|Marylanders support bay cleanup
Originally published February 20, 2013
|Recent letters have commented about efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Stephen Seawright, past president of the Frederick County Building Industry Association, pointed out that an 80 percent majority of our current elected county commissioners are disinclined to support these local efforts. But he failed to account for the 70 percent of Marylanders who support bay efforts.Every one of us, regardless of domicile or occupation, has bay impacts and needs to be part of the changing practices to alleviate bay pollution. But the voices we often hear now are those with a complaint about a single regulation that affects their personal business or lifestyle.
Mr. Seawright suggests that because some efforts are lower cost per projected improvement impact, that we simply buy more of that mitigation while ignoring the ones that his industry needs to integrate into their development process. This is sophistic logic.
Bay pollution is costly and problematic, and efforts are spread across a wide spectrum of practices and public actions. Because of its nature, there is no single source or cause, no magic wand to health.
The problem is not simply solved by planting all trees and ignoring the variety of other causes, including the impervious surfaces that Mr. Seawright objects to mitigating. No matter how much of Frederick County we covered in streamside forest buffers, the water runoff from impervious surfaces, in velocity and heat and carrying an array of pollutants such as oil and chemicals and fertilizers, would impair the stream water quality, erode stream banks, and ultimately still diminish the Chesapeake Bay.
The 70 percent of Marylanders for bay cleanup know that as we spend to improve agricultural practices, change builder practices for impervious surfaces, and plant riparian trees, and the variety of other directives toward bay cleanup goals, it is ultimately all of us who really end up paying the difference. And we agree that clean water, for drinking, supporting the farmers of the bay, and sport and recreational uses, not to mention our obligation to our children and grandchildren’s future, is worth the effort.
I call upon our Board of County Commissioners, homebuilders, our farmers, and ultimately our individual lifestyle choices, to make every effort possible to sustain our environmental qualities.
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
by Sherry Greenfield Staff writer
A state delegate wants to make it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to build hundreds of new homes and businesses….
…“Should Del. Clagett characterize his bill as pro-business…[Friends of Frederick County] believes that pro-developer, developer-friendly, pro special interest or anti-Frederick County taxpayer would be a more accurate characterization of Del. Clagett’s bill,” Wiles said in an email.
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.
That some are lobbying Congress and suing in federal court to stop the progress [cleaning the Chesapeake Bay waters] is not only tragic, it is mind-boggling. All of us who value the Chesapeake and are determined to see a better future for our children and grandchildren must let our voices be heard. It is time to finish the job.
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.
over 50 people turned out to learn more about the annexation plans. The mayor and council made no presentation for the crowd, and told people to submit their questions in writing. Read about the hearing in the Frederick Newspost: Dozens turn out for New Market annex debate
FoFC presented Mayor Burhans and the Town Council with a letter detailing the legal issues with the annexation proposals, and made the following points in testimony:
- what is it? (description published in the Frederick News Post, written by former member of Planning Commission)
- INITIAL DRRA submitted to County 6-13-12
- Initial LOU
- 9/20/12 JTP staff report
- The project was initially planned for a tech park off Route 340/180 and 15, but it seems that attracting businesses has been difficult and the “tech park” will now be a 825 home residential development with some commercial and retail.
- Just this summer the Frederick News Post reported that this development would bring over 7000 jobs, but FoFC has not been unable to get information about which businesses have agreed to locate there.
- On July 19, 2012 the BOCC discussed Creation of the JTP CDA video for that meeting
- The BOCC resolutions authorizing them are on the County website under 2012 resolutions. The resolutions are #’s 12-10 & 12-11.
- Read this letter and this letter about the use of bonds to finance the JTP.
- Frederick County is preparing a BINDING Developer’s Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA) that will be voted on in October:
- October 24th 7pm Winchester Hall: Public Hearing with Planning Commission
- October 30th 7pm Winchester Hall: Public Hearing with the Board of County Commissioners