Monrovia Town Center Phase 2 Hearing (Wednesday): Patronage or Planning?

On Wednesday, November 19th, at 9:30 in the morning, the Frederick County Planning Commission will review the Combined Preliminary Subdivision/Site Development Plan for the Monrovia Town Center PUD. At the hearing, the Commission will also review the commercial site planned for the site of the current dragstrip and Wilcom’s Inn.


Many of you probably attended one or more of the thirteen evenings of public hearings for the Phase 1 PUD rezoning, the eighteen-year Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA), and the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Letter of Understanding (APFO LOU). You may recall from those hearings that many important questions were left unanswered, or answered only by “We don’t know” or “Phase 2.”

Well, this is now the Phase 2 hearing and this is now the time to get answers to all of the questions, concerns, and issues that were left unaddressed.


This hearing shouldn’t be happening now. It has been less than six months since the Phase 1 approval. This is a very large and complex development with many significant and unresolved infrastructure issues. There is simply no way that the planning process leading to this review has been as thorough and complete as it ought to be. Clearly, considerations other than proper planning have guided the process and set this timetable – and those would be political considerations.

And so, in the last few days of the Blaine Young board, following Mr. Young’s sound defeat at the polls on November 4th, he appears to be rushing one significant decision after another through the county’s approval process. Mr. Young continues to put promises to his campaign contributors above the health, safety, and welfare of Frederick County’s residents. (NOTE that Mr Young’s campaign received $67,500 from the MTC developers, and roughly $700,000.00 from development interests overall.)

As far as many are concerned, Mr. Young’s departure can’t come soon enough. But we worry about how much more damage he’ll leave in his wake.

This hearing shouldn’t be scheduled on a weekday morning. Many hundreds of Frederick County residents attended the first thirteen evenings of hearings. I emphasize evenings because that’s when they were held, in recognition of the intense community interest in the proceedings.


The first hearing alone witnessed 350 to 400 people attend the Planning Commission event – a truly unprecedented turn-out for a zoning hearing.

Throughout those hearings, residents raised many specific concerns, and asked many questions. A great many of those concerns and questions were not addressed or answered at the time, as attendees were repeatedly told that it was something that would be addressed at “Phase 2.” By holding the Phase 2 hearing in the morning, when most people are at work, this Planning Commission has effectively disenfranchised most of those residents whose questions were unanswered and for whom attending a daytime hearing is difficult or impossible. For instance, in order to attend, I’ll have to take a vacation day, while hoping my office isn’t so busy that my absence will cause problems.

Dozens of residents wrote to the Planning Commission requesting that they postpone the hearing to a day and evening when people could attend. County Executive-elect Jan Gardner made a similar request. So too did District 2 Councilman-elect Tony Chmelik.

During their meeting on November 12th, the Planning Commission addressed the request to reschedule the hearing. Jim Gugel on the county planning staff presented the topic, and then he went further, recommending against holding the hearing in the evening. He said that they always hold Phase 2 hearings during the daytime and that it would set a bad precedent.

That theme guided the entire short-lived conversation that followed, and it was all about “we’re not going to change how we do business.”

There was no discussion about how many people attended the Phase 1 hearings. There was no discussion about how many unresolved questions remained after Phase 1. There was no discussion about the appropriateness of holding the hearing so quickly after Phase 1, and so urgently before the end of November. There wasn’t even a discussion about the importance of including citizens in this process. None of it.

Not only did they ignore what should have been a significant consideration guiding their decision, they based their decision to not postpone the hearing on a false premise. The Planning Commission has held Phase 2 hearings in the evening. Just recently, for instance, the Ramsburg PUD Phase 2 hearing was held at night, in response to requests from residents of the area. The precedent had already been set!

As the Chair began to make a motion to vote on the request, a citizen stepped up to the podium. He politely asked if he would be able to comment on the issue before they took a vote. The Chair politely told the citizen that he wanted to get the motion out and then they would discuss whether to hear public comment before the vote. But then, only 30 seconds later, they voted anyway!

No input from the residents in attendance, and no regard for their written requests. In fact, there wasn’t one moment in that entire brief consideration of this request when they actually spoke about the interests or concerns of the citizens.

Not one!


So on this Wednesday, November 19th, we’ll make another trip to Winchester Hall, hoping — once again — that a development of this size and significance will be subjected to a responsible and proper process. The Monrovia Town Center will irrevocably effect and change our community, especially because the proposed development is completely unsupported by existing or planned infrastructure improvements. Many issues should cause responsible planners to object to Monrovia Town Center. Among them, Maryland Route 75 remains the single largest concern.

Last March, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning based in large part on the argument that the county made the improvement of the roadway its top priority. However, we know that the Maryland Department of Transportation rejected that priority, provided no funding, and even chastised the county for not doing enough on its own.

In April, the Board of County Commissioners attempted to justify their approval of the rezoning request in part on a letter from the Frederick Area Transportation Committee (FACT). The FACT letter endorsed the development and went so far as to say that the development would actually hasten the improvement of MD 75. However, we now know that the FACT letter was a complete sham, written by a relative of someone on the development team, and never endorsed by FACT’s board.

There is still no solution for the safety and traffic congestion on MD 75 that will result from this development.

There is no plan to improve the roadway past the immediate area of the development. Young drivers heading north to high school from the new community will face dangerous curves at the bottom of a long hill. Residents along the roadway will face the everyday challenge of safely entering and exiting their driveways. All southbound drivers will face the challenge of morning traffic backups at Hyattstown, with no solution to that problem on anybody’s planning horizon.

All of these arguments and many more need to be adequately addressed at the Phase 2 hearing.

All of the questions that were asked and unanswered during Phase 1 must be answered on Wednesday. I know it’s a challenge to attend a daytime hearing but I hope many of you will join us in fighting for our community.


Staff Reports

Here is the staff report for the PUD:
Combined Preliminary Subdivision/Site Development Plan

Staff report for the commercial portion – this is area of Wilcom’s Inn and the main portion of the dragstrip:
Planned Commercial Site Development Plan Approval

Transcripts of the BoCC Phase 1 hearings

Zoning hearings at Urbana High and Winchester Hall:

January 14, 2014
(Note: cross examination of staff begins on page 9, cross examination of the applicant begins on page 62.)

January 15, 2014
(Note: cross examination of the applicant continues on page 1.)

January 16, 2014

Zoning hearings reconvened at Winchester Hall following Blaine’s revisions:

April 8, 2014
(Note: cross examination of staff begins on page 17, and cross-examination of the applicant begins on page 141.)

April 9, 2014
(Note: cross examination of the application continues on page 1.)

DRRA hearings at Winchester Hall:

April 10, 2014
(Note: cross examination of the staff begins on page 6, and cross examination of the applicant begins on page 44.)

Completion of DRRA hearings and final decisions:

April 23, 2014
(Note: cross examination of the applicant continues on page 1)

Zoning ordinance signed on 29 May 2014

Frederick News Post
Letter to the Editor (Steve McKay)
Wrong time of day for hearing on Monrovia project
Friday, November 14, 2014

EXCERPT: “After reading The Frederick News-Post’s article Thursday about Wednesday’s planning commission meeting, I wanted to share another part of the meeting that was overlooked. At the beginning of the session, county planning Director Jim Gugel raised the topic of the many requests that have been received by the county and the commission to postpone the upcoming Phase 2 hearing on Monrovia Town Center. They have scheduled that review at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. This promises to be a time when most people can’t attend. After all, many of us work for a living. Hundreds of people attended the first hearings on Monrovia Town Center. Many questions were asked and answered only with “we don’t know” and “that’s a Phase 2 issue.” This is the Phase 2 hearing at which those questions should be answered and this planning commission doesn’t appear to want to give people that opportunity.”

RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion on the web.

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@RALEMonrovia on Twitter.

Previous Guest Blog entries about this issue:

Monrovia Town Center – When is a FACT NOT a Fact?

Final Monrovia Town Center Public Hearings: April 23rd & 24th

A citizen speaks out about the Monrovia Town Center and the county commissioners

Controversial Monrovia Town Center comes down to final…and vital…public hearings

New Monrovia Town Center Hearings Start on Wednesday, March 19


Say NO to the Monrovia Town Center! Say no to sprawl, congestion, overcrowded schools and massive subsidies to developers

BOCC hearing on Monrovia Town Center next week matters to all county residents and taxpayers!

‘Friends of Frederick County’ testimony regarding the Monrovia Town Center

Make Your Voice Heard on October 23rd (oppose the Monrovia Town Center)

Open Letter to the Frederick County Planning Commission

Fighting for our community by fighting against the Monrovia Town Center