Frederick County’s rural setting, open land, and convenient location to Washington, D.C. quickly became an attraction to real estate developers, making it one of the fastest growing counties in the state. The population swelled by over 30 thousand people the last six years alone. The growing consensus among many County residents was that the County’s growing pains were having an immediate and long term impact on local roads, schools, water supply, and increasingly strained services.
Friends of Frederick County does not support urban sprawl .For the past two decades the sprawl development model has consumed more than 14 million acres of land in the U.S and vastly changed the land around us in Frederick County. We cannot grow our way out of problems and in fact will create new problems and headaches for Frederick County residents under this outdated development model. Not only does development on such scale fragment and destroy wildlife habitat, pollute our streams and pave over rich and productive farmland, it has a direct impact on our lives by creating more traffic and higher taxes to support the growth we can no longer afford.
Most important, surveys reveal that this is exactly what citizens do not want. Surveys conducted in 2001 (Aspire Frederick) and 2009 (Comprehensive Plan) on growth revealed that citizens are demanding a more common sense approach to growth that preserves open spaces, natural resources and farm land, promotes local businesses, and fosters modes of transportation that do not clog our roadways and create smog.
Friends of Frederick County aims to control sprawl through planned growth. We do this though a combination of education, events, on the ground activity and policy changes. Friends of Frederick County mounted the “We Draw the Line” campaign to help citizens understand the importance of pulling in growth boundaries to avoid unnecessary sprawl.
- In December 2008 Friends of Frederick County produced a video to educate on the cost of community services and the impacts of sprawl on our quality of life in Frederick County. View it here.
While the concept of Smart Growth was launched over a decade ago there lacked policy and programs to support the concept. According to a story in the Journal of the American Planning Association (9/2009) entitled “Managing Growth With Priority Funding Areas: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Yet to Come” implementing smart growth law in Maryland has been hampered by its inability to force local governments to comply with it, and because there is little if any incentive for builders to redevelop older urban areas.
Since 2004, Friends of Frederick County has become a trusted public voice on key issues affecting our quality of life. In advance of the 2006 county elections, we educated thousands of citizens on the costs of sprawl, using print and broadcast media, telephone calls, public events, meetings, fliers, e-mail and web communication. We tied together the elements of this campaign with the reminder to voters that “There’s Hope for Good Government”. Since 2006, we have seen real, positive change in the way Frederick County has made important decisions to:
- contain growth within our municipal areas,
- remove hundreds of acres of farmland from growth targets,
- buffer our streams,
- protect our natural resources,
- facilitate infill and redevelopment,
- enable renewable energy use,
- focus on ethical voting (ensuring that no exchange of funds or private interest is involved)
But our work is far from done.
If we are to stop sprawl we need to make redevelopment and infill the builders choice over sprawl development, and we need to ensure that local policy supports smart growth concepts.
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