'Friends of Frederick County' testimony regarding the Monrovia Town Center

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Wednesday, October 30, the Frederick County Planning Commission held a public hearing that was a continuation of a hearing a week earlier, on Wednesday, October 23, when the the planning commission began consideration of the proposed and controversial Monrovia Town Center. More specifically, these two agenda items:

1 – Rezoning of the agriculture land to Planned Unit Development (PUD)

2 – Finding of consistency of the Developer’s Rights and REsponsibilities Agreement (DRRA) with the Comprehensive Plan

Between 300-400 citizens showed up at the October 23rd hearing, filling the large first floor hearing room at Winchester Hall, and two additional meeting rooms (where attendees could watch on screen), and more than 170 people signed up to speak. Individuals were allowed to speak for three minutes. Recognized organizations had the opportunity to speak for up to ten minutes. The following is the testimony offered by Janice Wiles, the Director of Friends of Frederick County.

Janice Wiles, Director of Friends of Frederick County, providing testimony to the Frederick County Planning Commission. (Click on the image to open a larger version.)

Janice Wiles, Director of Friends of Frederick County, providing testimony to the Frederick County Planning Commission. (Click on the image to open a larger version.)

Testimony about the Planned Urban Development Amendment
for the Monrovia Town Center (PUD R-12-02)
Public Hearing before the Planning Commission
October 23, 2013

Good evening Frederick County Planning Commissioners.

I am Janice Wiles, Executive Director for Friends of Frederick County, an organization working to protect taxpayers and citizens through good planning, and environmental protections in economic growth, and pushing for transparency in local government. We believe in sound planning. We want to believe that the Frederick County Planning Commission does too.

So, let’s start from the beginning. The Monrovia Town Center is COMPLETELY unnecessary. In 2010 a plan was approved based on Maryland Department of Planning 20 year housing forecast demand; the plan called for building 36, 264 new homes to meet projections AND WE MET THOSE PROJECTIONS WITHOUT the Monrovia Town Center.

As an aside on projections, and as planners I’m sure you are aware that the WashCOG and MDP have since lessened their 20-year projections for Frederick County by at least 20%!

But as the story goes, the political will of our county has changed from leadership for the entire citizenry to helping a few who help you and your Board of County Commissioners. In this case all of these citizens here, many more families in Monrovia, and all taxpayers in Frederick County stand to lose because Roy Stanley, Howard Payne and Rand Weinberg want the Monrovia Town Center?

Well here’s what we want.

We want to believe that the Frederick County Planning Commissioners have carefully read the application for the Monrovia Town Center.

We want to believe that you have explored the area and thought long and hard about what it means to put 1500 homes on agricultural land.

We want to believe that you have studied the FCPS plans and the traffic impact analysis.

We want to believe that you have considered why this project was removed during the 2010 comprehensive process.

We want to believe that you are considering the needs and demands of the Frederick County community over the special interests and profits of the landowner, developer and attorney: 75/80 Properties LLC, Payne Investments LLC, and their attorney Rand Weinberg.

Let’s talk about our families and something we all care about – family values, like education.

Green Valley Elementary School sits across the street from the proposed MTC. And right across from the proposed – yet “mythical” – high school. At present day 82% state rated capacity afternoon pickups are a mess. Cars line the entire parking lot and loop out to the bus lanes under the new pickup policy. Parents and school officials there are nearing a grid-locked situation. As Planning Commissioners do you consider this a problem?

And then, what is your proposal to ensure that the development complies with Section 500.3 (J) of the zoning ordinance:

“Planned developments shall be served adequately by public facilities…. Additionally, increased demand for public facilities … created by the proposed development … shall be evaluated as adequate or to be made adequate within established county standards.”

While as Planning Commissioners I’m certain you know the following, but I will say it just in case there is doubt.

On May 22, 2013 the Frederick County Board of Education’ Educational Facilities Master Plan presentation projected the need for four new elementary schools to service the development in Linganore, New Market and Monrovia. Only one (1) new elementary school is planned for and budgeted. Moreoever that new school, the East County Elementary School, will not seat a single student for 8 years minimum. Planning Commissioners: where will the other 2100 kids go?

The problem is no better at the middle school level. Windsor Knolls Middle School is at its designed capacity. The BOE has stated that there are no plans to make it larger. There are also no plans, either budgeted or envisioned to add another middle school in this part of the county. Even after Urbana Middle is expanded, this part of the County is projected to be 108% of state rated capacity. There are no options put forth by either the county or the BOE to adequately deal with the 220 projected new middle school students from the proposed development. Planning Commissioners: what is your plan?

In closing we would like to clarify a few incompatibility issues with the MTC:

The zoning ordinance (sections 500.3 (C) and 100.4 (A)(4) dictates that the development be compatible with the existing community, or that “mitigation of the differences” are implemented. Please explain to the citizens of Monrovia how 9 homes/acre looks at all like what is there now – and thus compatible with the existing community.

Section 500.3 (H) dictates requirements for incorporating the existing natural features into the development. On page 12 of their staff report on the zoning amendment, the County states that “a previously approved Forest Stand Delineation associated with the prior PUD rezoning effort on this site has expired and must be updated and submitted prior to approval of this application.” We have seen no evidence of the Applicant meeting this requirement and, therefore, the zoning amendment should not be approved.

Perhaps the most revealing incompatibility is with the County’s Comprehensive Plan, that reads:

“The county shall focus a higher proportion of development within Community Growth Areas to protect green infrastructure land (Goal #13 , page 03-2) that “beyond the role of agriculture as part of the County’s economy is the effect agriculture has on how the County looks, its rural landscape of rolling hills and open vistas and its rural communities. For many residents and visitors, the County’s rural landscape and small towns are a defining contribution to the perception of the County as a unique place.”

That we work to “minimize the development in areas of our best agricultural lands to preserve critical masses of farmland” ( Preserving our Agricultural and Rural Community chapter policy #2 (page 05-2)

We request that the Planning Commission do its job and thoroughly review Monrovia Town Center PUD R-12-02 in the context of the county plan, the county’s residential needs, the impacts on infrastructure, the county’s citizen’s interests and quality of life.

More information

Friends of Frederick County

On the web: http://www.friendsoffrederickcounty.org

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foffc

Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE)

On the web: http://www.ralemonrovia.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RALE.Monrovia

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/RALEMonrovia

Frederick News Post article about the first hearing: “Proposed Monrovia Town Center draws crowds to county hearing

Download the staff reports for the hearing:

Monrovia Town Center PUD Zoning Map Amendment

Monrovia Town Center PUD DRRA (Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreement)

Location and extent of the proposed Monrovia Town Center. Click on the image to open a larger version.

Location and extent of the proposed Monrovia Town Center. Click on the image to open a larger version.