County decides to relax stream buffer requirements

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/01/2013
The legally required swath of trees and shrubbery separating Frederick County's homes from its streams is becoming 25 feet slimmer. Commissioners voted Thursday to relax the county's stream buffer ordinance, a "modest change" that they said would have little effect on the county's waterways. Allowing homes closer to county streams opens up a bit more land to developers, giving them more flexibility in site design as they deal with state environmental requirements, county staff said. "Really, we see this as a jibing of county standards to harmonize with the state standards," said Dusty Rood, president of the Frederick County Land Use Council. However, local residents, environmental groups and former County Commissioner Kai Hagen all said they believed decreasing the required stream buffer size would endanger area water quality. Hagen said county's current leaders have shown a pattern of elevating developer interests above other considerations. "They said, 'Jump,' and you jumped," Hagen told the board of commissioners.

Open meetings complaints filed against Frederick County commissioners

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/25/213
At least two complaints of an Open Meetings Act violation have been lodged against the Frederick County commissioners for their closed-session vote on a $200,000 grant repayment. The submissions to the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board claim that the decisions should have happened in the open because they relate to public business. Middletown resident Sonja Sperlich wrote one of the complaints, and The Frederick News-Post submitted the other. County commissioners voted Sept. 5 to send the $200,000 check with a letter to the state in order to facilitate the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Sperlich’s letter references several portions of state law to bolster her argument that commissioners breached the Open Meetings Act. The law’s intent is to ensure that “except in special and appropriate circumstances, public business be performed in an open and public manner and citizens be allowed to observe the performance, deliberations and decisions of the BOCC,” Sperlich, former chairwoman of the Citizens board of trustees, wrote in her complaint.

Green acres, not greenbacks

Frederick News Post
Chuck Honse
09/04/2013
The Monrovia and Green Valley areas are about to change. The folks living there are about to lose the lifestyle for which they moved into the area — lots of green space instead of blacktop and concrete; lots of peace and quiet instead of the sounds of traffic and emergency equipment; lots of fresh country air, the smell of freshly cut grass and hayfields instead of the fumes generated by huge volumes of traffic; lots of peaceful living instead of living in fear of increased crime, which is often the result of densely populated areas; lots of space around their homes instead of having to listen to their neighbor snoring, sneezing or their radio/TV program; lots of sounds of children at play in their spacious backyards, birds chirping and singing instead of the sounds of honking horns and screaming sirens. Head puppeteer Blaine Young and his three puppets (Billy Shreve, C. Paul Smith, Kirby Delauter) are about to change it all.

Violating the Open Meetings Act is no laughing matter

Frederick News Post
08/24/13
When is a quorum, not a quorum? Don't waste your time asking Frederick County Commissioner Kirby Delauter that question. Judging by his reaction of last week's unfavorable opinion by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board he's "not going to lose any sleep on it." Not to be outdone, Commissioner Billy Shreve told Frederick News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers, after learning about the ruling, that the compliance board's decision won't change his approach to talking about county issues. What we find troubling is that it's this kind of arrogance and disrespect for government transparency that continues to be the hallmark of the majority of this current board of commissioners. In case you missed it, the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled last week that three commissioners, including Delauter and Shreve, violated the state's Open Meetings Act when they talked about the pending sale of two county-owned facilities on a local radio program on June 15.

Frederick County commissioners OK taxi voucher program

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/23/13
Frederick County commissioners Thursday gave their approval to a taxi voucher program that will supplement local transit services but won’t offer expanded hours. Officials for months have looked at using taxis to accommodate more riders with TransIT-plus, a service that provides reduced-cost transportation to senior citizens and people with disabilities. At Thursday’s board meeting, commissioners weighed in on the design and scope of a two-year voucher program set to start in 2014. The pilot will provide TransIT-plus riders with prepaid vouchers for paying their taxi fares.

Voting history shows power of Young's bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Voting history shows power of Young’s bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Returning to the subject of boycotts

Frederick News Post
07/15/2013
Our editorial questioning the boycott against businesses who advertise on Commissioner President Blaine Young's radio show got our readers' attention. Even across the Independence Day weekend, when other editorials drew online clicks in the double-digits, "Calls for local boycotts ill-advised" netted over 1,100 unique hits (the most we had on any editorial since we launched our redesigned website on April 11) and 121 comments (another record). Clearly, we provoked a strong reaction. Some of the criticism was directed at us. "FNP you have lost your mind," said alovelyplace, and in another comment, "I'm sorry for the FNP's downslide several notches on the respectability scale." stated. "This editorial is nuts" said formerfcps. "This is the most ignorant editorial from the FNP I have ever seen," said runningaddict414. "Did the brains take the day off?" "This editorial is laughable," bukweet commented. Woof. Some stiff criticism there.

With privatization's end comes a time to reflect, explain

Frederick News Post
07/14/2013
Saying there's nothing more to privatize, Commissioners President Blaine Young called it a day in a optimistically toned July 8 letter to county staff, lauding a streamlined, much-less-costly, much-less-populated county government. The controversial and unfortunate decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living "will be the last major change this Board will make," he wrote. Since 2009, the county workforce has been reduced by 25 percent -- one in every four staff -- through "layoffs, eliminating vacant positions and consolidating County divisions and departments and privatizing services." "I realize all the changes have been difficult," Young wrote. That doesn't really capture it.

With privatization’s end comes a time to reflect, explain

Frederick News Post
07/14/2013
Saying there's nothing more to privatize, Commissioners President Blaine Young called it a day in a optimistically toned July 8 letter to county staff, lauding a streamlined, much-less-costly, much-less-populated county government. The controversial and unfortunate decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living "will be the last major change this Board will make," he wrote. Since 2009, the county workforce has been reduced by 25 percent -- one in every four staff -- through "layoffs, eliminating vacant positions and consolidating County divisions and departments and privatizing services." "I realize all the changes have been difficult," Young wrote. That doesn't really capture it.

Blaine and Co. bad for Frederick County

Frederick News Post
George Wenschhof
07/07/2013
The 4-1 vote recently to sell the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities and disband their board of trustees, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business.” Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Co.,” the moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Co. wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation. The resulting action from Blaine and Co. was felt immediately after their election, when they moved to eliminate $2 million in county funding for Head Start, a proven and effective federal program that helps children in need during the critical early years of development. What has followed over the next 2 1/2 years has been a continued move to follow an irresponsible privatization path in governing.

Citizens/Montevue fate sealed before hearing

Frederick News Post
06/30/2013
To no one’s surprise the Frederick County Commissioners wasted little time in selling Citizen Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility following a five-hour public hearing Tuesday evening. It’s now clear the public hearing was nothing more than a “go-through-the-motions” sham and validated claims by opponents that the meeting was being held because of a legal requirement and not because there was any chance the commissioners were interested, much less willing, to change their minds. A standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people crammed into the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College in a last-ditch attempt to stop the commissioners sale of the government-owned nursing home and assisted living center that have served needy local residents for about 140 years. But four of the county commissioners, lead by President Blaine Young, had already made up their minds.

When Ideology Trumps Reasonable Representation, Bad Things Happen….

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
06/23/2013
The proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business”. Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Company”. The moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by the “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Company wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation.

Frederick County sets property tax

With fire tax rolled into general fund, overall rate increases
Gazette
Ryan Marshall
05/09/2013
The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the county’s $516 million proposed budget for fiscal 2014 on June 6. The new property tax rate of $1.064 per $100 of assessed value is an increase from the fiscal 2013 rate of $0.936. The commissioners approved the new rate by a vote of 4-1.

Trailer tax break

Frederick News Post
06/25/2012
Commissioner Kirby Delauter was the one who suggested reducing to nothing a tax on trailer parks, which the commissioners unanimously supported last week. It's a good move if, as Delauter hoped, the break goes to residents rather than owners of the property on which the mobile homes sit. The 15 percent tax is charged on the cost of leasing the land for the trailer and collected by the county from trailer-park owners. The park owners presumably pass the cost on to tenants in their rental bills.

Enforcement of Frederick County ethics laws lacking

County has many statutes but goes light on punishing violations
Gazette
Katherine Heerbrandt
06/21/2012
A Frederick County commissioner can violate a ruling from the county’s Ethics Commission and suffer no more than a fleeting discomfort from an accusatory headline. Unless a majority of fellow commissioners directs the county attorney to take the matter to court, or approves the expense of an outside lawyer, there is little to no punishment for violating the conflict of interest provision in the county's ethics law.

Frederick County commissioners plan to make growth decisions permanent

Young expects the board to approve more development
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/26/2012
Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) hopes to approve new housing and businesses in the county, while preventing future boards from overturning those decisions — even if conditions change. Young said this week several developers already have inquired about the agreement, provisionally granted to a development last week that could bring 1,100 homes to the southern part of the county. The agreements with developers — being used for the first time in the county — mark a reversal from the previous board of commissioners, which sought to limit growth by restricting land zoned for 700 properties from commercial, residential or industrial to agricultural or open space.

The final chapter?

Shreve suggests shuttering Walkersville library
Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy and Courtney Pomeroy
03/02/2012
Building a new library in Walkersville would put Frederick County on the hook for a $6.1 million tab, and at least one county commissioner is asking whether there is a cheaper alternative. Commissioner Billy Shreve has proposed dropping the new construction and merging the town's Frederick County Public Libraries branch with the Walkersville Middle School library. "My thought is why not just expand the library in the school," Shreve said Thursday. "One of the things we have to look at in these budget times is how we spend taxpayer dollars." The commissioners are reviewing the five-year Capital Improvements Plan -- a document that outlines future construction projects for the county. Building a 15,250-square-foot library does not sound like a priority, Shreve said.

Developers see culture shift in Frederick County’s business approach

Frederick more welcoming under Young board; no public announcements for projects yet
Gazette
Katherine Heerbrandt
02/23/2012
Frederick County’s new motto, “Open for Business,” sets off alarm bells for some, while others offer high praise. But although the barbs and accolades fly, it’s too soon to tell whether the business-friendly focus adopted by Frederick’s Board of County Commissioners in 2011 will have the intended effect of economic growth and lower taxes, said board President Blaine R. Young (R). Although he cannot name any specific projects on the horizon because of the confidential nature of negotiations, he said there is serious interest from companies that want to come to Frederick, including one that might bring 400 jobs to the county.

Commissioners may join effort against land-use plan

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/24/2011
The Frederick County Commissioners might join forces with leaders in nearby counties to push back against aspects of the Maryland governor's land-use plan, a document they fear could erode local authority if carried out. The drafted plan emerged as one of the hot topics last week at the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City, where Gov. Martin O'Malley offered county government officials a presentation about the vision for smart growth. While the state has insisted the document, called PlanMaryland, doesn't commandeer county land-use decisions, Commissioners President Blaine Young said he would like to see that spelled out in the draft. "Why won't you include the language that it (the plan) is not going to be mandated and dictated from the top down?" Young said. The idea of a partnership of central and western Maryland governments flowed out of a Friday breakfast that included Young and commissioners presidents from Washington, Allegany, Carroll and Garrett counties. Young said the board leaders agreed to go back to their counties and pitch the coalition plan to their fellow commissioners.