Originally published March 18, 2012
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.
Friends of Frederick County
|Commissioners ease Frederick County road improvement requirements
Originally published September 07, 2011
By Bethany Rodgers
Frederick County commissioners Tuesday evening voted to ease portions of a law requiring builders to shoulder some financial burden for the increased traffic flow their developments would bring to area roads.Commissioners President Blaine Young said the changes would help clarify a complicated law and get rid of a few of “the ridiculous shackles put on the business community.” The requirements are part of Frederick County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a law intended to prevent growth from overburdening area roads and schools.
The changes to the ordinance passed in a 4-1 vote after a public hearing, with all board members supporting the rewrite except for Commissioner David Gray.
“I think this is a terrible mistake,” said Gray, adding that the revisions could result in less funding for improvements. “You’re going to pay a price down the road É if you don’t make the requirements for adequate roads up front.”
The changes to the APFO included allowing more medium-sized businesses to contribute a share of money for roadwork instead of requiring them to fund entire projects, said Ron Burns, county traffic engineer.
In addition, the new ordinance would exempt developers from paying for their effect on freeway ramps and from footing the bill for congestion caused by “the sins of the past,” or previous building, according to the staff report.
When working on the rewrite, Burns said county staff looked to make the ordinance more jobs-friendly.
The Frederick County Planning Commission recommended that commissioners not adopt the changes to the ordinance, Burns said.
A representative of the building community appeared before the board in support of the alterations.
As it was written, the ordinance made it “extremely difficult for some businesses to move ahead” with projects, said Chris Smariga, member of the Frederick County Land Use Council.
The new version would make the county more competitive in attracting growth while still asking developers to pay a fair share, he added.
Commissioner Paul Smith said he believed the revisions to the ordinance by and large were minor and cleared obstacles that blocked some development. Young disagreed, saying he thought the new ordinance would have a deep effect and was a large step toward providing local builders with a more straightforward set of requirements.
“I thought you had to be Houdini to figure out what all that meant,” Young said of the law before the changes. “Hopefully, this will bring some predictability and clarity to the document.”
June 30, 2011 Board of County Commissioners President, Blaine Young, sent a letter to Frederick County employees with the next steps toward privatizing county government.
Evidently in his Feb. 28 letter to The Frederick News-Post Mark Koehler was following the wisdom of Harry Truman, who once said, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”
The issue in New Market is not the activities of Friends of Frederick County, but the town’s sprawling growth plan that will, in some form or another, ultimately impact every resident of Frederick County through crowded schools, traffic gridlock and higher taxes to subsidize the services and infrastructure needed to support growth.
Everyone can agree that economic vitality is needed, and now. But with over 5,300 vacant houses sitting on the market in Frederick County, annexing farmland to build even more is a road to nowhere.
Friends of Frederick County is a coalition of concerned citizens, farmers and business people who have brought a refreshing mandate of accountability to locally elected officials which is simply this: Follow the law. The sprawling, costly, unhealthy, environmentally and socially destructive growth planned for New Market is not only contradictory to the town’s own stated objectives but also out of compliance with state law.
Town leaders did not analyze and plan, as required by law, for the costs of services and infrastructure, such as roads, schools, emergency services, water and sewer service, and the impact of growth on environmentally sensitive areas. The law requires this assessment for a good reason: because taxpayers are often left footing the bill for future costs of residential and commercial sprawl. Unfunded mandates are routinely foisted on the public by many developers in Frederick County, where for years citizens have unwittingly paid higher taxes to cover the cost of more schools, more roads, sewer and water services, and more pollution.
Compliance with the law is something we should demand of all elected officials, along with a healthy dose of fiscal common sense. New Market’s plan throws that all overboard and reaches far beyond their own growth projections of 468 houses by the year 2030. The Smith Cline annexation alone plans for 925 homes. With 5,300 vacant homes in the county, you have to wonder why.
The “if you build it they will come” mentality of the past is simply not viable in the wreckage of vacant subdivisions dotting the countryside. But reality has not yet reached the leaders of New Market who cling to the notion that bulldozing and building creates jobs, even if no one happens to be buying. The New Market plan is not about progress or smart growth, it is a desperate attempt by developers and special interests to go back to the bubble economy days when real estate speculators could turn a profit selling futures in massive, budget-busting subdivisions — the public interest be damned.
Moving the county economy beyond its dependence on real estate speculation is why Friends of Frederick County came into existence more than seven years ago. That is why Friends is supporting a citizens initiative to prepare a plan for New Market that will meet New Market’s stated objective for “orderly, compact, phased and compatible growth as an alternative to suburban sprawl, automobile-dependent development that has consumed hundreds of thousands of acres of valuable land across our county” (see p. 5 New Market Municipal Growth Element addendum June 9, 2010).
The consequences of land-use decisions almost always fall on the shoulders of citizens. It is reasonable for them to have a voice in these affairs. That’s not demagoguery, or “meddling,” as Mr. Koehler puts it, it’s democracy.
Janice Wiles is the executive director of Friends of Frederick County; Amy Farber is a member of the board of directors of FoFC
Originally published March 13, 2011
Send letters in advance to the BOA, their website: http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?NID=176
Read more on the issue blogs: http://www.friendsoffrederickcounty.org/category/by-campaign/mega-churches/
In 2008 Global Mission Church, with current perish in Silver Spring, announced its plan to expand to Frederick County , clear forest and farmland, to build a 140,000 ft 2 complex at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. This megachurch would be built on well and septic; local residents and professionals alike have expressed concern that this development would greatly impact the area’s wetlands, the Little Bennett Creek and the Piedmont Sole Source Aquifer.
In October 2009 the Frederick County Planning Commission voted to deny the Global Mission (GMC) Site Plan because, according to the Health Department’s regulation GMC’s plan would exceed the septic capacity of 4,999 gallon per day. GMC had time to bring their plan into compliance but did not do so.
In March 2010 the Frederick County Board of Appeals (BOA) voted 4-1 to send the GMC site plan decision back to the Planning Commission for further proceedings and to give the GMC additional opportunity to discuss their site plan with county staff.
In July 2010 Judge Dwyer, Frederick County Circuit Court, GMC July 2010 Dwyer decision.
On January 19, 2011 2pm Frederick County attorney, Wendy Kearney, will present the county’s appeal to the BOA March decision and support the Planning Commission’s 2009 decision in the Frederick County Circuit Court . Please try to attend; if you can’t make it check our website afterwards for a report.
Thanks to all Frederick and Montgomery County residents, specifically the Montgomery Countryside Alliance (http://mocoalliance.org/2010/11/global-mission-church-update/) for participation and excellent testimony at the many public meetings on this issue. Please continue to speak out on behalf of clean air, water, public health and safety, open space and the flora and fauna that depend upon it.
As a North Frederick Elementary School parent and member of the PTA Renovation Committee, I have been advocating for a new school for over three years. In a 1999 study, NFES was the worst-rated facility of all schools in the county. It’s only gotten worse in the ensuing 11 years.
Testimony from NFES students at the Sept. 15 Board of Education meeting was heartbreaking, recounting bug infestations, leaky ceilings, classrooms too cold in the winter and too hot in the spring, and noisy HVAC systems that prevent students from hearing their teachers.
We know the Board of Education and county commissioners support us getting a new school, but with the current economy, we’re afraid we might have to wait another 10 years. There is a ray of hope, though.
We need our delegates and senators to put pressure on the state of Maryland to pay back Frederick County the $50 million it owes us for school construction projects that have already been completed. We strongly urge our state elected officials to make this a priority in the next legislative session — not just for the sake of NFES but for all older schools that have been waiting so patiently for badly needed upgrades.
Letter to the editor in the Frederick News Post: We need our $50M
Originally published October 07, 2010
Contact Friends of Frederick County to find out more about the Municipal Growth Plan process: firstname.lastname@example.org ref: New Market MGE