case does not violate the tiered planning because the property has water and sewer service allotted, and the tiers designate properties according to likely water and sewer service. If there is no plan for service, then it goes into the third tier.

Tier II is for property where service is to be available in about 10 years, and few are left, Dean said. In the case of the Crum properties, if they are reunited, the water and sewer is available as part of the Potomac Water Service Agreement.

The 2009 annexation agreement requires most development to wait until a new interchange is built at U.S. 15 and Biggs Ford Road, and that would not change if the additional land is annexed, Dean said. It would take about 10 years to develop the first 350 to 450 houses, and 20 to build the entire project, said Mark Fries, Crum Farm Land consultant.

Janice Wiles, Friends of Frederick County director, told commissioners neither annexation agreement can be combined with the 2009 annexation. The effects on U.S. 15 traffic and school capacity have not been adequately addressed in the 2009 agreement or the current one.

Commissioners tentatively rescheduled their vote for their July 9 meeting and plan to have workshops with Crum representatives to get more details of the plan.

“I don’t have a clear picture of what we’re getting,” Stup said.

FoFC: facts on northern annexations

Annexation facts

Originally published March 18, 2012

O

In Sunday’s (March 4) letter regarding the Crum and Thatcher annexations and development the author says, “I feel if built as advertised it should help traffic and give added tax base to both the city and the county.” I don’t know what advertising the author refers to, but wish to provide some facts to the story — so that citizens know the truth about Frederick city’s northern development that might not be as transparent as the advertising. They are:

No plan adopted: Frederick city did not adopt a plan for the development of these properties. The city is required by law to provide a thorough analysis for the impacts of the planned development (on schools, roads, emergency services, rivers and sensitive areas), how impacts will be mitigated and who will pay for them. There is no plan.

No traffic plan: It will cost an estimated $3.5 billion to solve our current road crisis in Frederick County. U.S. 15 improvements are estimated at $904 million. Who will pay to ensure that U.S. 15 can accommodate the 11,000-plus additional car trips each day from the Crum development alone? We don’t know, there is no plan.

No infrastructure standards: Recently, the Frederick County Commissioners passed an ordinance that allows developers to enter into binding Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreements with the county instead of adhering to standards of an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). What was a requirement to provide basic public services to accommodate development is now a back-room deal between commissioners and developers. Do commissioners always consider our best interests? You can make the call on that one.

No need: The existing 20-year county plan meets state residential growth projections by allowing for 36,000 new homes in Frederick County without the Crum development. That’s a lot of homes. The Crum development was pitched as critical housing for the Fort Detrick newcomers — but those people are already here, living in existing homes. So there is no need for the Crum development. More recent 2011 housing projections say that we have over projected by about 25 percent — so there is much less of a need for new homes now than there was just two years ago!

Higher taxes: The cost to extend and maintain public services well exceeds the revenue gained off the expanded tax base.

Janice Wiles

Friends of Frederick County

 

Call for your opinion on the northern annexations!

“Classic sprawl…look for problems to come” says Commissioner Gray; Commissioners Young, Shreve, Smith and DeLauter allow Crum and Thatcher Farm development to proceed

Please share your opinion of this today!!

Write 200 words and submit to:

Thousands of citizens petitioned against these developments yet a handful of property owners, lawyers and developers win – and will profit enormously at your expense. This is NOT smart growth.

Read more!

“Classic sprawl…look for problems to come”; BOCC allows development on Crum and Thatcher Farms immediately

Click here for information on the citizen complaint against the northern annexations.

To read more on Thatcher and Crum development plans search either name on the FoFC home page search tab.

Frederick News Post article:  Annexed farmland clear for developing

Originally published January 27, 2012 

By Pete McCarthy

Annexed farmland clear for developing
Photo by Staff file photo by Sam Yu 

This June 2009 photo shows U.S. 15 running left to right with Willow Road perpendicular at lower right. The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to allow the City of Frederick to annex the Crum farm, to the left of Willow Road, and the Thatcher property, on the far side of U.S. 15.

The City of Frederick is about to gain some acres.For more than a year, two large farms just north of the city have been approved for annexation, but the city and previous county officials disagreed on zoning so developers were told they would have to wait five years.

The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to end that mandatory waiting period and allow the developers to proceed immediately.

The two farms — known as the Crum and Thatcher properties — total nearly 400 acres. Both are north of the city limits along U.S. 15.

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement was at Thursday’s meeting and called the commissioners’ decision a positive one for the city.

“We need the growth area,” McClement said. “Everything is set in place. We are looking forward to the ability to give our residents an opportunity to stay here and work here.”

The city approved annexation of the land in 2009.

The properties are ripe for development, according to Commissioner C. Paul Smith.

“I think this will be a great benefit for the city,” Smith said. “It had been planned for some time.”

Commissioner Billy Shreve said, “I think it is a good example of planning.”

Before significant construction can proceed, the developers would need to make improvements to a U.S. 15 interchange and other road enhancements.

“I think it takes care of the important traffic problems we have,” Smith said.

Construction at either site is still years away. Both developers will need a year or two to finalize their plans, according to land-use attorney Bruce Dean.

The Crum property, just north of Willow Road, is 285 acres, and the plan is to build up to 1,200 homes and a mix of commercial and retail space, said Dean, who represents both developers. Up to 400 of those homes could be built before the interchange is completed, he said.

The Thatcher farm is across U.S. 15 on Biggs Ford Road. The plan there is to build up to 1.3 million square feet of office space, which could result in thousands of permanent jobs, Dean said.

Both developers are excited to get started, he said.

“The focus was the proximity to Fort Detrick,” he said. “That is the No. 1 economic driver in Frederick County.”

Both companies should have plans developed in the next two years, but there is no way to know when construction could begin, Dean said.

“There is no huge impetus to be building a lot of houses right now,” he said. “It’s dependent on economic factors that are out of our hands right now.”

Commissioner David Gray was the lone dissenting vote.

“Classic sprawl,” Gray said. “Look for problems to come.”

Friends of Frederick County — an activist group opposed to the annexation — filed a lawsuit against the city in 2010. The group alleged the city did not properly prepare for the potential growth and did not complete an appropriate plan. The case is still pending in court, Friends of Frederick County Executive Director Janice Wiles said Thursday.

“I still have the same concerns that I had before,” Wiles said, referring to the dangers of added congestion on U.S. 15 and other factors. “Taking good farmland out of production and sprawling out into the countryside is not a good idea.”

 

03-07-2011 FNP letter to the editor: The downsides of development

I saw absolutely no reason to even consider repealing a portion of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that relates to schools.

If developers are willing to “promise” that they will cover the cost of new school construction, then what was the point of repealing that part of the APFO?

Our BoCC is supposed to act in the best interest of the citizens of Frederick County — not developers. What possible benefit will the county derive from this action? How will it benefit the average person/family in Frederick County?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions; I’d really like to hear some answers.

The APFO should be made stronger, not weaker. The current APFO already passes a significant portion of the cost of growth on to existing residents. Property taxes continue to increase at a rate greater than inflation. We are tired of paying for development that we do not need and do not want, and angry about being forced to pay for residential sprawl that reduces our quality of life.

Just 25 years ago violent crime was very rare in Frederick and Frederick County. Now, it is a daily occurrence and murders are commonplace. The traffic is ridiculous. Even with the current APFO in place, schools are embarrassingly overcrowded — classes are held in trailers that resemble mobile homes. In short, Frederick County has gone downhill since residential development began in earnest about 20 years ago.

Originally published March 07, 2011

SHERMAN JOHNSON

Middletown

Citizens speaks out on quality of life and love for Frederick County: asks BOCC for citizen representation

My name is Nicole Chafitz Orr.

My family moved here from Rockville when I was 14, My parents saw the beauty and potential of Frederick. They purchased commercial property, invested in the community and made this place home.We moved to a 90 acre farm in New Midway. As a 14 year old pre-teen, I fought this move and cried for months. I knew that when I was old enough I would “get out of this place”. But as I grew up, what I and many of my friends realized is that Frederick is the most amazing place to live, work and raise a family. Now over 20 years later, I am proud to call Frederick my home.

I want you all to know that I understand your position that you are “doing what you said you would do if you were elected”. You want to be “business friendly” and “create jobs”. I grew up in the business world here in Frederick. My parents own and operate a business here.

If you want to be business friendly then make businesses accessible. Building more commercial and residential space without proper planning will crush existing business. If I have to fight traffic to run simple errands, I will stop shopping locally.

I chaperoned a field trip to Washington Dc today. It took 2 hours to get there. I had plenty of time to notice a Lease sign on almost every building from TJ drive to Rt 109. There is so much space available that is unoccupied. These spaces are in planned business parks that are accessible and STILL they are vacant.

If you allow building without proper planning for schools, you will collapse an already overcrowded system. You have to understand that my son’s school, Lewistown Elementary, can’t handle 1 more student. You can only fit 2 buses in the front at a time. At dismissal, Hessong Bridge road is blocked at the school because of busses and car riders.

You need to know that I didn’t vote for you and don’t have the same vision for Frederick County as you do. You are obligated to be the voice of me, my husband and my 2 young boys. The decisions you make have true, irrevocable impacts on the daily quality of life of every Frederick County and city resident.

I live and work and volunteer here because I can organize my day to be across town in 15 minutes. If new homes and businesses make Rt 15 any more congested or dangerous, I will pull my kids out of activities and stop volunteering because I can’t get places without getting stuck in traffic. Local businesses will suffer if kids aren’t signed up for activities. If I can’t be a part of community activities because it’s impossible to get across Rt 15 what good is it to live here? If I can’t get anywhere, I will stop investing here. When I speak, I speak for my friends who have young kids who can’t be here tonight. You are looking at the future of Fredrick County in me. I shouldn’t have to fight with you to see my side. You are my representative, no matter what my beliefs are. That is the meaning of democracy. You are all responsible to do no harm to this county and leave it in better shape than when you took office.

FoFC’s position on use of mitigation fees to pay for school demands of new development: woefully inadequate

Use of a “mitigation fee”  - as proposed by the Frederick County Builder’s Association on February 10, 2011 – to “cover the cost” of building a new school or addition to one so that a facility is adequate to house new kids for developer’s new housing development,  is not a solution, and really just adds another problem.  In other words the mitigation fee will not cover the construction costs of building new space for new kids.

A simple analysis of the BOCC’s idea to use “mitigation fees” to cover the school costs – we use the Crumland Farm annexation  - which demonstrates that developers will pay for only a small part of the school costs their developments will demand:

  • There are 1100 housing units of varying types planned for construction on the Crumland Farm
  • With those new homes there will be an estimated 550 new school children
  • School capacity at Monocacy Elementary School (the school that will house those children) – based on December 2010 enrollment figures would be insufficient;  Monocacy Elementary School is currently at 109% capacity (in other words that school is already overcrowded).
  • Neither the County’s Capital Improvement Plan nor the Frederick County Public School’s  10 Year Facilities Plan  have budgeted for a new elementary school  
  • Cost of a new elementary school costs between $23 and $25 million.

The FC Builder’s Association has proposed the following fees for elementary school mitigation:

  • single family home  $3870
  • Town home  $4053
  • Multi family home $897

There will be 550 single family homes, 275 townhomes and 275 multi family homes.  The total mitigation fee the Frederick County Builder’s Association proposes for the Crumland Farms annexation development is $3,489,750

Even with the developer’s mitigation fees the County will be $20 million short of what it needs to build a school for these new children. Even if the impact fee revenue from Crumland development project – estimated to be 11.9 million we would still be $7.5 million short.

Taxpayers will pay the difference.

I would also like to reiterate that the $20 million shortfall is only on the cost to CONSTRUCT the school.  We still have to educate the children –  ie the cost of school operation.

  • The cost to operate an elementary school PER YEAR is $8.4 million.
  • The cost to operate a middle school PER YEAR is   $10.8
  • The cost to operate a high school PER YEAR is $19.3

Taxpayers will pay for additional school operating costs.

And, if you are a parent of youngsters who will attend Monocacy Elementary School you might ask how the school system will deal with these additional 550 children when they enter Monocacy Middle School and then TJ High School?  The “mitigation fee” proposal is only applicable to those school levels that fail the APFO.  Currently Monocacy Middle and TJ are not overcrowded so they would not receive any mitigation funding.  Yet, presumably – and if all goes well – our grade school students continue onto those levels!  So what will happen when these kids move on, especially to Monocacy Middle which is at 88% capacity?  It is likely that Monocacy Middle would need a multi-million dollar addition to accommodate the additional kids.

We use Crumland Farm as an example of just ONE development in Frederick County.  There are many more that would follow similar calculations and add additional burden to the county coffers to pay for new schools and their operations.

Where will this money come from?  Your wallet.

03-01-2011 FoFC concerned that mitigation fees woefully inadequate – taxpayers to pick up tab for developer’s profits

Testimony before BOCC ref:  Frederick County Ordinance 09-28-532, a repeal of the countywide APFO for schools on land annexed into municipalities for development after June 23, 2009.

There are many issues to discuss tonight with respect to repeal of referenced ordinance:  sovereignty, fairness, legality, concurrency, redistricting, phasing etc, but of all these issues there is one no more important than the bottom line – maintaining equity among our schools and high standards within each one.  To do that we need to be as fiscally responsible as we can be and to us that means a complete financial analysis and disclosure /vetting of that to the public.  When it comes to our children, our taxes and quality of life we are asking for transparency.

It is our understanding that you have and are considering using  a “mitigation fee” – to be paid for by developers –  for school construction or additions.  If the “mitigation fee” is the same as that proposed by the Frederick County Builder’s Association on February 10, 2011 then mitigation is not a solution, in other words the mitigation fee will not cover the construction costs of building new space for new kids.

A simple analysis of your idea to use “mitigation fees” to cover the school costs – we use the Crumland Farm annexation  - which demonstrates that developers will pay for only a small part of the school costs their developments will demand:

  • There are 1100 housing units of varying types planned for construction on the Crumland Farm
  • With those new homes there will be an estimated 550 new school children
  • School capacity at Monocacy Elementary School (the school that will house those children) – based on December 2010 enrollment figures would be insufficient;  Monocacy Elementary School is currently at 109% capacity (in other words that school is already overcrowded).
  • Neither the County’s Capital Improvement Plan nor the Frederick County Public School’s  10 Year Facilities Plan  have budgeted for a new elementary school 
  • Cost of a new elementary school costs between $23 and $25 million.

The FC Builder’s Association has proposed the following fees for elementary school mitigation:

  • single family home  $3870
  • Town home  $4053
  • Multi family home $897

There will be 550 single family homes, 275 townhomes and 275 multi family homes.  The total mitigation fee the Frederick County Builder’s Association proposes for the Crumland Farms annexation development is $3,489,750

Even with the developer’s mitigation fees the County will be $20 million short of what it needs to build a school for these new children. Even if the impact fee revenue from Crumland development project – estimated to be 11.9 million we would still be $7.5 million short.

Please tell the taxpayers of this county how this will work for them and their families.

I would also like to reiterate that the $20 million shortfall is only on the cost to CONSTRUCT the school.  We still have to educate the children –  ie the cost of school operation.

  • The cost to operate an elementary school PER YEAR is $8.4 million.
  • The cost to operate a middle school PER YEAR is   $10.8
  • The cost to operate a high school PER YEAR is $19.3

And, if you are a parent of youngsters who will attend Monocacy Elementary School you might ask how the school system will deal with these additional 550 children when they enter Monocacy Middle School and then TJ High School?  The “mitigation fee” proposal is only applicable to those school levels that fail the APFO.  Currently Monocacy Middle and TJ are not overcrowded so they would not receive any mitigation funding.  Yet, presumably – and if all goes well – our grade school students continue onto those levels!  So what will happen when these kids move on, especially to Monocacy Middle which is at 88% capacity?  It is likely that Monocacy Middle would need a multi-million dollar addition to accommodate the additional kids.

I used Crumland Farm as an example of just ONE development in Frederick County.  There are many more that would follow similar calculations and add additional burden to the county coffers to pay for new schools and their operations.  Where will this money come from?

For public information benefit I add that municipalities hold none of the financial responsibility for ensuring school adequacy or education.

As Frederick County’s Commissioners, who were elected to look out for the taxpayer interest, please keep your campaign pledges and do not repeal Frederick County Ordinance 09-28-532.  Please do not  jeopardize our childrens’ education, overburden our school system, its teachers and administrators, and the taxpayers of this county.

Thank you.