County decides to relax stream buffer requirements

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/01/2013
The legally required swath of trees and shrubbery separating Frederick County's homes from its streams is becoming 25 feet slimmer. Commissioners voted Thursday to relax the county's stream buffer ordinance, a "modest change" that they said would have little effect on the county's waterways. Allowing homes closer to county streams opens up a bit more land to developers, giving them more flexibility in site design as they deal with state environmental requirements, county staff said. "Really, we see this as a jibing of county standards to harmonize with the state standards," said Dusty Rood, president of the Frederick County Land Use Council. However, local residents, environmental groups and former County Commissioner Kai Hagen all said they believed decreasing the required stream buffer size would endanger area water quality. Hagen said county's current leaders have shown a pattern of elevating developer interests above other considerations. "They said, 'Jump,' and you jumped," Hagen told the board of commissioners.

Gray: More of the same coming from this BoCC

Frederick News Post
David Gray
10/08/2011
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.

Jan Gardner on her board's budget achievements

Frederick News Post
Jan Gardner
09/26/2013
Citizens deserve the facts. A recent letter to the editor by the Young Board of County Commissioners (absent Commissioner David Gray) provided inaccurate information about the county budget. The Gardner board managed the county budget responsibly, controlled spending and earned the first AAA bond rating for Frederick County. By contrast, the Young board has increased spending, raised taxes and redirected significant taxpayer dollars to subsidize new development projects while cutting services to the community’s neediest residents. These are the facts: Fact: Over the four years of the Gardner board, the budget grew from $436.7 million to $438.3 million, an increase of $1.6 million. Over only the first three years of the Young board, the budget grew from $438.3 million to $516.3 million, an increase of $78 million. If the fire tax budgets are separated out, over three years, the Young board increased the budget from $438.3 million to $474.1 million, an increase of $35.8 million. Fact: The Young board raised taxes when the fire tax districts were shifted into the operating budget.

Jan Gardner on her board’s budget achievements

Frederick News Post
Jan Gardner
09/26/2013
Citizens deserve the facts. A recent letter to the editor by the Young Board of County Commissioners (absent Commissioner David Gray) provided inaccurate information about the county budget. The Gardner board managed the county budget responsibly, controlled spending and earned the first AAA bond rating for Frederick County. By contrast, the Young board has increased spending, raised taxes and redirected significant taxpayer dollars to subsidize new development projects while cutting services to the community’s neediest residents. These are the facts: Fact: Over the four years of the Gardner board, the budget grew from $436.7 million to $438.3 million, an increase of $1.6 million. Over only the first three years of the Young board, the budget grew from $438.3 million to $516.3 million, an increase of $78 million. If the fire tax budgets are separated out, over three years, the Young board increased the budget from $438.3 million to $474.1 million, an increase of $35.8 million. Fact: The Young board raised taxes when the fire tax districts were shifted into the operating budget.

Voting history shows power of Young’s bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Voting history shows power of Young's bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Not our county’s finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Not our county's finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Citizens/Montevue fate sealed before hearing

Frederick News Post
06/30/2013
To no one’s surprise the Frederick County Commissioners wasted little time in selling Citizen Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility following a five-hour public hearing Tuesday evening. It’s now clear the public hearing was nothing more than a “go-through-the-motions” sham and validated claims by opponents that the meeting was being held because of a legal requirement and not because there was any chance the commissioners were interested, much less willing, to change their minds. A standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people crammed into the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College in a last-ditch attempt to stop the commissioners sale of the government-owned nursing home and assisted living center that have served needy local residents for about 140 years. But four of the county commissioners, lead by President Blaine Young, had already made up their minds.

County decides to sell nursing home, assisted living centers

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/26/2013
County commissioners voted Tuesday night to sell the government-owned nursing home along with the assisted living center that has served needy local residents for about 140 years. The decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living was supported by four commissioners and opposed by Commissioner David Gray. The same four commissioners also voted to abolish the Citizens board of trustees. The decision followed about five hours of public comment from local residents, elder care experts and those who live at Citizens and Montevue. “I ask you not to sell my home, but to give my home a chance to prove itself. To believe in the folks that run Montevue and give them a chance to prove it is a diamond in the rough,” said Lawrence Watson, 95, who was accompanied to the microphone by his two daughters and granddaughter. The vast majority of hearing participants objected to selling the facilities, a fact highlighted by speaker Kermit Liebensperger, who asked privatization supporters to rise. “Don’t be bashful. There must be someone,” he said after several moments of silence.

Commissioners solidify changes to fire and rescue funding

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/21/2013
County commissioners Thursday took the final steps to abolish the two-tier fire tax system that has funded local emergency services since 2001. Officials passed a county operating budget earlier this month that eliminates the fire tax and funds the rescue system primarily through property taxes, essentially spreading the cost of emergency services evenly across all taxpayers. Commissioners made the changes permanent Thursday by zeroing out the fire tax, which was levied at a higher rate in urban districts and at a lower rate in suburban districts. While four of the board members supported the action, Commissioner David Gray opposed it. Gray said the package of changes to the fire system hadn’t been thoroughly vetted.

County approves 1,735 more homes for Lake Linganore

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/19/2013
Frederick County commissioners Tuesday voted to rezone roughly 950 acres in the Lake Linganore community as part of a plan to fill out the development with 1,735 more houses. The board voted 4-1 to approve the proposal, with Commissioner David Gray the only one to oppose reclassifying the land from its agriculture and resource conservation zoning. Allowing the development to move forward will enable the construction of roads and other infrastructure systems that have been lacking in the community, commissioners said during the evening public hearing.

Commissioners seek answers to Gray's tie to Friends of Frederick County

Frederick News Post
Daniel J. Gross
06/06/2013
Frederick County Commissioner David Gray is under scrutiny from other commissioners over ties to a county land-use nonprofit that has filed numerous lawsuits against the county. Commissioners President Blaine Young sent Gray and other county officials an email Wednesday morning stating that Gray Enterprises was the documented tax preparer that handled the 2011 tax filings for Friends of Frederick County, a land-use and cultural preservation nonprofit that has been in near-constant litigation with the county over land-use issues in recent years. When reached by phone Wednesday night, Gray said his wife, Sharon, owns the business, and that she prepares Friends of Frederick County’s tax documents without pay. “I don’t get involved in that. I separate myself from those things,” Gray said. “My wife is free to volunteer for them. As far as I know, she’s never received any compensation.”

Commissioners seek answers to Gray’s tie to Friends of Frederick County

Frederick News Post
Daniel J. Gross
06/06/2013
Frederick County Commissioner David Gray is under scrutiny from other commissioners over ties to a county land-use nonprofit that has filed numerous lawsuits against the county. Commissioners President Blaine Young sent Gray and other county officials an email Wednesday morning stating that Gray Enterprises was the documented tax preparer that handled the 2011 tax filings for Friends of Frederick County, a land-use and cultural preservation nonprofit that has been in near-constant litigation with the county over land-use issues in recent years. When reached by phone Wednesday night, Gray said his wife, Sharon, owns the business, and that she prepares Friends of Frederick County’s tax documents without pay. “I don’t get involved in that. I separate myself from those things,” Gray said. “My wife is free to volunteer for them. As far as I know, she’s never received any compensation.”

County approves 20-year agreement for Urbana projects

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/05/2013
County commissioners Tuesday gave their stamp of approval to a 20-year agreement with developers of the Villages of Urbana, the Urbana Office Research Center and other nearby building projects. Crafting a development rights and responsibilities agreement is important "so we all understand the ground rules and so investment can be made in the right ways," said Thomas Natelli, president and CEO of Monocacy Land Co. and managing member of other involved development companies. The contract covers the roughly 300-home unbuilt portion of the Villages of Urbana, a large development north of the intersection of Md. 80 and Md. 355. It also applies to the Urbana Office Research Center, the site of the Fannie Mae data center. The Urbana Town Center and Worthington Square projects, slated for 610 and 72 homes respectively in addition to employment and commercial space, also fall under the agreement.

Commissioners set 1-cent rain tax

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/31/2013
County commissioners Thursday decided to start charging eligible properties an annual fee of one penny, enough to net the county a grand total of $487.81 each year, according to staff estimates. For county leaders, though, the goal is not to drum up funds but to do the bare minimum to comply with a state mandate. Legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2012 requires 10 jurisdictions, including Frederick County, to craft a stormwater remediation fee by July 1, 2013. The law gave local leaders freedom to design the fee, known by its critics as a “rain tax,” but stipulated that proceeds should pay for watershed restoration and preservation.

Officials scrap, reduce 202 fees

More than a quarter relate to building, zoning certificate
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/30/2013
Many of the reductions affect building or remodeling projects. More than a quarter of them relate to building permits and zoning certificates, while 33 others deal with planning and development review fees, according to the list. An additional 45 reductions were to fees for electricity and plumbing permits and licenses. The changes are helpful to those in the construction business but are minimal when compared with overall project costs, said Frank Dertzbaugh, president of a Frederick remodeling company.

Thank goodness for David Gray

Frederick News Post
William Bugg
05/28/2013
This is contrary to Mr. Young, who considers only his personal desires and the special interest groups that support his personal desires. Evidence supporting his one-sidedness are recent actions by Mr. Young in total disregard of the negative impact on current Monrovia residents in the huge overbuilding in Monrovia. Another example is his childish treatment of the Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living trustees because they do not support the sale of the homes but he does. Mr. Young wants to abolish the board of trustees. That would be a huge mistake. I hope there is standing room only at the June 25 public hearing at Frederick Community College to let Mr. Young know the error of his ways. We need more politicians like Commissioner Gray. It’s about time!

County to consider abolishing Citizens, Montevue trustees board

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/24/2013
A proposal to abolish the board of trustees for Frederick County's nursing and assisted living centers is headed to the same public hearing slated for discussion of selling the two facilities. Eliminating the trustees might lessen the risk of legal action against the county if officials decide to privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living, the county attorney said Thursday. Commissioners President Blaine Young said whether he and fellow board members decide the county should keep or sell the centers, he thinks the commissioners should take a more hands-on role in managing them. During Thursday's county meeting, commissioners voted 4-1 to forward the issue to a June 25 hearing. Commissioner David Gray cast the only opposing vote. Sonja Sperlich, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said it comes as no surprise to her that commissioners might do away with her group. "It's shocking, shameful, disgraceful, but not unexpected," she said. The board of trustees has already voted in opposition to selling Citizens and Montevue, she said.

615-home building plan wins county approval

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/22/2013
Frederick County commissioners Tuesday night signed off on a plan to build 615 homes on the Westfield South property and agreed to accept an $800,000 payment from developers instead of a school site.