Frederick County sets property tax

With fire tax rolled into general fund, overall rate increases
Ryan Marshall
The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the county’s $516 million proposed budget for fiscal 2014 on June 6. The new property tax rate of $1.064 per $100 of assessed value is an increase from the fiscal 2013 rate of $0.936. The commissioners approved the new rate by a vote of 4-1.

No Better Off

Frederick News Post
Sally Sorbello
In response to the Feb. 26 article, “Incinerator faces numbers crunch,” I was struck by a quote from Commissioner Gray. Mr. Gray said that “We were not going to be a dumping ground for other people’s trash.” The reality is that the proposed 1,500-ton-per-day incinerator depends on Frederick to be a dumping ground for other people’s trash. Frederick and partner Carroll County together produce less than half the trash needed to supply the incinerator its minimum tonnage, so the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority (NMWDA) plans for Frederick to import up to 350,000 tons of trash and tires per year to achieve the contracted requirement to burn in excess of 500,000 tons annually.

Frederick County opens door to another 970 new homes

Commissioners proceed on developer pact for 197-acre Ballenger Run site
Sherry Greenfield
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners made a decision Thursday to enter into its seventh agreement with developers to build more homes in the county, this time off Ballenger Creek Pike in Frederick. RBG Family LLC, the developers of the proposed Ballenger Run Planned Unit Development, want to build on 197.24 acres of property on the east side of Ballenger Creek Pike, across from Tuscarora High School in Frederick. The proposed Ballenger Run development is currently zoned for people 55 and older, but the developers want to change that and build homes for people of all ages. The property is zoned to build 970 age-restricted housing units, which would include 340 single-family homes, 150 townhouses, and 480 condominiums or apartments. The developers also want to build a 200-unit assisted-living facility on the site.

Waste to energy: the story so far

Frederick News Post
May 2000 — Frederick County hires consultants to evaluate landfill capacity problems. February 2006 — County commissioners begin procurement process for waste-to-energy incinerator. March 2007 — County Commissioner David Gray and Michael Marschner, director of the county's Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division, visit seven European countries to investigate waste-to-energy technology. April 2008 — Carroll and Frederick county commissioners discuss partnership on incinerator to burn 1,500 tons of trash per day to generate electricity. February 2009 — More than 200 people attend public hearings on incinerator, the majority in opposition. April 2009 — A state Senate committee rejects a bill that would prohibit incinerators near battlefields. July 2009 — Frederick and Carroll counties agree to build a regional trash incinerator at the McKinney Industrial site near Buckeystown Pike. October 2009 — Frederick County Planning Commission determines the waste-to-energy plant is not consistent with the county's comprehensive plan. November 2009 — County commissioners appeal planning commission’s decision in Frederick County Circuit Court. Planning commission reverses its earlier decision on the county's plans to build a trash incinerator. December 2009 — Residents challenge the planning commission's reversal on a ruling that could have blocked construction. August 2010 — Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority has first permitting hearing for air emissions. November 2010 — A study states the incinerator will cost Frederick County $140.7 million over the next 30 years, significantly less than an initial estimate of $331 million. October 2011 — An environmental group study reports that waste-to-energy incinerators release lead and mercury at a greater rate than some coal-fired plants. November 2011 — More than 100 residents turn out for the county's final public hearing on the waste-to-energy project. June 2012 — After making it known for months that they are pursuing other options, Carroll County officials give Frederick County the green light to pursue new partners for the incinerator. August 2012 — Only about a third of those who sign up to speak have their voices heard at a two-hour Maryland Department of the Environment public hearing on a water permit for the incinerator. September 2012 — With uncertainty about Carroll County's partnership and no firm commitment from a replacement county, Frederick asks Wheelabrator Technologies to calculate the cost of building a plant to burn only Frederick County's trash. January 2013 — Maryland Department of the Environment schedules a single hearing for the final three permits needed before construction of the incinerator can begin.

Frederick County commissioners approve the rezoning of 8, 824 acres of land

New comprehensive plan opens door to construction of 12, 600 homes
Sherry Greenfield
Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young celebrated his 41st birthday today by voting to approve a plan to rezone 8,824 acres of county farmland that could lead to the construction of 12,688 new homes.

Conflicting Opinions Offered at BOCC Land-Use Hearing

Urbana Town Courier
Kristy Crawford
The Frederick County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is working quickly to revise the 2010 Comprehensive Plan, which restricted the right to build in some areas throughout Frederick County. On July 31, approximately 75 people attended a meeting at Oakdale High School before the BOCC and the Frederick County Planning Commission, to express often strong opinions on the BOCC’s proposal. Close to 9,000 acres of land throughout Frederick County — largely from Urbana to New Market — and more than 12,000 homes could potentially be developed with the revised plan. The revised plan estimates a population increase of more than 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Commissioners OK tech park plan

Property owners to get special taxes
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
A major development project could be headed for an October groundbreaking after a jump-start from Frederick County officials. Four commissioners Thursday voted to approve a plan to sell up to $40 million of county-issued bonds to fund road improvements and off-site sewer construction for the Jefferson Technology Park. Property owners in the development will pay off the bonds, with its new residents shouldering hundreds of dollars per year in special taxes. Owners of commercial properties could pay even more. The two resolutions and ordinance solidifying the financial arrangement represent a creative way to stimulate a stalled project and draw major employers to the area, Commissioners President Blaine Young said.

County delays vote on library contracts

Official did not give data on book, other media purchases
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
When a county library official reported that he could not provide data about upcoming purchases of books and other media, elected officials read his response as evasive. Approval of contract awards to 13 vendors was delayed for a week, allowing library staff to fill in some of the blanks that were particularly bothersome to Commissioner Billy Shreve. The Thursday discussion about money and books was the latest instance of friction between Darrell Batson, director of Frederick County Public Libraries, and Shreve, who has scrutinized library spending and questioned the need for new branches. "It's more difficult communicating with him (Batson) than anyone else," Shreve said in a Thursday phone interview. "When I ask a question of Darrell, in some cases, he doesn't want to provide the answer." Batson says he can't give details he doesn't have.

Frederick County opens new nursing home and assisted living facility

$30 million opening comes after challenges and set backs
Sherry Greenfield
After 10 challenging years for Frederick County’s government-run nursing home, officials cut the ceremonial ribbon Tuesday, opening the new 116,000-square-foot building to praise and accolades. The ribbon cutting not only included the opening of the new Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center, but also the opening of the new county-owned 40,000-square-foot Montevue Assisted Living, both on Rosemont Avenue in Frederick. The homes, located on the same land as existing buildings, serve low-income Frederick County residents. Plans are to move the 135 residents living in the nursing home and the 60 people in assisted living to their new homes July 10. “This is a new chapter and a new day,” said Frederick County Commissioner Blaine R. Young (R). “We are open for business and we want to be the most senior-friendly county in the state.” Young praised the new homes to a packed room of former and current county and state elected officials and board of trustee members.

Two named to county planning commission

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
wo former city planning commissioners will now fill seats on the Frederick County Planning Commission. The Board of County Commissioners conducted public interviews with three candidates Thursday before deciding on William Hall and Dwaine Robbins. Hall also served as a city alderman for two terms beginning in 1992. "I thought all three were good candidates," Commissioners President Blaine Young said after the meeting. "Frederick County citizens will be well-served by these appointments."

Burnin’ Down The Waste

Trash Talk
Frederick Gorilla
Kelly Brook
“No Incinerator!” scream the signs. If you live or work in Frederick County, you’ve seen them in windows, on lawns and in cars for years. You can’t help but notice them. When you see them, maybe you cringe from the vision of soaring incinerator smokestacks spewing a black, smoky, noxious sludge of particulates, carcinogens, and climate-altering acids. Or maybe you roll your eyes imagining the “tree-hugging, peace-loving, Common Market-shopping” conservationist who might have posted it. If you’re like most people, though, you take a moment to acknowledge your concern for the environment, worry for a moment about how this will affect your taxes, wonder what the heck this incinerator debate is all about—and then forget about it and get on with your day.

Honesty, deceit and Chicken Little

Frederick News Post
John Helms
Commissioner Blaine Young and his allies began their terms talking about the structural deficit. They said things were so bad that they were forced to cut expenses including firing or eliminating staff. Over 175 positions including professional firefighters were ripped from the base of those providing needed services, cutting $8.4 million. They crippled the Head Start program to the tune of $2.3 million. They reduced payments to nonprofit and noncounty agencies by $350,000 and they reduced pay and benefits for employees (including nurses) at the Citizens and Montevue centers to the tune of $625,000 per year. The sky is falling, watch out for the structural deficit! When they thought we weren't looking, they danced with the ones that brung 'em to the dance (good ol' boy language for the Frederick Chamber of Commerce and the Frederick County Builders Association). They dropped the excise tax rate to zero, saving the developers an estimated $925,000 a year. They reduced permitting fees paid by builders by approximately $500,000 per year. In addition they went right to work on a list of over 200 changes given to them by the builders and developers to fix rules and regulations they didn't like or that cost them too much money. Some warned what was happening.

Frederick County commissioner: Budget process is ‘phony’

Structural deficit no longer a hot topic; Young says it’s still a big deal
Katherine Heerbrandt
“The structural deficit was made up to justify firings and anything else Blaine wanted to do,” he said. “… It was phony. I don’t know if it is ignorance or on purpose, but it served the purpose of scaring people.”

The final chapter?

Shreve suggests shuttering Walkersville library
Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy and Courtney Pomeroy
Building a new library in Walkersville would put Frederick County on the hook for a $6.1 million tab, and at least one county commissioner is asking whether there is a cheaper alternative. Commissioner Billy Shreve has proposed dropping the new construction and merging the town's Frederick County Public Libraries branch with the Walkersville Middle School library. "My thought is why not just expand the library in the school," Shreve said Thursday. "One of the things we have to look at in these budget times is how we spend taxpayer dollars." The commissioners are reviewing the five-year Capital Improvements Plan -- a document that outlines future construction projects for the county. Building a 15,250-square-foot library does not sound like a priority, Shreve said.

Frederick County: Commissioners cast the first votes in rezone requests

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
A series of up-or-down votes by the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday was all it took to determine the direction of the ongoing comprehensive planning and zoning review. Applications that restored rights to owners whose property zoning was changed in the 2010 comprehensive plan were all preliminarily granted.

Annexed farmland clear for developing

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
The City of Frederick is about to gain some acres. For more than a year, two large farms just north of the city have been approved for annexation, but the city and previous county officials disagreed on zoning so developers were told they would have to wait five years. The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to end that mandatory waiting period and allow the developers to proceed immediately. The two farms -- known as the Crum and Thatcher properties -- total nearly 400 acres. Both are north of the city limits along U.S. 15. Frederick Mayor Randy McClement was at Thursday's meeting and called the commissioners' decision a positive one for the city. "We need the growth area," McClement said.

State planners warn Frederick County rezonings could promote urban sprawl

Agency argues development of 14,000 acres could cause sprawl, questions commission’s move
Sherry Greenfield
A state agency that combats urban sprawl is advising Frederick County not to give 193 property owners permission to build homes and businesses on 14,000 acres of farmland. The Maryland Department of Planning sent a letter to the county’s Division of Planning questioning why, after the previous board of county commissioners adopted a growth plan in 2010, the current board is proposing to make changes. The state agency warns that the rezoning of 193 properties could lead to urban sprawl, strains on county services and inefficient land use of land. “It is unclear to MDP (Maryland Department of Planning) what conditions have changed in Frederick County over the past year-and-a-half to warrant proposing such a dramatic shift in policy in the comprehensive plan,” states Peter Conrad, the director of the department’s local government assistance, in the seven-page letter dated Nov. 16.

Commissioner: Kroll resignation ‘retaliation’

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
The resignation of the county finance director Friday was punishment by county leaders against employees who speak out in public, Frederick County Commissioner David Gray alleged Saturday. "It has retaliation written all over it," Gray said. The county announced the resignation of John Kroll at 4:13 p.m. Friday. Gray said Commissioners President Blaine Young and commissioners Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve forced Kroll out of his job over disagreements about statements of the county's financial condition.

Frederick County residents angry about privatization

Critics of plan rally again in support of county employees
Sherry Greenfield
For a second time this week, Frederick County residents came out to support government employees who are at risk of losing their jobs to the private sector. Residents packed the first-floor hearing room of Winchester Hall, the seat of county government, Tuesday night and told the Frederick Board of County Commissioners that their proposal to outsource some government services to private companies will have dire consequences. Many predicted a dismal future for Frederick County if private companies take control of government services, such as road maintenance, snow removal, parks, electrical inspections and help for senior citizens.

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.