Help protect Frederick County’s farming future: Repeal the ARTO!

If you oppose the development of scattered sprawl across Frederick County farmland, please consider attending the County Council hearing this Tuesday evening (at 7:00 PM in Winchester Hall) about a bill to repeal the farm-to-farm transfer of development rights ordinance that was passed at the end of the Blaine Young-led Board of County Commissioners.

Voice your support for the repeal of this ill-advised ordinance.

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Council Bill 16-07 repeals the Agricultural Rights Transfer Ordinance (aka “ARTO”) which permits the transfer of residential development rights from one agriculturally zoned property to only another agriculturally zoned property. It was approved by the outgoing Board of County Commissioners after the 2014 election, but just before the County Executive and County Council took office.

The ARTO is a developer-initiated and poorly conceived application of a land use and planning tool knows as the “Transfer of Development Rights” (TDR). Used properly, a TDR program can be a way to preserve farmland and direct development where it is planned, and where there is adequate infrastructure. But the Frederick County version allows the transfer of residential development rights from one agricultural property to only other agricultural properties. And the development rights transferred are not even confirmed build-able lots. Our current ordinance encourages checkerboard sprawl development, on well and septic systems, instead of directing it to areas designated for growth in the county comprehensive plan.

The ordinance makes Frederick one of very few counties allowing farm-to-farm transfers of residential development rights without concern for infrastructure or growth areas.

There are a lot of good reasons to direct housing developments to areas planned for growth instead of farmland. An important one is maintaining a critical mass of contiguous farmland to ensure the viability of the local agricultural community and economy.

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As isolated housing developments fragment farmland, sharing equipment and farm workers becomes more difficult. As farmland is lost to housing developments, the goods and services needed by working farms must often be drawn from further away at much greater expense.

And it’s not uncommon for there to be conflicts between working farms and adjoining residential developments, often over issues like noise, odors, and dust. Even in a right-to-farm county, such conflicts pose a threat to continued agricultural operations.

There are many ways to support farming and farmers in our county. Enabling randomly placed and scattered housing developments throughout our agricultural areas is not one of them.

Please let the Council know that you support the repeal bill.

Whether you can attend the public hearing or not, please take a moment to sign the petition supporting a council bill to repeal the farm-to-farm transfer ordinance for residential development rights.
https://act.myngp.com/Forms/-3184944343806702848

Here is the basic text of the petition:

Frederick County – Repeal the ARTO

Good news! A bill currently before the Frederick County Council would repeal the Agricultural Rights Transfer Ordinance (ARTO). This repeal is long overdue. The ARTO is a farm-to-farm transfer ordinance for residential development rights. In most communities that allow development rights to be transferred, they go to areas planned for growth – not farmland. Let’s keep farmers farming and not lose rural Frederick to checkerboard sprawl development!

The County Council’s public hearing on the bill is Tuesday, June 21 at 7 PM in Winchester Hall (12 East Church Street). This is an important opportunity to voice your support. Please joins us!


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Here is an information-packed piece that Envision published when the original legislation was still being considered (the BOCC ended up passing the worst possible version of it, over the objections of county staff and most of the members of the working group that was set up to explore the possibilities):

Envision Frederick County
Preserving farmland or promoting sprawl with “rural-to-rural” TDRs
August 26, 2013


Listen to Kimberly Brandt and Kai Hagen discuss this issue on Eye on our Community on Monday, from 5:00 to 6:00pm (the show will also be available online after it airs).

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(click on the image to open a larger version)


Below is the text of a letter from the “Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County” to the members of the County Council:

June 21, 2016

The Honorable Frederick County Council

Winchester Hall
12 East Church Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Re: Council Bill 16-07, Agricultural Rights Transfer Ordinance Repeal

Dear Council President Otis and Members of the Council,

The Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County is a coalition of local and state organizations representing approximately 16,000 members and supporters in Frederick County. We are working to engage residents and policy makers in support of wise land use that values our rural landscapes, protects our natural resources, and builds on the unique character of our towns and cities to ensure a more resilient and prosperous future.

We strongly support Council Bill 16-07, which repeals the Agricultural Rights Transfer Ordinance (ARTO).

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) is one of many tools for ensuring that development proceeds in a manner consistent with the comprehensive plan, the county’s blueprint for how and where it will grow. The ARTO, which permits the transfer of residential development rights from one agriculturally zoned parcel to only another agriculturally zoned parcel, is a poorly-conceived application of TDRs that undermines the principles and goals of the comprehensive plan.

While we support the concept of providing farmers with the option of transferring their development rights, we believe those rights should be transferred to areas targeted for growth in the comprehensive plan – not other agricultural properties. And, as a document crafted through a deliberative process including extensive public input, it is important that the comprehensive plan be followed.

As you heard at your work session on this matter, the ARTO will ultimately result in a net loss of agricultural land because it was not crafted to require that only buildable lots be transferred.

Increased development is encouraged and enabled by the transfer of development rights that would never have been realized because of site constraints or failed percolation tests on the sending property.

Additionally, in encouraging residential development in agricultural areas, the ARTO is at odds with the goal of maintaining a critical mass of contiguous farmland to ensure the viability of the local agricultural economy. As housing developments separate farms, sharing equipment and farm workers becomes more difficult. As farmland is lost to housing developments, the goods and services needed by working farms must often be drawn from further away at much greater expense.

Likewise, residential development in agricultural areas has the potential to create conflicts with active agricultural operations on adjoining properties. Even in a right-to-farm county, such conflicts pose a threat to continued agricultural operations. At a time when local food is very much in demand and food security is an increasing concern, the ARTO seems tremendously short-sighted. The county should be working to keep farmers farming, not encouraging checkerboard sprawl development on well and septic where it is not planned or desirable.

We very much appreciate your consideration of these comments and, again, ask that you repeal the ARTO as proposed in Council Bill 16-07.

Sincerely,

1000 Friends of Maryland ● Audubon MD-DC ● Audubon Society of Central Maryland ● Citizens for the Preservation of Middletown Valley ● Cleanwater Linganore ● Clean Water Action ● Coalition for Smarter Growth ● Envision Frederick County ● Frederick Zero Waste Alliance ● Friends of Frederick County ● Maryland League of Conservation Voters ● Maryland Native Plant Society ● Montgomery Countryside Alliance ● Potomac Riverkeeper Network ● Preservation Maryland ● Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE) ● Rochdale Initiatives LLC ● Sierra Club Catoctin Group

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