MDP letter corrects misstatements from Monrovia developers and Planning Commission members

On Wednesday (October 23), the Frederick County Planning Commission held a public hearing on two separate agenda items related to the proposed and controversial Monrovia Town Center.

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

Dozens of people attended a rally prior to the hearing, and between 300-400 people attended the hearing, filling the large, first floor hearing room at Winchester Hall, and two other meeting rooms in the building (where the proceedings could be watched on television). All but a very few were there to express their opposition to the very large, high density development which is proposed for the rolling farmland on both sides of Route 75.

MTChearingcrowd500w

Before any citizens were able to offer testimony, representatives of the Monrovia Town Center developers had the opportunity to describe and defend their development plans, and to respond to any questions from the members of the Planning Commission. During that time, Planning Commissioner Hopwood, the applicant’s attorney Rand Weinberg, and County Commissioner Blaine Young (who is the BOCC liaison to the Planning Commission) each asserted, in different ways, that state requirements made it necessary for the development to be a high density development.

The repeated emphasis on that point was clearly a pre-emptive response to one of the most significant of many concerns that have been expressed by residents of the area: That the development is too big and dense for a largely rural community of farms, wooded stream valleys and older, low density, large lot neighborhoods. Residents are concerned that the development does not fit the nature and character of the area, and that it will dramatically change it.

The size and density of the development has also raised serious concerns about school overcrowding and traffic congestion that can not be adequately addressed by the impact fees and proffers from the developers of the properties. Both of those concerns were greatly magnified when the development, which was originally planned as an age-restricted community (that would have generated very few students and put fewer commuters on the road), was allowed to shed that designation.

(Click on image to open a larger version.)

(Click on image to open a larger version.)

As it turns out, there was a representative of the Maryland Department of Planning in the audience.

On Friday afternoon, the Planning Commission and county planning staff received an email from David Cotton, on behalf of the Maryland Department of Planning. The email was sent to correct the assertions that the State of Maryland has mandated the high density being planned for the Monrovia Town Center.

Here is the text of that email:

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From: David Cotton
Date: October 25, 2013 at 1:15:33 PM EDT
To: “‘PlanningCommission@FrederickCountyMD.gov'” , “jgugel@frederickcountymd.gov” , “‘esoter@frederickcountymd.gov'”
Cc: Richard Josephson , Chuck Boyd , Peter Conrad , Richard Hall , Bill Atkinson , “Amy Reyes”
Subject: Correction to Planning Commission Statements

Planning Commission Members:

We would like to comment on incorrect statements made by a member of the Frederick County Planning Commission during their Monrovia Town Center PUD DRRA public hearing on October 23, 2013. The incorrect statement was that the State of Maryland, the Governor, mandates the densities that the County has to use. It was said that “the State wants this!”, that “5-10 houses on an acre is what the State tells us they want”; that the Commission has laws they have to follow.

Please be aware that development densities are governed by local zoning laws. Development densities are established by Frederick County through adoption of zoning laws and zoning maps. 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.

It is the decision of the local government on what type of zoning and land development requirements to place on property within its jurisdiction. The state does not mandate a certain zoning densities nor where such densities are placed. If, however, a local government wants State infrastructure assistance, the area must comply with the 1997 Priority Funding Areas Act (PFA) that directs State spending to existing communities and places where local governments want State investment to support future growth. State growth-related assistance covered by the legislation include most State programs that encourage or support growth and development such as highways, sewer and water construction, economic development assistance, and State leases or construction of new office facilities. The PFA legislation recognizes the important role local governments play in managing growth and determining the locations most suitable for State-funded projects. Counties may designate areas as Priority Funding Areas if they meet guidelines for intended use, availability of plans for sewer and water systems, and permitted residential density.

While the State, encourages local governments to direct commercial and residential development to areas that have existing and planned public facilities, we have no authority over local planning and zoning decisions.

Respectfully,

David V. Cotton
Maryland Department of Planning
301-777-2161
http://planning.maryland.gov/

In an email, Steve McKay, of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE), wrote that RALE was circulating the MDP letter to supporters. He wrote that people “have already started generating angry letters to the BoCC and Planning Commission about the lying that’s been going on.” Adding that “It would be nice if the County starts doing some explaining for their past statements…but I won’t be holding my breath.”

The Planning Commission was expected to decide whether to recommend approval of the rezoning at the end of the hearing on Wednesday. But that decision has been delayed because, even with a three minute limit per speaker, there was no way to hear from all of the 150 citizens that signed up to speak at the hearing.

To accommodate all who came to speak, the meeting was extended to include a second evening, which has been scheduled for Wednesday, October 30. According to Planning Commission Chair Robert Lawrence, anyone who signed up to speak will be able to testify next Wednesday.

Although those who were not signed up will not be able to testify, the record is still open and others can communicate with the members of the Planning Commission by email: PlanningCommission@FrederickCountyMD.gov

The Planning Commission can expect to hear from many more concerned — and angry — citizens on this issue.


More information

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

On the web: RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion

On Facebook: RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion

On Twitter: @RALEMonrovia

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.