A missing balance

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
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
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.

Washington County commissioners approve $544,000 school mitigation for developer

Opponents protest decision
Hagerstown Herald Mail
C.J. Lovelace
The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a school mitigation proposal with a local developer, despite a protest by opponents who turned out with signs asking the commissioners to deny the proposal in accordance with the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The commissioners voted 3-1 to allow The Reserve at Collegiate Acres, a planned 272-unit multifamily development in northwest Hagerstown, to move forward at a cost of $2,000 per unit, or $544,000 total, to be paid for schools that will be directly impacted by projected growth from the new apartments. Commissioners President Terry Baker cast the dissenting vote. Commissioner John F. Barr was absent from the meeting. The county plans to hold a public hearing in late July to amend its APFO to add a formula and cost structure for future charges to developers that want to build in areas where schools may be at or over student capacity.

Frederick commissioners eye change to building approvals

Move would allow developers to bypass planning commissioner on growth-control measures
Katherine Heerbrandt
Builders in Frederick County soon might be able to bypass the appointed body that normally approves development, and instead ask elected officials if their plans meet growth standards.

Mitigation fee

Frederick News Post
After hearing directly from representatives of the local building industry Tuesday, we became convinced their hearts were in the right place when they suggested a new provision that would allow them to pay to build in areas where schools are overcrowded. But they have a long way to go to convince us and, as they acknowledged, other members of the public that the solution they offered is a complete one. Only time will tell. As Steve Seawright said during an editorial board meeting at The Frederick News-Post, "By the time the next election comes around, while things are hopefully better, they will not have changed significantly enough that there will be things people can point to tangibly that says this has been made worse." A stumbling block to public acceptance is that this offer was made out of desperation by an industry in crisis. The national economy has not been kind to home-building, and combined with an overly stringent county growth regulation, has made building new homes in Frederick County almost untenable. As generous as the offer is, it is too self-serving. The regulation's main objective is to let builders build. Any benefits to the educational system seem peripheral to that.

County builders defend school mitigation fee

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Local building industry leaders on Tuesday defended a recent county policy change that opens the way for development near some overcrowded schools, arguing it could provide a much-needed influx of money for education projects.

Frederick commissioners adopt school construction fee

Move allows developers to pay to build homes near overcrowded schools
Margarita Raycheva
Builders in hard hats applauded Tuesday night when Frederick County commissioners adopted a proposal allowing them to pay a fee so they can build homes near overcrowded schools. The newly adopted ordinance, which goes in effect July 20, would open up the possibility of construction near overcrowded schools as long as those schools are not above 120 percent capacity.

Friends of Frederick County questions development mitigation fee plan

Frederick News Post
The nonprofit organization Friends of Frederick County is questioning whether a proposed school mitigation fee would be enough to cover the cost of needed public school improvements. Executive Director Janice Wiles spoke about the issue Tuesday with three concerned residents and Commissioner David Gray at C. Burr Artz Public Library. She used the Crum Farm development as an example of funds the fee could generate saying it would generate a maximum of $8.35 million while a new elementary school needed to serve the 550 new students would cost $25 million. "That's not even a third of what it would cost to build an elementary school," Wiles said.

Critics of school construction fee worry about overcrowded Frederick County classrooms

Residents concerned that proposal would allow building of homes if schools are overcrowded
Sherry Greenfield
Critics of a proposed Frederick County school construction fee continue to worry that it will not bring in enough money to build classrooms and will only add students to already overcrowded schools. “I know this ... fee is going to pass, I just don’t how it’s going to work,” said Janice Spiegel, long-term parent advocate and former president of the PTA Council of Frederick County. “...I just can’t believe it’s not going to have a devastating impact over what we’ve accomplished.”

Developers looking at overcrowded schools could have option to pay

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
Developers that want to build in areas with overcrowded schools may soon have an option to pay a fee to help offset the cost of school construction. The fee would be offered as an option to developers building a school addition or waiting until schools aren't overcrowded.

APFO proposal a step backward

Frederick News Post
Kent Ozkum
Recently, the Frederick County Commissioners discussed their desire to dissolve a county ordinance requiring developers to contribute adequately to the construction of new schools when creating new developments. Their assertion: that local municipalities can be made to pick up funding shortfalls. I find this idea to be naive, unrealistic and unfair to county taxpayers.

Senior developments face restrictions or impact studies

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
Housing for older people in Frederick County may either face a school capacity study or be restricted entirely to those 62 and older, according to proposed ordinances before the Frederick County Commissioners. The commissioners will have a public hearing on the two ordinances, which are mutually exclusive, next week. The ordinances are aimed at reducing the possibility that older-adult communities could add to the school population. There may be legal roadblocks to passing the ordinance requiring all residents of age-restricted developments be 62 and older. "There is very little case law," Kathy Mitchell, assistant county attorney, said at a public workshop session Thursday. She told the commissioners that such an ordinance could bring about legal challenges. Most age-restricted housing developments in the U.S., including those already in existence in Frederick County, require that 80 percent of households have at least one resident 55 or older. Courts have determined that these developments for older residents are not discriminatory. Those types of developments may still attract residents who have school-age children. The proposed ordinance would apply to all residents in a 62-and-older community, not just one person per household.

Housing development still faces many hurdles

Frederick News Post
Pamela Rigaux
Urbana developer Natelli Communities has received approval from the county commissioners to build up to 500 homes on 181.42 acres just north of Urbana on Md. 355. The commissioners voted last week to allow the tract between the community park and Park Mills Road, previously designated an employment corridor, to be developed with new dwellings -- condos, townhomes, apartments and senior housing. The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner John L. Thompson the sole dissenter. "The rezoning will worsen school overcrowding," Mr. Thompson said in an interview later. "Frederick County's going to be a laughingstock, when people in the state look at research parks and there's nothing but garden apartments." Erik Soter, the county's assistant planning director, predicted it would be two years before Natelli breaks ground and an additional four or five to complete the project because of all the government approvals the developer will need. One approval may be particularly hard to come by, he said. The county mandates that new homes must not generate more students than the local schools can accommodate, and Urbana High School is filled.