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.

County approves senior development

Frederick News Post
Liam Farrell
The graying baby boomers in Frederick County are getting another community just for them. On Tuesday night, the Frederick Board of County Commissioners approved a change in zoning to allow construction of the Monrovia Town Center, an age-restricted development of more than 1,600 units south of Monrovia. About 50 acres of the area, near Urbana, will be donated for public use and will eventually house a fire and emergency medical service substation and a Frederick County Sheriff's Office substation.The developer, 75-80 Properties L.L.C., will also put $10,000 for each market value unit, or about $14 million, toward improving neighboring roads such as Md. 75. Any new development of 25 or more dwelling units must make at least 12 percent of its units affordable for middle-income residents.

Waste-to-energy on agenda

Frederick News Post
Liam Farrell
The day trash from Frederick County residents powers their houses is still years away, but county commissioners are investigating that possibility. The board unanimously passed a resolution Thursday to begin formulating a strategy on creating a facility that would generate power from recycling solid waste. The resolution was a formal declaration of the county's interest in pursuing a waste-to-energy option. "It's a little bit different than what we've looked at before," Commissioner Jan Gardner said. "It is, I believe, kind of the ultimate in recycling." Commissioner John Lovell Jr. has a similar opinion about turning waste into energy. "It's certainly what I consider to be the long-term solution we've been looking for," he said. R.W. Beck and Associates completed a study of Frederick's potential for such a facility in October 2005. According to that study, which considered the planning period from 2011- 2031, building its own waste-to-energy facility could be as cost-effective for the county as shipping waste to a regional facility. Now that the county has acknowledged formal interest, it will be able to consider serious proposals from waste to energy providers.

Alternative to impact fee considered

Frederick News Post
Clifford Cumber
Thursday’s snowy morning may end up a boon to affordable housing throughout the state and end a conflict over how to help low-income workers afford to live in Frederick County. If 5 or 6 inches of snow hadn’t hit the region, local Realtor Billy Shreve might not have sat down and drafted his alternative to Commissioner Jan Gardner’s proposal to change the county’s impact fee to an impact tax, he said Saturday. Ms. Gardner’s proposal would allow the county to create waivers for cheaper housing and a sliding scale in which larger homes would be charged a greater tax than smaller homes, based on a square-foot assessment. Mr. Shreve’s proposal would allow Maryland’s 23 counties to draft ordinances that would allow waivers for impact fees on a case-by-case basis. Affordable-housing advocates would go before county-appointed boards to seek a special waiver for their projects, Mr. Shreve said.

County races mostly funded by developers

Frederick News Post
Sean Barry
Companies involved in land development, along with their owners and employees, have poured more money into the Frederick County Commissioners election contest than all other contributors combined, according to a review of the final pre-election campaign finance reports. The real estate and building industries, generally unhappy with the two incumbents who are running for re-election, have supplied about $40,000 for a group endorsing several challengers and largely bankrolled some individual campaigns as well, the reports show.