Citizen expresses concern and requests denial of Landmark/Gladhill farm annexation

Dear Alderman Imhoff and members of the Planning Commission,

I am writing to you concerning the proposed annexation of the Landmark/Gladhill Farm located along MD 144 across from the National Guard Armory. The property is bound by MD 144 to the south, I-70 to the north, the Monocacy River on the east and the I-70 ramps (Quinn Orchard Road) on the west. My wife, Jennifer, and I along with our three young children live on Edmont Drive, located south of MD 144 and directly across from the property being proposed for General Commercial (GC) annexation into the City.

I have reviewed the video from the August 10th public hearing and understand a second hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 14, 2009. With only one citizen offering public comment at the August 10th hearing, and after discussing this subject with several neighbors, it appears the developer has not reached out to our community to provide any information. Most are simply unaware of the proposed annexation and the commercial development which could result.

My specific community, the Clearview subdivision, and the adjacent communities of River Meadow and Tulip Hill are comprised of single family homes serviced by wells. The proposed GC annexation/Landmark development, bordering directly along the Monocacy Scenic River (1,700 linear feet of river frontage) and situated along the Historic National Road, has the potential to cause a significant adverse impact on the environment and our quality of life. The following points are offered:

1. The Gladhill Farm, currently located in the County, is zoned Agricultural and shown on the Frederick Region Comprehensive Plan as Office/Retail.

2. The Gladhill Farm is not shown in the City’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan and was not anticipated to be annexed into the City (ref. August 10, 2009 Annexation Staff Report).

3. The proposed 52 acre annexation with the potential for 585,000 square feet of commercial space, including one or more hotels, fast food restaurants, convenience store, gas station, etc is an incompatible use, in my opinion, with the adjacent residential communities.

4. The amount of property identified as contiguous with the City (9,600 linear feet or 40% of the total property boundary) seems questionable. This percentage would appear to possibly include frontage along I-70 or MD 144 which from a practical standpoint, seems to lack a rational nexus as these roadways are not owned or maintained by the City. To state this property partially fills one enclave in the City is somewhat misleading.

5. Providing City services (police, roadway maintenance, etc) to this property would require City staff to exit the City and drive easterly on MD 144 to the isolated parcel where there are no other properties proposed for annexation in the future.

6. This property falls short on meeting several of the “Eight Visions” outlined in the State’s growth policies (ref. Annexation Staff Report, page 5). Specifically:

a. Vision #1 – Development is concentrated in suitable areas;

b. Vision #2 – Sensitive areas are protected;

c. Vision #4 – Stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay;

d. Vision #7 – Adequate public facilities and infrastructure under the control of the county or municipal corporation are available or planned in areas where growth is to occur.

I believe Vision #1 speaks for itself; this is not a suitable area for this type of development. Vision #2 and #4 relate to the Monocacy River and the adjacent communities which are serviced by wells. With the enormous amount of impervious surface proposed for this site, the significant amount of runoff from the parking lots and buildings, and potential gas station runoff feeding into the groundwater and the Monocacy River, I am concerned about the impact on the water. Under no circumstance should any type of gas station, fueling station, vehicle storage yard or auto/truck repair facility be a permitted use on this property. And lastly, Vision #7 -adequate facilities. This section of MD 144 is quickly reaching traffic capacity with no funding in place (State, County or City) to mitigate this condition in the near future. The construction of the missing interchange ramps at I-70 and Meadow Road would go a long way to relieve the pressure on this section of MD 144 as it enters the City. However, that improvement is not funded and there are still many unfunded transportation needs in the immediate area such as the widening of Monocacy Boulevard from E. Patrick Street to South Street, the reconstruction of the I-70 interchange at South Street, the widening of I-70 through the City of Frederick and the ultimate dualization of MD 144 from Spring Ridge Parkway to Bailes Lane/Bowman Farm Road. As for water and sewer service, the staff report outlines the issues with each and I would encourage the City and the County not to negotiate a scenario that strains the capacity of the utility systems. The suggestion of a privately owned and operated sewage pumping station on this property, in close proximity to the Monocacy River, seems to be intuitively a bad idea.

In closing, I will summarize by stating that the City should not annex this property. If compelled to annex, I respectfully request a more compatible land use be carefully considered given the surrounding residential communities. The City staff recommendations for 4 sided architecture and a significant buffer against the residential properties (to the south of MD 144) is a must with any development on this site. I would also add that conditions be placed on parking lot and building lighting such that low-level light with full cut-off fixtures are required to reduce light pollution; there be a maximum height for buildings (two or three story); all on-site business signage must be mounted low to the ground such that tall pylon-type structures are prohibited; and a prohibition on all fuel dispensing and vehicle repair facilities as described above.

submitted by John M. Concannon on August 22, 2009