Good evening Frederick County Planning Commissioners:
I am Janice Wiles, Executive Director for Friends of Frederick County, a working to protect taxpayers and citizens through good planning, and environmental protections in economic growth, and pushing for transparency in local government. We believe in sound planning. We want to believe that the Frederick County Planning Commission does too.
So, let’s start from the beginning. The Monrovia Town Center is COMPLETELY unnecessary. In 2010 a plan was approved based on Maryland Department of Planning 20 year housing forecast demand; the plan called for building 36, 264 new homes to meet projections AND WE MET THOSE PROJECTIONS WITHOUT the Monrovia Town Center.
As an aside on projections, and as planners I’m sure you are aware that the WashCOG and MDP have since lessened their 20-year projections for Frederick County by at least 20%!
But as the story goes, the political will of our county has changed from leadership for the entire citizenry to helping a few who help you and your Board of County Commissioners. In this case all of these citizens here, many more families in Monrovia, and all taxpayers in Frederick County stand to lose because Roy Stanley, Howard Payne and Rand Weinberg want the Monrovia Town Center?
Well here’s what we want.
We want to believe that the Frederick County Planning Commissioners have carefully read the application for the Monrovia Town Center.
We want to believe that you have explored the area and thought long and hard about what it means to put 1500 homes on agricultural land.
We want to believe that you have studied the FCPS plans and the traffic impact analysis.
We want to believe that you have considered why this project was removed during the 2010 comprehensive process.
We want to believe that you are considering the needs and demands of the Frederick County community over the special interests and profits of the landowner, developer and attorney: 75/80 Properties LLC, Payne Investments LLC, and their attorney Rand Weinberg.
Let’s talk about our families and something we all care about – family values, like education.
Green Valley Elementary School sits across the street from the proposed MTC. And right across from the proposed – yet “mythical” – high school. At present day 82% state rated capacity afternoon pickups are a mess. Cars line the entire parking lot and loop out to the bus lanes under the new pickup policy. Parents and school officials there are nearing a grid-locked situation. As Planning Commissioners do you consider this a problem?
And then, what is your proposal to ensure that the development complies with Section 500.3 (J) of the zoning ordinance:
“Planned developments shall be served adequately by public facilities…. Additionally, increased demand for public facilities … created by the proposed development … shall be evaluated as adequate or to be made adequate within established county standards.”
While as Planning Commissioners I’m certain you know the following, but I will say it just in case there is doubt.
On May 22, 2013 the Frederick County Board of Education’ Educational Facilities Master Plan presentation projected the need for four new elementary schools to service the development in Linganore, New Market and Monrovia. Only one (1) new elementary school is planned for and budgeted. Moreoever that new school, the East County Elementary School, will not seat a single student for 8 years minimum. Planning Commissioners: where will the other 2100 kids go?
The problem is no better at the middle school level. Windsor Knolls Middle School is at its designed capacity. The BOE has stated that there are no plans to make it larger. There are also no plans, either budgeted or envisioned to add another middle school in this part of the county. Even after Urbana Middle is expanded, this part of the County is projected to be 108% of state rated capacity. There are no options put forth by either the county or the BOE to adequately deal with the 220 projected new middle school students from the proposed development. Planning Commissioners: what is your plan?
In closing we would like to clarify a few incompatibility issues with the MTC:
- 1. The zoning ordinance (sections 500.3 (C) and 100.4 (A)(4) dictates that the development be compatible with the existing community, or that “mitigation of the differences” are implemented. Please explain to the citizens of Monrovia how 9 homes/acre looks at all like what is there now – and thus compatible with the existing community.
- 2. Section 500.3 (H) dictates requirements for incorporating the existing natural features into the development. On page 12 of their staff report on the zoning amendment, the County states that “a previously approved Forest Stand Delineation associated with the prior PUD rezoning effort on this site has expired and must be updated and submitted prior to approval of this application.” We have seen no evidence of the Applicant meeting this requirement and, therefore, the zoning amendment should not be approved.
- 3. Perhaps the most revealing incompatibility is with the County’s Comprehensive Plan, that reads:
- the county shall focus a higher proportion of development within Community Growth Areas to protect green infrastructure land (Goal #13 , page 03-2)
- that “beyond the role of agriculture as part of the County’s economy is the effect agriculture has on how the County looks, its rural landscape of rolling hills and open vistas and its rural communities. For many residents and visitors, the County’s rural landscape and small towns are a defining contribution to the perception of the County as a unique place.”
- That we work to “minimize the development in areas of our best agricultural lands to preserve critical masses of farmland” ( Preserving our Agricultural and Rural Community chapter policy #2 (page 05-2)
We request that the Planning Commission do its job and thoroughly review Monrovia Town Center PUD R-12-02 in the context of the county plan, the county’s residential needs, the impacts on infrastructure, the county’s citizen’s interests and quality of life.
There will be a meeting hosted by Oakdale LLC to discuss the Eaglehead DRRA. Please attend and spread the word to your neighbors and friends
When: Saturday May 11th 10AM
Where: Oakdale Middle School (entrance is usually around back)
To learn more please click here for the Casey Property PUD fact sheet.
Map below shows streams surrounded by floodplain, forest (green) and blue for ponds and wetlands.
The Frederick County Commissioners have approved or are discussing approval of over 7000 new dwellings, in many cases without appropriate plans for schools, roads, emergency services and other key infrastructure. We believe that our public officials should follow existing laws; in a growing number of cases that is not happening.
FoFC is currently challenging:
* Crum and Thatcher (Frederick City north)
* New Market Municipal Growth Element in Maryland Court of Special Appeals(read letter from FoFC)
* Frederick City Comprehensive Plan in Frederick County Circuit Court
* Landsdale (Monrovia) at the Board of Appeals
* Landsdale Storm Water Management Administrative Waiver at the Board of Appeals, March 28, 2013 7pm
* Jefferson Technology Park at the Board of Appeals
* Frederick County’s 2012 Comprehensive Rezoning in the Frederick County Circuit Court
If school overcrowding is your concern, it is with good reason. Read this published letter from one Monrovia citizen who gives us the facts.
2/7/13 Citizen concerned with over-development in Frederick County, water pollution, crowded schools, trash and tax increases
| Already in trouble
Originally published February 07, 2013 in the Frederick News Post
|I am dismayed to see that the Maryland Department of Planning reports that our county is allowing septic systems that will have an adverse effect on the Chesapeake Bay. The objection is land consumption and water pollution. So let’s look at the list of objections to over-development in Frederick County.Or schools are now using trailers and our roads are overcrowded. At 0600 hours on commute any day I-270 is doing 30 mph or slower at Md. 109. If septic systems are bad for the bay, I would presume that they would be worse for the local water supply, which I believe is not that great anyway. All the water runoff, the overuse of a limited water supply, and schools that are overcrowded already is too much to handle. Why are we building subdivisions? Where will the trash from all this go? In the incinerator we cannot afford?It seems the commissioners do not have the interest of the residents at heart. I thought there was no money. Do not be fooled, all this development will not come near to generating the money necessary to support all this activity. Taxes have to go up — really up.
Gazette editorial published on Thursday, January 24, 2013
Pay now, or pay later for Frederick County development
The scene is a familiar one in Maryland: a “bedroom” county with lots of available open space attracts developers who see dollar signs, while elected officials see an easy way to expand the tax base and pay for needed services.
On the other side, advocacy groups and residents who are worried about crowded roads and schools, and the possible higher taxes needed to improve both, draw a line in the sand to fight what they view as unfettered growth.
The developers and elected officials, with zoning law on their side, usually win in the end, with the developers getting rich, and the elected officials moving on to higher office. But years later, their legacy is sometimes urban sprawl that is virtually impossible to undo.
By then, the debate is about “smart growth” vs. “dumb growth,” or the need to impose a building moratorium because development has outstripped a jurisdiction’s ability to accommodate it with the needed infrastructure.
Thoughtful elected officials and residents who witnessed such a gradual erosion of the quality of life in their communities then ask, “How did we get here? What were they thinking a decade ago when they allowed this to happen?”
That crucial time when the future is decided is being played out in Frederick County here and now. Read more…
Skirting open meetings
Originally published January 18, 2013
We’re glad New Market’s attorney, William Wantz, put the brakes Wednesday night on two massive annexations, but not because we support or oppose them — that’s a matter for the town to decide.What concerns us are some of the maneuvers by town leaders that make it look like they’re trying to skirt the Open Meetings Act, a state law dedicated to ensuring we all have full and thorough access to government officials when they make decisions, most of which involve spending our tax money.
At issue in this case are two parcels of land — the 262-acre Smith-Cline and 134-acre Delaplaine properties — that, added to New Market’s boundaries, would double the town’s size and could add nearly 1,000 new houses.
New Market’s leaders know annexation proposals are controversial. In a 2007 referendum, in a vote of 148-105, residents shot down plans to annex the Smith and Cline farms after the public objected. The process dragged out over months and was extremely controversial; tempers flared on both sides. That was a tough, open and necessary debate, one that seems to be missing in this latest push to expand the town’s limits.
Take two examples where New Market’s leadership walked a fine line about notifying its residents and other interested parties.
On Jan. 10, the day of the planning commission hearing, the annexation discussion was added to the agenda at 10 a.m. The hearing was at 7 p.m. — and the planning commissioners voted to support the annexations that night. If you were interested in attending and making your opinion known, pro or con, but worked out of the county or had some other commitment, you were probably out of luck.
A planned vote on the annexations, listed innocuously enough as a “discussion,” was added to Thursday’s Town Council agenda only the day before the 7 p.m. meeting. That’s where Wantz, who is apparently listening to residents worried about the annexation, told council members, “We want to do this right, and we want to do this in a way that doesn’t cause harm.”
These meetings were not advertised even remotely adequately. In the case of the vote, the lack of notification was particularly egregious. Another public hearing has been scheduled for next month.
Scheduling the discussion suddenly on the day of the hearing or day before by adding it to the agenda at the last minute is government’s cowardly end run around the law to mute opposition in sometimes controversial decisions. Sadly, under the Open Meetings Act, it’s not illegal. But it’s certainly not within the spirit of the law. We’re not sure if an intentional suppression of opinion was what happened in the case of the annexations, or whether it was an overly hasty attempt to move this issue ahead. Either way, we’d urge Mayor Winslow F. Burhans III and the Town Council to consider the importance of allowing enough time for the public to be present at and speak at the next hearing.
Taken alone, the lack of notification could be considered just an oversight. But there are a couple of more points of concern.
Burhans says he has been meeting with anyone who wants to learn more. They have been one-on-one meetings in private homes. They were set up using his private business email, which he includes on nearly all of his town correspondence, and not the email he has through the town.
Why private email? Presumably because government emails are public information and subject to public information requests. Using a private email to communicate is the 21st-century equivalent to meeting in a smoky back room behind closed doors. Meeting one-on-one is similarly questionable.
Finally, in an explanation of the late notice to one of our reporters, Burhans indicated that letters from him and other council members were sufficient notice — except they didn’t contain a time, date or address for the meetings. This is hardly the “reasonable advance notice” required by the law. In fact, the Open Meetings Act manual published by the Maryland attorney general (and available on his website) clearly states: “Unless some unusual circumstance makes it impracticable to do so, the public body should give a written notice that includes the date, time, and place of its meeting.”
We hope these aren’t intentional strategies to subvert proper public comment and avoid the kind of divisive — but necessary — public debate that took months to resolve in 2007 and led to that special election referendum. But that’s how it appears, and in politics, even small-town politics, appearance is everything.
Hearings on this have not allowed for a full and thorough debate. We doubt a majority of residents’ voices have been adequately heard. That needs to happen before a decision as monumental as doubling the town’s size is voted on by the council.
|Monrovia Town Center protesters gather downtown
Plan would put 1,510 houses, commercial development on hundreds of acres east of Ed McClain Road
Originally published January 17, 2013By Patti S. Borda
Half a dozen protesters took their concerns about Monrovia’s future to Frederick’s streets Wednesday.They made their stand at the corner of Church and Market streets just before the Frederick County Planning Commission was scheduled to discuss the Monrovia Town Center proposal.
The commission has not yet scheduled a public hearing on any part of the plan, but will do so and make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners probably around March, according to Jim Gugel, county planner.
Monrovia Town Center’s plan would put 1,510 houses and 280,000 square feet of commercial development on 460 acres east of Ed McClain Road and north of Fingerboard Road.
Before that can start, Teddy Kroll said she and her Monrovia neighbors are rallying as many people as they can to write letters and speak at public hearings. They hope to convince planners and county commissioners that their neighborhood is not suitable for Urbana-style density and development.
“How would they like it if someone did this to them, put Urbana on their front lawn?” Kroll said in an interview Wednesday.
The roads cannot handle the traffic now, and the additional traffic would be disastrous, Kroll said. Her first concern is Md. 75, which the state has no money or plan to improve.
Kroll and her neighbors take no comfort from Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young’s assurance that the developers will help pay for road improvements and their projects will be built over several decades.
“It’s irresponsible to plan on money that isn’t there,” Kroll said.
Amy Reyes is spearheading the grass-roots effort to involve more residents in the area planning. She runs a Facebook page for Residents Against Landsdale Expansion. The group will meet Sunday at a location and time to be announced soon, Reyes said.
Reyes and a half dozen people at Wednesday’s meeting scoffed aloud at what counts as community notification about projects such as the 1,100-home Landsdale development in the same area. Planning Commissioner John McClurkin suggested that people who had sat through the meeting might be allowed to comment, even though it was not a public hearing.
The county is not sufficiently accounting for the combined effect of Landsdale and Monrovia Town Center on schools and roads, three people told the commission.
In addition to optional meetings developers may choose to have with neighbors, Gugel said county staff will accept any invitation to attend community meetings for the purpose of answering questions about projects and the planning process. He encouraged the public to find the latest information on the county planning website, from a project’s initial stages to its completion.
If Monrovia Town Center is built, Kroll said, life will change for a small community where it is safe to let children outside to play.
“It becomes Urbana,” she said. “You have to bring all the kids back inside.”
Young’s “forceful personality” may be swaying fellow commissioners to approve the plan, but they and the county will have to live with this administration’s decisions long after Young leaves office, Kroll said.
“Now is the only time the neighborhood can stop it,” she said.