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.

Proposed Monrovia Town Center draws crowds to county hearing

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/24/2013
Dottie Hoffacker has lived in Frederick County since sixth grade but said if officials allow a 1,510-home development near her home, “I’m out.” She and her husband aren’t surprised that more homes are coming to Monrovia. Though they would love to “keep the cows and keep the corn” that characterize their community, they said growth is inevitable. But they said the proposed Monrovia Town Center would overwhelm their network of rural roads and crowd their local schools. The couple, their two children and more than 60 others stood on a chilly sidewalk Wednesday outside Winchester Hall to protest the development. Later, as the Frederick County Planning Commission began considering the proposed town center, rally attendees and many others crowded inside, filling the 204-person hearing room and spilling into overflow areas. The speaker sign-up sheets grew to more than 150 names, and county officials said they’d likely need a second hearing to conclude public testimony. After hearing all speakers, the planning commission will decide whether to recommend approval of the project’s rezoning request. The commission members will also evaluate a drafted long-term agreement between the county and developers. Lawrence said speakers who were unable to address the planning commission Wednesday can testify at an Oct. 30 hearing.

A missing balance

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
10/23/2013
The Frederick County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at Winchester Hall this evening regarding the proposed Monrovia Town Center development at the intersection of Md. 75 and Md. 80 in the southeast portion of the county. The hearing before the planning commission is the penultimate step in the approval process for a 25-year Development Rights and responsibilities Agreement that will allow for the construction of 1,510 new dwelling units and a small commercial center just west of Md. 75. Coupled with the already approved 1,100-unit Lansdale project adjacent and just west of the proposed Monrovia Town Center, this quiet area of rural subdivisions and large lots is projected to grow from a population of around 700 within a 1-mile radius to over 7,700. If approved, the character of the area will certainly be transformed. Some residents undoubtedly would prefer to leave things the way they are and it’s hard to blame them for feeling that they have no say in something that could profoundly change their everyday lives.

Gray: More of the same coming from this BoCC

Frederick News Post
David Gray
10/08/2011
We are coming to the end of the third year of a developer-controlled majority of the Board of County Commissioners. You might think their anti-environment, anti-education and budget-depleting gifts to their friends and contributors would begin to subside. Not so. There’s more coming — and soon. ----- There is one year left for this BoCC majority to undermine good planning and give county funds away for developer interests, and other special friends like Aurora healthcare. As a commissioner now for 19 years I have never seen a group of elected commissioners who so blatantly favor their personal and special interests over the citizens and future well-being of this county. I am disgusted to witness these and prior actions of the last three years that leave a legacy of environmental neglect, growing bills and future tax increases, in the millions, to be shouldered by Frederick County taxpayers.

Arguments heard in comp plan lawsuit against county

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/23/2013
A legal challenge to the county's long-range growth plan should be tossed out of court unless commissioners made an error of constitutional proportions, county attorneys argued Tuesday. On the opposite side of the courtroom, attorneys contended that judicial oversight of local government extends beyond the limits of the state and federal constitutions. During a court hearing that stretched into early afternoon, debate centered on whether a judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed against the county. The plaintiffs, including a number of county residents and the nonprofit Friends of Frederick County, take issue with how and why commissioners changed the comprehensive plan, a document officials use to map a 20-year course for local growth. Rather than considering the county as a whole, commissioners simply eased development restrictions on a handful of properties, the plaintiffs argue. The underlying reason for making the changes was to increase land values, an improper motivation, according to the complainants.

City's appeal board reconsidering Citizens, Montevue subdivision

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
10/23/2013
The members of Frederick’s Zoning Board of Appeals are considering whether to reverse the city Planning Commission’s decision to subdivide Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility. Subdividing the land allows the Board of County Commissioners to proceed with selling it and privatize the centers. On Tuesday night, the board heard a May 7 appeal of the Planning Commission decision from Frederick law firm Powell Flynn, filed on behalf of Janie Denn and Kathleen Murphy, who live near the centers, and Charles Trunk III, former chairman of the Citizens and Montevue board of trustees. But no decisions were made Tuesday; the board continued the item to another hearing. About 40 residents attended the appeal hearing, often scoffing when the county and city attorneys spoke. On behalf of the appellants, attorney Paul Flynn of Powell Flynn said Tuesday that when considering the subdivision request, the Planning Commission should have considered the potential sale of the land, and should have realized the impact the subdivision and sale would have on the community. The county’s application was also incomplete at the time the commission approved it, making it defective when filed, Flynn said. When approving the subdivision, the Planning Commission members stated that, because they were approving a subdivision request only, the potential sale and use of the land were not in their purview. The Planning Commission made several errors regarding their analysis of the case, Zoning Board of Appeals chair Jim Racheff said. Racheff said the commission never bothered to ask the intent of the subdivision, and it seems from their testimony that they did not feel they were allowed. Because they did not think they could ask of the intent, “they just simply didn’t consider any of these elements” of whether there are mitigating factors on the impact of the land. Racheff said that the Planning Commission erred when considering the code. There should have been a lot more delving into the issue, said board member Gail Colby.

Catoctin Forest Alliance showcases achievements

Frederick News Post
Kelsi Loos
10/21/2013
Organizers hope that a public meeting covering the Catoctin Forest Alliance’s accomplishments will spur membership. The alliance invited the public Sunday to Thurmont Regional Library to listen to speakers and learn from displays detailing projects in the park. Guests could also enjoy folk music and art inspired by the Catoctin Mountain Park. “We’re trying to elicit help from those who might be interested in the same things we are,” alliance secretary Linda Sundergill said. The goal of the Catoctin Forest Alliance is to support Catoctin Mountain and Cunningham Falls parks in any way possible, said conservation and education committee chairwoman Elizabeth Prongas.

One in four county bridges in line for upgrades

Frederick News Post
Kelsi Loos
10/20/2013
Keeping Maryland's bridges safe for traffic is a big job. Frank Mills, a State Highway Administration supervisor, oversees 18 inspectors who work in seven teams to check the integrity of bridges and overpasses around the state. “A lot of them work seven days a week,” he said. Inspectors check welds, bearings, cement and guardrails for deficiencies. They also make sure a thick coat of paint is in place to prevent rust damage. “We use pretty simple tools, geology picks, that kind of thing,” Mills said. A geology pick is a small hammer often used to chip rocks. When counties issue a flood warning, like Frederick did earlier this month, crews check bridges for scour — or erosion — on bridge pillars as waters rise. Mills' crew has thousands of bridges to inspect and keeping up with all of them can be challenging, he said. “We're always shoveling sand against the tide,” he said.

County responds to legal challenge of Citizens, Montevue sale

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/19/2013
A roughly 200-year-old deed doesn't present an obstacle in Frederick County's move to privatize its nursing home and assisted living centers, attorneys for the county argue. In response to a legal complaint filed by sale opponents, the county's attorneys assert that governments must have the flexibility to dispose of property if they feel it is the best interests of citizens. Operations at Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living have cost taxpayers more than $53 million since 2000, and county officials have the authority to decide when enough is enough, attorneys wrote in legal filings. Those who want the county to keep Citizens and Montevue have challenged the sale with a pair of cases filed in Frederick County Circuit Court. Earlier this month, attorneys for the county submitted a defense to the larger of the two cases. The filing zeroed in on debate surrounding a deed drawn up in 1828 when Elias Brunner sold 88 acres to the county "for the Benefit of the Poor of said County, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever." The plaintiffs have argued this statement clashes with the county's plan to hand over the facilities to a for-profit company. Montevue provides reduced-cost, assisted living care to residents who cannot afford to pay full price.

Young describes closed-session votes on Monrovia

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/15/2011
County Commissioners President Blaine Young says if he’d had his way three years ago, the proposed Monrovia Town Center development might be smaller and sit next to a large tract of agriculturally preserved land. To top it off, a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the county might not be simmering in federal court, he says. The 1,510-home project now moving through the public hearing process has caused a stir in the Monrovia area, whose residents argue the planned development would overburden their roads and schools. Moreover, some say the opinions of current Monrovia residents haven’t played a significant role in county decisions that will reshape their community. Young asserts that the project has been years in the making, and waves of public officials have targeted the Monrovia area as an appropriate venue for Frederick County’s future growth. The last county board, led by Commissioners President Jan Gardner, missed an opportunity to limit the number of homes in the town center and resolve ongoing litigation against the county, he said. “This could’ve been settled by the previous board,” Young said after describing closed-session votes under the Gardner board. Citizen activists say Young’s descriptions of past closed-door decisions amount to nothing more than blame-shifting. “He’s pointing the finger now, trying to sway people to believe it was other people that put him in this position,” said Amy Reyes, vice president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a group of town center opponents. According to Young, in the first half of 2010, the commissioners were discussing a $50 million lawsuit filed against the county by the developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC. In a closed session on April 1, 2010, the commissioners talked about allowing between 825 and 875 units on the property as long as the developer agreed to place an agricultural easement on property to the east of Md. 75, Young said. While he and Commissioner Kai Hagen supported making the proffer, Gardner and commissioners John L. “Lennie” Thompson Jr. and David Gray opposed it, he said. Young said the vote shows that even Hagen, who is “always seen as the foremost guru on planning,” recognized that housing growth would come to Monrovia. Hagen doesn’t want to get into a back-and-forth over the details of a closed-session vote, he said, but he doesn’t trust Young’s characterization of the decision. While he was open-minded about the town center project, he ultimately concluded that the local infrastructure wasn’t sufficient to accommodate the development, he said. The proposed town center site was among the areas that lost growth potential under the comprehensive plan adopted by the Gardner board, Hagen noted. Young was the only commissioner to vote against that long-range growth planning document. Hagen added that a closed-session vote on a lawsuit is a far cry from backing a development plan. “(Young) is mischaracterizing a thorough, honest process of gathering information and fully understanding the costs and impacts of the development with vacillating on the issue,” Hagen said.

Potomac Conservancy Urges Citizens To Speak Out Against Stream Buffer Changes

WFMD
Kevin McManus
10/15/2013
A regional organization is urging Frederick County citizens to speak out against proposed changes to stream buffer regulations. In an e-mail sent out last week, the Potomac Conservancy said residents need to tell the Commissioners to vote against changes to the Waterbody Buffer Amendment."It's {the current regulations} a proven, cost-effective methodology that will help reduce flooding on rainy days, and also keep pollutants out of much of the drinking water supply," says Hedrick Belin, President of the Potomac River Conservancy. The revisions would reduce the minimum setbacks for buildings being constructed near bodies of water, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules for the Lake Linganore area.

Court: Federal laws supersede local zoning ordinances for proposed gas compressor station in Myersville

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
10/09/2013
When the Myersville Town Council denied a request last year to build a 16,000-horsepower gas compressor station in the western Frederick County municipality, arguing that local ordinances preclude the project, Dominion Transmission Inc. disagreed and sued Myersville.The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled Monday that local zoning laws are pre-empted by the federal Natural Gas Act. According to the court ruling, those portions of the town code that prevent the siting, construction or operation of the Myersville compressor station are null and void. Dominion also sought an injunction against Myersville, alleging the town was delaying the process to build the station, but the court denied Dominion’s request, saying that the company has not completed other required processes for the Maryland Department of the Environment’s air quality permit. The gas compressor station, which compresses natural gas and pushes it forward, is part of a larger project being built to deal with customer demand for natural gas, according to DTI. The fight to keep the gas compressor station out of Myersville is not over.

Monrovia Town Center opponents scrutinize [Blaine] Young’s campaign donations

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/09/2013
Opponents of a proposed 1,510-home project in Monrovia are raising questions about campaign contributions that Commissioners President Blaine Young has accepted from companies linked to the developers. Donations totaling $28,000 poured into Young’s campaign coffers Oct. 29, 2012, from seven companies whose resident agent is helping head up the Monrovia Town Center project. The same day, the campaign received an additional $3,000 from 75-80 Dragway Inc., a company that owns some of the property slated for development. As county officials prepare to hold an Oct. 23 hearing on the project, residents around the 457-acre site are crying foul. “I think it’s a gross conflict of interests, and it’s been one since that donation took place,” said Steve McKay, president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a citizens group that has vocally protested the town center plans. McKay’s group argues the town center would destroy Monrovia’s rural character and says the local roads and schools cannot support hundreds of new homes. While the donations to Young’s campaign were legal, McKay noted that they came a couple of weeks before town center developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC, turned in the rezoning applications for their project.

Monrovia Town Center opponents scrutinize [Blaine] Young's campaign donations

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/09/2013
Opponents of a proposed 1,510-home project in Monrovia are raising questions about campaign contributions that Commissioners President Blaine Young has accepted from companies linked to the developers. Donations totaling $28,000 poured into Young’s campaign coffers Oct. 29, 2012, from seven companies whose resident agent is helping head up the Monrovia Town Center project. The same day, the campaign received an additional $3,000 from 75-80 Dragway Inc., a company that owns some of the property slated for development. As county officials prepare to hold an Oct. 23 hearing on the project, residents around the 457-acre site are crying foul. “I think it’s a gross conflict of interests, and it’s been one since that donation took place,” said Steve McKay, president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a citizens group that has vocally protested the town center plans. McKay’s group argues the town center would destroy Monrovia’s rural character and says the local roads and schools cannot support hundreds of new homes. While the donations to Young’s campaign were legal, McKay noted that they came a couple of weeks before town center developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC, turned in the rezoning applications for their project.

County considers reducing stream buffer requirement

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/8/2013
Houses might be allowed a little closer to Frederick County streams if officials decide to relax certain water body buffer requirements. On Wednesday, members of the Frederick County Planning Commission will review drafted amendments to the local rules for buffers. The proposed changes would reduce minimum building setbacks, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules that apply in the Lake Linganore area. The county is tackling the stream buffer ordinance as it works through a list of suggestions for making the region more friendly to businesses. Dusty Rood, president of the Land Use Council, said the proposed changes are minor and would make the stream buffer rules more compatible with state environmental standards. However, others think the drafted changes would weaken county laws and lead to stream pollution. The current water body buffer ordinance was passed in 2008, under the board led by Commissioners President Jan Gardner, said Tim Goodfellow, principal planner for the county. Before the ordinance was enacted, the minimum setback was only 50 feet, Goodfellow said. Determining proper setbacks now involves looking at the 175-foot slice of land on either side of a stream or surrounding a body of water. The proposed changes would reduce the study area to 150 feet on each side of a stream, Goodfellow said. The studies examine the slope of the land surrounding the water bodies; for areas with predominantly steep slopes, buildings must sit at least 175 feet away from the water. The minimum buffer is 150 feet where slopes are mostly moderate, and for gentle inclines or flat areas, the setback is 100 feet, Goodfellow said.

Officials in holding pattern on waste-to-energy

Young: Incinerator's future is uncertain
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/06/2013
An effort to build a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick County remains on ice as the state weighs a trio of environmental permits. County officials expected the permitting process would be wrapped up by August. More than a month later, they are not sure how much longer it will take. With leaders from Frederick County, Carroll County and possibly other jurisdictions locked in a holding pattern, Commissioners President Blaine Young says the fate of the waste-to-energy project is unclear. "I think it's a coin toss," Young said. "I don't feel confident to say the project is dead. I don't feel confident to say the project is a go." Frederick County leaders are waiting to determine whether it still makes financial sense to build a facility that would consume trash to generate electricity. Carroll County, a partner in the project, wants to back out, but must find a replacement or pay a fine. And no replacement partner is going to show serious interest until the project secures its approvals from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Young said."Nobody really knows where these permits are at and where the issue is here," he said. A spokeswoman for the state agency wrote in late September that "MDE is still working through the permit process" and doesn't have a set date for completion.

Incinerator will add to air pollution

Frederick News Post
Ellis Burruss
10/1/2013
The letter in Sunday’s Frederick News-Post from Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers clearly describes the difficulty of cleaning the air we breathe while it’s being polluted from neighboring states. As the Sept. 18 editorial pointed out: Air pollution in Frederick County is at a dangerous level and can affect the health of all county residents. However, while Mr. Summers’ concern for stopping pollution from other states is very important, it should be noted that his agency is currently reviewing permit applications for a trash incinerator that will add a significant amount of pollution to our already burdened local atmosphere. The incinerator, which is planned to be built right off English Muffin Way in south Frederick, will burn 1,500 tons a day of mixed trash, old tires and sewage sludge. Despite “state of the art” pollution controls, incinerators are major sources of highly toxic pollutants and carcinogens, chemicals that form ozone (smog), and fine particles that are so small that they can reach the deepest parts of the lung and cross directly into the bloodstream. Because our local air is already so polluted, the hundreds of tons of nitrogen oxides emitted from the incinerator will require us (the taxpayers) to purchase pollution offsets from other communities. We will still breathe the pollution and we’ll have to pay for the privilege!

Frederick’s Next Dead Mall

Frederick Gorilla
Matt Edens
09/30/2013
Well, that’s settled: We’re getting another Walmart. In July, the Board of Aldermen approved the controversial rezoning that will make way for a new Walmart Supercenter in the middle of what was once Frederick Towne Mall. Opinions varied widely in the often acrimonious debate leading up to the vote. The most outspoken proponents promised that the big box retailer would be the boost the area needs to reclaim its past glory as a shopping destination. Meanwhile, the direst opponents painted the supercenter’s grand opening as a dark day that would bring the Golden Mile — and maybe America — one step closer to oblivion. By and large, I doubt either prediction will come to fruition. In fact, that’s primarily why I opposed the rezoning. Choosing general commercial over the mixed-use model that’s been the key component of at least half a dozen successful shopping center makeovers in the region essentially preserves the status quo. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that in 10 years the Golden Mile will remain what it is today: a struggling retail strip, albeit one with a Walmart. I doubt it will have a Kmart, however.

Citizens Group Raises Concerns About Residential Development

WFMD
Kevin McManus
09/29/2013
The discussion over 8300 new homes planned for the Monrovia is heating up. Members of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion say they're worried about that many homes in their neighborhood. which they say it could increase traffic on Route 75, which can't handle it, and overcrowd area schools. RALE President Steve McKay also says he's worried about a campaign contribution to Frederick County Commissioners' President Blaine Young during the 2010 election. McKay says the developer of the Monrovia Town Center, his wife, and four limited liability companies gave a total of $24,000 to Young's campaign. Two weeks later, the developer filed an application for the project. "When you can so specifically tie a contributor with a development application, that may make a world of difference legally, but I don't think it makes a wit of difference to people on the outside looking in who say 'hey, that's a conflicted situation.'" McKay says. He notes it's legal, but it's not ethical. RALE asks in a news release whether there's a conflict of interest when Young accepts money from a developer whose application he will preside over.