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.

FoFC questions Keller Farm Development Fiscal Impact Assessment

The Fiscal Impact Analysis on this project vastly overestimates its potential revenue.   After careful review, the city will not have a $500,000/year revenue source off the Keller Farm development, as presented by Ausherman Developers before the Planning Commission in June 2012.  Instead the development will bring somewhere between a net loss of $43,000/year to a gain of $25,000/year.  Getting the numbers right, and then weighing them together with the numerous other farm annexations for development in the works, is key to helping taxpayers know what we face down the road.

As citizens and residents of Frederick City and County we are concerned with what we know – and more importantly what we don’t know – about the costs associated with the Keller Farm development.  The FIA prepared for the Keller Farm development shows the annexation to generate an annual net revenue to the City of about $500,000 upon build-out. This analysis is based upon sales of 500 single family homes priced at $410,000 each, 50 single family homes priced at $340,000 each and 200 town homes each priced at $285,000.

After review of the FIA for Keller we believe it provides to you an incorrect net revenue of $500,000/year, and believe instead the annexation would generate anywhere between a net loss of $43,000/year to a net gain of $25,000/year upon build out and before any monetary proffers are considered. [1]

We believe that the excessive net revenue presented in the FIA is attributable to the following three factors:

  1. the Keller FIA does not adjust the property’s residential “market rate” value to reflect its assessed taxable value in accordance with the County’s sales to assessed value ratio of .906[2];
  2. on the expenditure side, the Keller FIA does not include any general fund debt service costs (Keller, Exhibit 8).  The City’s 2013 budget shows the residential share of its General Fund debt service to be approximately $195 per housing unit; and
  3. the Keller FIA includes a token amount of $6.44 as the operating revenue contribution for each of its residential units for the City’s future capital outlays (Keller Exhibit 8).  A review of the City’s 2013-2018 CIP indicates the average residential share of pay-go funds to support the General Fund capital projects is about $200 (excluding the Carroll Creek project).

Throughout the public meetings and hearings there has been discussion of the impacts on infrastructure, principally schools and roads.  What we haven’t heard – or seen in writing -  is the cost to mitigate those impacts and who will pay. It seems fair and prudent to clarify to citizens the best assessment of costs to mitigate impacts  - and who will pay for what  - before making the commitment to spend the money, especially in light of the potential losses or minimal annual gains off this project development.



[1] These figures are based on the City’s FY2012 and FY2013 budgets and tax rates and its most recent five year CIP.

[2] Maryland State Department of Taxation, 2010 Ratio report, Table 1

Frederick City Planning Dept Staff Report – Keller Farm Annexation and Development

KELLER STAFF REPORT

FoFC questions who Frederick City leaders represent?

June 11, 2012

 

Meta Nash, Chairman

Josh Bokee, Vice Chairman

Elisabeth Fetting

Richard L. Stup

William Ryan - Alternate Member

Alderman Kelly Russell – Secretary

Dear Frederick City Planning Commissioners:

 

I am speaking tonight because we believe the citizens and taxpayers of Frederick City and County who are concerned with the Keller Farm annexation and its impacts should have a factual and clear understanding of the history of development and politics here – and perhaps can begin to understand just who in city government represents the families, neighbors and taxpayers of this city, and alternatively who represents special interests – those who will stand to make money off you and me and forever alter our quality of life.

 

  • In 2008, then Mayor Holtzinger lifted the moratorium on development after there was an agreement for the city to obtain more water from the Potomac River.  At that time the Mayor solicited proposals for annexation and development.

 

Also at that time, Friends of Frederick County wrote to the mayor with a request that the City of Frederick defer consideration of any future annexation requests until completion of the Municipal Growth Element of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  FoFC argued that action on any annexation requests must come after the comp plan was revised, and that to annex before planning for it would preempt the City’s comprehensive planning process and undermine new state initiatives to prevent municipal annexations from overburdening public services and facilities.

 

We pointed out that the State of Maryland had recognized that annexations have led to enormous and unanticipated impacts on the quality of life in cities and their surrounding communities. That was why the state passed House Bill 1141 – to ensure that no further annexations occur until a detailed, fact-based comprehensive plan is in place for addressing the impacts of that development on roads, schools and other public services and facilities.

 

Mayor Holtzinger and the Frederick City Aldermen and the Frederick City Planning Commissioners chose to ignore FoFC’s suggestion.

 

  • In 2009 Frederick City officials annexed the Crum and Thatcher farms into the city for 1200 homes and office space -despite the concerns expressed by hundreds of citizens, 5 county commissioners, Maryland Department of Planning, State Highway Administration, Frederick County Public Schools, the Walkersville Fire Department, and a petition signed by over 4000 citizens to bring the annexation to referendum.  There was never an annexation plan prepared for the development of those properties, the impacts of those developments, what it would cost to mitigate those impacts and who will pay.  Despite all the concerns expressed by experts at every level, the city chose to ignore them and annex the properties.

 

  • In 2010 FoFC prepared an analysis for the County/City meeting on the city’s growth plan that showed at least 80% of the cost burden of city growth would fall on county taxpayers (as well), to pay for schools, roads and emergency services.  At that time the county leaders were concerned about these issues:  we’ve since had a change of county leadership and to put it mildly, the current leadership no longer shares these concerns.

 

County taxpayers – note that even though what is under discussion tonight is city growth, it will most definitely impact your taxes!

 

These examples, as well as results from public surveys about our growth and quality of life, show a tremendous disconnect between our public officials and the citizens.  In other words, the observed record and a strong body of factual evidence clearly shows that our public officials do NOT represent your interests but instead are beholden to special interests.

 

I hope at this juncture that you, the Planning Commissioners for Frederick City, will listen to the citizens of Frederick County and City as they express REAL concerns, that will impact not only those here but, all the citizens of the county whose taxes will increase to pay for this development, and more immediately the thousands in the area whose kids go to the local schools, whose families drive on the 2-lane roads, and whose communities depend upon services, safety and a healthy environment.

 

Thank you.

 

 

Testimony submitted by Janice Wiles, Executive Director, Friends of Frederick County and delivered to the Frederick City Planning Commissioners on June 11, 2012 with respect to the Keller Farm annexation request and development proposal.

 

 

 

 

 

Gazette: Keller property annexation in Frederick postponed to July 9 (Public Hearing @ 6pm, City Hall)

Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Keller property annexation in Frederick postponed to July 9 by Sherry Greenfield

Staff Writer

People living near the Keller property in Frederick will have another chance to tell city planners why they don’t want 750 to 850 homes built there.

The City of Frederick Planning Commission tabled a decision on the annexation of the 302.67-acre Keller property at a public hearing Monday night, scheduling a second hearing for July 9. City planners were expected to make a recommendation to the mayor and board of aldermen on whether to approve the annexation, but with an already heavy agenda decided to postpone a decision.

And, since this gives people more time to speak out, the group, Citizens For Responsible Growth Along Yellow Springs Road — the location of the Keller property — sent a letter to the planning commission Tuesday detailing their objections. The letter includes signatures from 77 people in the county.

“Our summery concern is that there has been inadequate analysis of the impacts of the planned residential development on roads, schools, natural resources and sensitive areas, emergency services and all other impacts that adding potentially 850 families to our area will have,” the letter states.

The Keller Corporation is asking the city to annex the land at the intersection of Yellow Springs Road, Rocky Springs Road and Walter Martz Road in Frederick. The land is currently zoned for agriculture in the county.

Annexation opponents could have an uphill battle, however, since the long-term growth plans for the city and county stipulate that water and sewer service will be provided to the property, according to the planning commission’s staff report. As a result, the city’s planning staff is recommending that the planning commission support the annexation.

But this is not stopping residents from speaking out against the proposal and the impact the development will have on traffic in the area.

“Yellow Springs Road, Rosemont Avenue is the only road connecting the neighborhoods around the Keller Farm to downtown Frederick and to U.S. 15,” the letter to the planning commission reads. “Rosemont is already overburdened with traffic, and is the site of frequent accidents. “…The 500 single-family dwellings alone will put nearly 5,000 additional car trips each week to these already dangerous and crowded roads.”

The city is recommending that the Keller Corporation pay $5,600 for each house they build to pay for road improvements needed to accommodate the development, according to a June 1 letter from the city’s engineering department.

Jeremy Holder, the project manager with Ausherman Development Corp., said in an interview Tuesday, that they agree to put up some money toward the road improvements, but “we’re just not sure we’re in agreement with the calculation.”

Holder said this is only the beginning of the process and that the board of aldermen will make the final decision.

The development of the Keller property is not the first in the area. Another 1,200 homes are slated to be built on the nearby Crum Farm in Frederick.

“Yellow Springs vicinity is a rural community with little crime,” the letter reads. “Residents love the rural feel of the community and school and the safety of our neighborhoods. We love the farms, trees, creeks and rolling hills, with views of the mountains. Adding a large, overcrowded neighborhood along both sides of Yellow Springs Road will take away from the rural nature of our community and bring crime.”

sgreenfield@gazette.net.

Citizens speak out at public hearing on 302 acre Keller Farm annexation for 800+ homes

Read about the development proposal. Read the letter to the Frederick County Planning Commissioners signed by 75 citizens.

Read comments submitted by FoFC on historical lack of representation of citizen interests by city officials.

.

Discussion on the Keller Farm development was tabled until the July 9th Planning Commission meeting.

Prepare to ask questions.

  • What will be the impacts of this development (on schools, roads, emergency services, the environment etc)?
  • How will the city mitigate those impacts?
  • How much will mitigation cost?
  • Who will pay those costs?

Frederick City Growth Plan Map – showing areas of interest for annexation and development

Frederick City growth area (Tier 3 shown in gray)

Sign citizen letter expressing your concern with Keller Farm development

Click here to read background information on the Keller Farm annexation and development plans.

CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE GROWTH ALONG YELLOW SPRINGS ROAD

[Letter to Frederick City elected officials]

To whom it may concern:

As residents living in the vicinity of the Keller Farm, we are writing to express our concern with the annexation and development plans for this 302.67 acre property located along Yellow Springs and Rocky Springs Roads, west of Walter Martz Rd. The Keller Farm is part of a rural and agricultural community. To the south is another working farm (Hooper Farm), and to the north are homes at a density of one house for every two acres of land.

We wish to raise specific concerns with respect to the plans to build 500 single family homes and 350 townhouses and condominiums on the property (850 total), possibly including 100 moderately priced dwelling units.

 

Traffic

Yellow Springs Road/ Rosemont Avenue is the only road connecting the neighborhoods around the Keller Farm to downtown Frederick and to US-15. Rosemont is already overburdened with traffic, and is the site of frequent accidents. Most of the available jobs can only be reached by taking US-15 south, which is already disastrously overcrowded at rush hour. The 500 single family dwellings alone will put nearly 5000 additional car trips each week to these already dangerous and crowded roads.[1]

 

We understand that there are 1200 residential units to be built on the nearby Crum Farm, and there are others in the city’s Tier 2 municipal growth plan.  Will there be a combined impact analysis done so that plans can be made to avert overcrowding our roads even further?

 

Quality of Life

Yellow Springs vicinity is a rural community with little crime. Residents love the rural feel of the community and school and the safety of our neighborhoods. We love the farms, trees, creeks and rolling hills, with views of the mountains. Adding a large, overcrowded neighborhood along both sides of Yellow Springs Road will take away from the rural nature of our community and likely bring crime. The areas of Frederick County with the highest density of population also have the highest per capita crime rates. (neighborhoodscout.com/md/frederick/crime)

 

Schools

A school analysis was done and made available by the City of Frederick Planning Department. There is no information on who provided the analysis or when it was done. There has been no analysis provided from the Frederick County Public Schools or from Frederick County, the ultimate voice on school budgets and planning for new schools.

 

We are also concerned that there is virtually no Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) pertaining to schools in Frederick City. The city’s APFO does have a standard for capacity, however if a development project fails to meet that standard it only needs to wait 3 years before it automatically passes the APFO – regardless if it fails to meet the standard.

 

Emergency Services

We do not have data on the ability of our EMS services to handle the new families who would be dependent upon them. Will Frederick Memorial Hospital be able to handle these additional family demands, considering the other developments planned for this region?  It is the only hospital in the immediate community, and expansion of services and sites for the hospital is difficult and costly.

 

Taxes

It has been shown that “increased population generates less revenue for local government than the costs associated with providing infrastructure to the additional residences.  Because costs exceed benefits, tax rates actually increase as population increases, as each new home creates a larger gap between costs and tax revenues.”[2]  If the city officials insist on rapidly growing Frederick, they should require the developers to show, in detail, that the new development will pay for all of its costs to the city and county, so that current residents will not be left with increased taxes as a result of this development.

Public Water and Sewer

We are unclear about the need for an extension of the Potomac River Water Agreement to service this development. What are the criteria by which extension will be allowable?  Who will negotiate this, and when? What scientific criteria will be used to judge that there will not be irreparable harm to the Potomac River?

 

There are plans for significant growth in our area of Frederick City, namely the Crum Farm and other farms within the Tier 2 growth area. Is there an analysis of their combined impact on our local infrastructure, specifically water and sewer capabilities and environmental upgrades?

 

Environmentally sensitive areas

Little Tuscarora Creek, which runs through the Keller Farm property, is one of the few streams in the area to support brook trout, is suitable for public drinking supply, and is an important resource to conserve. Because of this it is classified as a class III-P trout stream. What will be done to mitigate impact upon this important creek habitat?

In Summary

Our summary concern is that there has been inadequate analysis of the impacts of the planned residential development on roads, schools, natural resources and sensitive areas, emergency services, safety – and all other impacts that adding potentially 850 families to our area will have. Subsequent to assessing the impacts we would like to see the plan and cost to mitigate those impacts and be informed by Frederick City about who will be held responsible to pay these costs. We as Frederick City and County residents do not want to be held partially responsible for the costs of these and other impacts for this development with increased taxes down the road.

You may contact Lesli Summerstay when that information is available and we will ensure that it gets circulated. Thank you.

Sincerely,

LIST OF NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF CONCERNED CITIZENS

Please email Lesli Summerstay (jsummerstay@gmail.com) with your name, address and  neighborhood if you would like to sign the letter. The letter will be presented to Frederick City officials at a public meeting on June 11, 2012.

 

CIty of Frederick considering annexation of 302 acre Keller Farm, could build over 1000 new homes

The following entities  have petitioned the city (annexation petition) to annex the 302 acre Keller Farm into its boundaries for development, and on which 4 houses/acre are proposed for build out:

Rand D Weinberg, Esquire, Law Offices of Rand Weinberg, LLC, the Keller Corporation, the Martha W Keller Family Partnership LLLP, Yankee Land Trust, Edward M Johnson and Jeanette W Johnson, Great Southern Investment, LLC (Marvin Ausherman), Julie Ann Castillo and Albert Castillo, the Charles E Keller III Qualified Personal Residence Trust (E Daniel Bittle Jr, SUsan T Bittle, Lexington T Bittle, Kelsie G Bittle).  (Note that Castillo is joining petition as an accommodation to the petitioner but city shall not impose city taxes on Castillo’s property.)  These signatories also represent no less than 25% of the persons who reside in the area to be annexed and who are registered as voters in Frederick County elections.  Those who signed are the owners of not less than 25% of the assessed valuation of the real property located in the area to be annexed.

 

The Farm is located along Yellow Springs Rd and Rocky Springs Rd, west of Walter Martz Rd

The following documents will help citizens understand more about this proposal.

Annexation Petition

  • Pg 2 section 5 of the annexation petition states that the Second Tier follows the boundary of the Potomac River Water Supply Agreement.  When will that PRWSA be extended, and how can citizens be sure that it the amount will be adequate to support this plus the other additional development planned for Frederick County?
  • Pg 4 section 9:  ”the property is subject to the City’s APFO”.  How will the city and county deal with ensuring adequate school space, since the city APFO has a loophole that allows all development to go forward in Frederick CIty (even after failing the APFO for schools) as long as the developer waits 3 years before proceeding?

Comprehensive Plan Analysis

Fiscal Impact Analysis

School needs

Traffic impacts

Water and Sewer Planning Study //Water and Sewer Planning Study – appendices

Christopher Crossing Rds Traffic Study

Additional area traffic studies for Frederick City

Efforts to preserve the brook trout in Little Tuscarora Creek (that runs through the Keller Farm)

Outline for extension of services

Letter given to NAC3 residents on 4/16/12 (page 1)