News Archive

Envision Frederick County is compiling an archive of news articles, editorials, columns and letters to the editor, from a range of local and regional publications.  The archive will grow to include more than 2,000 entries, from the last decade or so. If you want to search the archives using a combination of tags, you can type multiple tags into the "Search this site" box to the right. If you find a bad link, please let us know, and keep in mind that you can search for the item by using the headline on the site of the publication. PLEASE NOTE: Click on the headlines below to open the individual items in a new window.

Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11122013
A state delegate who raised her hand to join a Frederick County growth task force was passed over for appointment after a fellow legislator questioned how “fair and open” she would be on the panel. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, argued she would bring a much-needed perspective to the growth group because her constituents in the eastern areas of the county are among those most affected by local growth issues. In a Nov. 4 letter, she asked Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4, to put her on the county-led task force. In response, Brinkley challenged Afzali’s impartiality on the question of creating a transfer tax to fund infrastructure improvements. In a Monday phone interview, he attributed Afzali’s interest in the work group to a desire for publicity. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley said. Despite Afzali’s request for the task force assignment, Brinkley offered the opening to Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, before finally naming Delegate Galen Clagett to the work group. Afzali said her goal is to represent district residents who have concerns about development in the county. Controversial development projects such as the Monrovia Town Center heavily affect her constituents, she noted. Clagett, D-District 3A, represents the city of Frederick, where building does not generate as much opposition, she said. “I’m the one who’s fielding the calls from irate citizens who are going to have the traffic jams and the noise and the safety issues from this kind of growth,” she said.

Proud of citizen involvement

Frederick News Post
Jan Gardner
11/10/2013
Congratulations to the hundreds of residents from the Monrovia area who have participated in the planning commission public hearings on the proposed Monrovia Town Center. This is “democracy in action.” Citizens have a right to be heard. Monrovia residents are raising their voices loudly but thoughtfully. They have done their homework, raised legitimate issues, asked honest questions and deserve to have their concerns discussed and addressed. I watched the planning commission meeting on Wednesday and was embarrassed and saddened by the mistreatment and rude behavior toward these citizens by the planning commission, specifically during cross-examination. Citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect even if they are presenting an opinion that planning commission members and the developers disagree with. Citizens should be welcome and encouraged to participate in their government. Unfortunately, citizens were ridiculed, shut down mid-sentence, and actively discouraged. I have watched hundreds of public hearings over the past 20 years and have never witnessed such negative treatment of the participating public.

Development and death in Monrovia

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/08/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says he doesn’t remember telling a woman concerned about a 1,510-home development in Monrovia that she shouldn’t be worried because “you’ll be dead by the time everything comes together.” But Monrovia resident Kathy Snyder (the woman who was supposed to take consolation from her limited life span) says she recalls the conversation clearly. Snyder offered her version of events Wednesday, when she joined dozens of others at a public hearing on the Monrovia Town Center. According to Snyder, her March interaction with Young went something like this: She and her husband walked up to the county commissioner during a building industry exhibition at the Frederick Fairgrounds. Snyder said she wanted to ask Young to keep an open mind about the Monrovia Town Center, since many area residents opposed it. “How old are you?” Young asked (according to Snyder). Snyder paused, was taken aback, didn’t know what to say. “He said, ‘Listen, you don’t have to worry about all this development. … You’ll be dead by the time everything comes together,’” Snyder, 50, recounted. Snyder said she walked away from the conversation insulted and troubled by Young’s attitude.

Frederick city officials limit LLC campaign donations

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
11/08/2013
Business owners will now all be limited to the same standard when they make donations to candidates in city of Frederick elections, whether they own corporations or LLCs. The Frederick Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance Thursday that limits the amount of money an owner of multiple business entities may donate to a mayoral or aldermanic candidate. The limit is the same as it is for individuals and corporations that donate: $2,500 to an individual mayoral candidate, and $1,000 to an individual aldermanic candidate. The change comes after owners of multiple LLCs used the LLCs to donate beyond the maximum corporate donation to two mayoral candidates, Delegate Galen Clagett and Alderwoman Karen Young. When noticing the donations, the city's Board of Supervisors of Elections and the aldermen asked city staff to draft an ordinance, calling it a loophole in the law. When drafting the ordinance, the city's legal department mirrored the language in a new state law. The General Assembly passed a law this year that limits the owners' donations. It takes effect in 2015. The city decided Thursday expand the law even further than the state, at the suggestion of Alderman Michael O'Connor.

Planning Commission hearing a debacle

Frederick News Post
Catherine Forrence
11/06/2013
Developers and their attorneys expect certainty in the land development process. Fair enough. We all like to know the rules of the game. Part of the zoning and subdivision process involves appearing before the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission’s Rules of Procedure provide certainty, and are issued to assist in the “orderly and efficient conduct of all matters with which the Commission is concerned.” Before the second public hearing on the Monrovia Town Center rezoning, I sent an email to the Frederick County Planning Commission and staff highlighting two sections of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure: §6.2 “Any person is entitled to appear and be heard by the Commission before it reaches a decision on any matter” and asked how cross-examination will be handled, as permitted by §6.9 “The Chairman will allow reasonable cross-examination of witnesses at a time and in a manner considered reasonable by the Chairman under the circumstances.” Prior to the Oct. 30 Monrovia Town Center hearing, I provided a copy of the Planning Commission’s Rules of Procedure to the Planning Commission’s chair, and asked whether the commission planned to follow their rules? No response. The county attorney announced the Planning Commission would not allow cross-examination, even though it is permitted by their rules! During the hearing that evening, a number of speakers asked and received no response from the commission when asked to follow their Rules of Procedure.

Russell, O'Connor lead field in aldermanic race

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/06/2013
Four Democrats and one Republican led the field in Tuesday’s contest to become the next five aldermen in the city of Frederick, according to unofficial election numbers. With all 12 polling precincts reporting, the top contenders included two incumbents, one former alderwoman, an attorney and a director of government affairs. However, with hundreds of ballots yet to be counted, the highest five vote-getters didn’t have large enough leads to put them out of reach of other contenders. If Tuesday night’s standings hold, the partisan balance on the city board will remain unchanged when the next batch of aldermen take office Dec. 12. Preliminary totals from the general election showed Alderwoman Kelly Russell and Alderman Michael O’Connor finishing ahead of the other eight candidates, with 4,212 and 4,169 votes, respectively. Tuesday’s unofficial tally put Democrat Josh Bokee in third place with 3,789 votes. Republican Philip Dacey and Democrat Donna Kuzemchak took fourth and fifth place, earning 3,781 and 3,656 votes, respectively.

Frederick re-elects Mayor Randy McClement

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
11/06/2013
Mayor Randy McClement will lead Frederick for four more years. In the city’s general election Tuesday, residents chose McClement, a Republican, over his two challengers, Democratic Alderwoman Karen Young and former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, who ran as an unaffiliated candidate, according to unofficial city results. McClement received nearly half the votes, with 3,714 votes, or 48.75 percent; Young received 2,407 votes, or 31.59 percent; Dougherty received 1,480 votes, or 19.43 percent. Of the city’s 35,498 registered voters, 7,648 residents cast a ballot Tuesday, for a turnout of about 21.5 percent.

Frederick County work group to discuss impact fees, new transfer tax

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/05/2013
The unanimous decision followed discussion about eliminating the county’s impact fee and replacing it with a transfer tax levied when properties are sold. The Maryland General Assembly would have to authorize the change, so recent efforts to swap the fee with a tax fizzled without support from a majority of Frederick County’s legislators. Delegate Kathy Afzali said creating a new tax on home sales would further depress the county’s housing market. “We’re hungry for buyers,” said Afzali, R-District 4A, who has worked in real estate. “If anything, we should try to figure out how to cut costs for buyers.” But Commissioners President Blaine Young said it’s not fair to rely only on new construction to drum up funds for infrastructure improvements. Developers pay impact fees of $15,185 for each single-family detached house, $13,089 for townhouses or duplexes, and $2,845 for other residential units. The costs are typically rolled into the cost of a new home and passed on to the buyer. The fees, which brought Frederick County almost $7.2 million in fiscal 2013, are intended to fund construction of additional library and school space to serve the new communities.

Year-round education center brings community to Fox Haven Farm

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
11/04/2013
More than 65,000 new trees and shrubs have been planted on the 582-acre farm, which has been certified for organic hay and vegetable production under the Maryland organic certification program. The farm’s conservation, forest stewardship and nutrient management plans guide land-use decisions, but Fox Haven has added a year-round ecological retreat and learning center that offers sustainable practice, weekend or daylong bootcamp workshops, stream walks for exploration and discovery, career and art workshops, and map and compass learning sessions.“For over 30 years, Fox Haven’s forest and farmland have been a proving ground for innovative, sustainable farming practices to restore the health of the land to protect the water quality of Catoctin Creek, and to provide habitat for wildlife,” according to the farm’s mission statement atfoxhavenlearningcenter.org. “While we have worked informally to share those practices with others over the years, in 2011 we set a goal to make that information more widely available through an education center that is open year-round,” said Renee Bourassa, the learning center’s deputy director.

Rail to trail becoming a reality in Mount Airy

Frederick News Post
Nancy Hernandez
11/03/2013
After two decades of wishful thinking, effort has begun in earnest to create a nature path in the heart of town. The trail will run alongside an abandoned rail line that folklore says played a role in the naming of Mount Airy. As the story goes, railroad workers were chiseling and blasting their way through Parr’s Ridge in the winter of 1839. Their goal was to create a safer and easier route for locomotives to traverse the steep incline. At the time, horses helped pull trains over the ridge using a series of plateaus near where Interstate 70 runs today. The journey was slow and dangerous. So B&O railroad officials decided to create a loop that would pass through a lower elevation. The route crossed directly over Main Street in what is now downtown, between Center Street and Prospect Road. One day, an Irish brakeman complained that due to the constant biting wind blowing on the ridge, the place should be named Mount Airy. The name stuck. The railroad line didn’t. Although passenger service ran until the 1950s, the route was largely abandoned around the 1970s. Today, a hardy group of volunteers are laboring with town officials to reclaim the line and convert it into a nature trail. For now, work is focused on a 1⁄3 mile stretch that connects Watkins Park with Main Street. The hope is to eventually continue the trail so that it runs from Village Oaks Drive to the wastewater treatment plant near the Nottingham and Twin Arch Crossing developments — an estimated distance of 2 1⁄2 miles.

State warns 1 cent storm water fee is "insufficient"

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/03/2013
Frederick County's 1 cent storm water fee could end up costing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, state environmental officials recently warned. A Maryland Department of the Environment review determined the county's fee would be "insufficient" to pay for the water cleanup efforts required by a state-enforced permit. The fee of 1 cent per eligible property is estimated to raise $487 annually for county water programs. "We believe that this level of funding will be insufficient to support the people, programs and projects that will be necessary for the county to meet its obligations under the Watershed Implementation Plan and the new MS4 permit that we expect to issue to your county next month," stated an Oct. 25 letter written by Robert Summers, the state's environmental secretary. The county could get slapped with fines of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of its storm water permit, which is in the process of being renewed, the letter continued.

Speaking out against Myersville compressor station plans

Frederick News Post
Ann Nau
11/03/2013
Energy giants like Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based multi-billion dollar corporation, benefit when communities like ours don’t connect the dots between their plans and our health. In the case of Dominion’s $3.8 billion plan to liquefy and export natural gas from its Cove Point facility on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, you can bet they hope Frederick County residents don’t, because we could pay a particularly high price. As The News-Post has reported, a recent MIT study found that Maryland has a higher death rate due to air pollution than any other state, resulting in the premature deaths of 113 out of 100,000 people per year. In Baltimore, that number jumps to 130 per 100,000, and Frederick has similarly high rates. While I applaud the state’s efforts to improve Maryland’s air quality, as noted in the recent letter from Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert Summers, I am gravely concerned about the consequences if state and federal regulators allow Dominion to move forward with its toxic emissions-spewing export facility. The Cove Point terminal in Lusby, currently designed as a gas import facility, is already in an area that exceeds federal limits for ozone pollution, which triggers asthma attacks and worsens respiratory illnesses. The facilities that Dominion wants to add at Cove Point to liquefy gas for export would spew more ozone pollutants, belching 279.5 tons per year of nitrogen oxide and 33.2 tons per year of volatile organic compounds. But how does this connect to Frederick County? As Dominion and other companies race to export natural gas to overseas markets, driving up domestic prices, they’ll need a massive new network of infrastructure — pipelines and compressor stations — to transport gas from fracking operations to Cove Point. In fact, Dominion Transmission Inc. (DTI), a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, has proposed building a 16,000-horsepower compressor station in Frederick — within the town limits of Myersville, where I live, and less than 1 mile from our elementary school.

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.

Dozens speak out on Monrovia Town Center

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/31/2013
Opponents of the proposed Monrovia Town Center were easy to spot at a public hearing Wednesday night — they were the ones wearing Snickers bars fastened to their shirts. The candy bars were a playful reference to a statement made last week by the developer's attorney, who said the proposed 1,510-home development would be a walkable community where people wouldn't need a car to go for a quart of milk or a Snickers. But speakers Wednesday said in their view, the town center is anything but a well-planned project. One Ijamsville resident said when he first moved to his neighborhood, a cloudless night would offer a crisp view of the Milky Way. Since then, light pollution from development in Urbana has obscured some of Wally Melnik's night sky. "If the current Monrovia proposal is approved, I doubt that the Milky Way will be visible at all, one of the many great qualities of life of our rural community, destroyed by a few greedy individuals," Melnik said. The hearing before the Frederick County Planning Commission was the second of three scheduled to allow public comment on the proposed development at the junction of Md. 75 and Md. 80. During a couple of hours of testimony, the speakers repeated many concerns voiced last week, when hundreds flooded Winchester Hall to weigh in on the development. Wednesday night's hearing closed out testimony on the developers' rezoning application. Jim Gugel, county planner, said there are 109 people signed up to comment on the second matter before the planning commission, a long-term agreement between town center developers and the county. Testimony on the drafted agreement is scheduled for Nov. 6.

Monrovia Town Center Hearing Packs Winchester Hall

WHAG
10/30/2013
It was a packed room at Winchester Hall Wednesday night, but despite emotions running high it was quiet. The public was instructed to wave hands, and refrain from cheering and clapping to keep the meeting running in a timely manner. The Planning Commission has heard comments from hundreds who are against the Monrovia Town Center, including more than 1,500 houses, as well as commercial properties. "They want to take basically 1,500 new homes, carve it out from the farmland and dump it next to our community. It's going to more than triple the size of our town," said Steven McKay of Monrovia, the president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion. Residents are pushing for the Planning Commission to say no when they make a recommendation to the Frederick County Board of Commissioners on November 20th. "I'm for sustainable growth, but not over development. Our roads can't take the heavy traffic, there dangerous, now our schools are overcrowded," said Monrovia Resident Stan Mordensky. Hundreds of residents echoed the same concerns, the local schools already over crowded and the roads in no condition for increased traffic.

Maryland planning official says state not responsible for town center density

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/29/2013
Maryland planners are looking to correct the record after a Frederick County official said state smart growth rules are determining the density of a controversial 1,510-home development in Monrovia. The state does not control local growth decisions or decide the compactness of particular housing projects, a Maryland Department of Planning official wrote in an email to the Frederick County Planning Commission. The email’s author sent the correspondence to address “incorrect statements” made at a Wednesday hearing on the proposed Monrovia Town Center. During several hours of public testimony, some speakers objected to the dense housing arrangement planned for the town center and said they would prefer homes spaced out on 1- to 2-acre lots. Planning Commissioner Bill Hopwood responded that the state discourages these large-lot developments. He mentioned that the commission must follow Maryland mandates and said “five, 10 houses an acre, this is what the state tells us they want.” Not so, wrote David Cotton, of the state planning department. “The state has no authority over local zoning. The densities proposed for the Monrovia Town Center project are the result of local zoning and market forces,” wrote Cotton, western Maryland regional planner.

City Notes: State says Frederick is a sustainable city

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
10/27/2013
After a couple of years working hard to prove to the state how "green" it really is, Frederick is now certified as a sustainable city. The city was one of eight in the state to receive the Sustainable Maryland Certified award at the Maryland Municipal League conference last week. Joe Adkins, the city's deputy director of planning, has been working with staff and volunteers since 2011 to complete requirements for the certification. The city was ahead of the curve when it started to work on this. It had created a Sustainable Practice Action Plan back in 2009. Most of what the city needed to do was already done: farmers markets, mixed-use paths and bicycling initiatives, stormwater management, forestry preservation, housing elements, stream cleanup and buy-local initiatives. Other than that, Mayor Randy McClement just needed to establish a Green Initiative Team, which he did last year, Adkins said.

Who's paying attention?

Frederick News Post
Susan Hanson
10/25/2013
Last month we got the news (The News-Post, Sept. 18) that the MIT test of the air quality in Frederick is dismal. Frederick is almost as bad as Baltimore. Some officials are blaming the coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. Frederick County already pays a fee (called an offset) because of its poor air quality levels. This is before we have started adding the stuff that will come out of the incinerator once we start burning the trash and tires at this proposed facility. Is anyone out there paying attention and saying hmm, we’re going to have to pay a lot more for all of this additional smog? And this toxic stuff cannot be blamed on our neighbors.