Monrovia residents say impact fee elimination would be developer boon

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/17/2013
Critics of a 1,510-home project in Monrovia are asking whether talk of changing county growth policies will lead to letting developers off the hook for millions in school construction fees. The proposed Monrovia Town Center is projected to add 840 students to surrounding schools, and county law requires the developer to put up an estimated $20.6 million in impact fees to expand classroom space for the newcomers. Opponents of the Town Center project say the impact fees will fall far short of paying for even one new school. However, they also worry that if county officials eliminate impact fees, this developer contribution for schools will drop to zero. "Instead, the costs will be borne by county residents," Steve McKay, a Monrovia resident, testified at a recent public hearing. County officials and community stakeholders are set to start brainstorming next week on the best ways to deal with growth in the county. The group has formed amid discussion of eliminating the county's impact fees and replacing them with a transfer tax levied when properties are sold.

Unbalanced task force

Frederick News Post
Steve McKay
11/17/2013
Since Commissioners President Blaine Young announced his intent to rid the county of the dreaded impact fees, I have been trying to pay close attention to this subject. After all, those dreaded impact fees are an important source of funds to mitigate all of the massive infrastructure challenges being created by the county’s drive to develop, particularly here in south county. So it was with some concern that I read The News-Post’s article of Nov. 12 headlined “Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force.” In all my efforts fighting against the Monrovia development, I can count on one hand the politicians that have raised their voices in our support, and Delegate Kathy Afzali is one of them. She has been a vocal supporter in our fight against Monrovia Town Center, and against excessive growth in this part of the county. She and Delegate Michael Hough came out to our meeting in Urbana, and we had a very constructive exchange. She even stood up and testified against the development at the planning commission hearing. She is doing her job and representing her constituents — us! So I was dismayed at Sen. David Brinkley’s comments in the paper that day. First, I found the comments very unprofessional, considering that he was speaking about a fellow legislator from the same district and party. Beyond that, however, I was dismayed that he would choose Delegate Galen Clagett, someone so clearly aligned with the development community, to participate on this task force, which is already so clearly biased toward the developers. Make no mistake, this task force is going to recommend ways to make the developers pay less for the impacts that new developments have on our roads and schools. Who will make up the difference? You and me, the taxpayers. Blaine Young wants to abolish the impact fee. For Monrovia Town Center, that represents 60 percent of their contribution toward new schools. When the impact fee is gone, under the terms of the Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreement they have proposed, the developer will be completely off the hook for over $20 million! Under cross-examination at the third of four days of planning commission hearings on Monrovia Town Center, the applicant’s attorney, Rand Weinberg, confirmed as much.

Planning Commission hearing a debacle

Frederick News Post
Catherine Forrence
11/06/2013
Developers and their attorneys expect certainty in the land development process. Fair enough. We all like to know the rules of the game. Part of the zoning and subdivision process involves appearing before the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission’s Rules of Procedure provide certainty, and are issued to assist in the “orderly and efficient conduct of all matters with which the Commission is concerned.” Before the second public hearing on the Monrovia Town Center rezoning, I sent an email to the Frederick County Planning Commission and staff highlighting two sections of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure: §6.2 “Any person is entitled to appear and be heard by the Commission before it reaches a decision on any matter” and asked how cross-examination will be handled, as permitted by §6.9 “The Chairman will allow reasonable cross-examination of witnesses at a time and in a manner considered reasonable by the Chairman under the circumstances.” Prior to the Oct. 30 Monrovia Town Center hearing, I provided a copy of the Planning Commission’s Rules of Procedure to the Planning Commission’s chair, and asked whether the commission planned to follow their rules? No response. The county attorney announced the Planning Commission would not allow cross-examination, even though it is permitted by their rules! During the hearing that evening, a number of speakers asked and received no response from the commission when asked to follow their Rules of Procedure.

A missing balance

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
10/23/2013
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.

Board OKs lifting age restriction from Ballenger Run project

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/29/13
Frederick County planning commissioners have granted a request to let people younger than 55 live in the proposed Ballenger Run development. The owner of roughly 197 acres on Ballenger Creek Pike on Wednesday night secured the county planning commission's unanimous blessing to lift an age restriction from the bulk of the project. With the volatility of the housing market, age-restricted communities had become a less viable option for the Ballenger Run development, project representatives said. "It was also very clear from the beginning that this location, with schools all around it ... was much better suited to an all-age community," said Steve Oder, the project manager. Plans approved in 2006 allowed for 970 age-restricted homes on the property just across from Tuscarora High School. The development plans now would include 855 dwellings, a community center, open space, a trail along Ballenger Creek and a roughly 13-acre school site.

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.

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.

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.

Bill limiting appeals of Frederick County developer pacts passes

Opponents must now take cases directly to court instead of appeals board
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/18/2013
A bill making it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick County Board of Commissioners that will allow construction of hundreds of new homes and businesses passed the Maryland General Assembly minutes before the legislative session ended April 8.

Frederick lawmaker pushes bill to limit appeals of developer pacts

Anti-growth group calls proposal ‘outrageous’ attempt to negate safeguard
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
02/19/2013
A state legislative committee could make a decision as early as this week on a bill that would make it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to build hundreds of new homes and businesses. The bill, proposed by Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, had its first hearing on Feb. 14 before the 24-member House Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis. Clagett presented the bill to the panel, explaining that, if passed, the measure would prevent opponents from asking the five-member Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn what are known as Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreements signed between the commissioners and a builder.

Frederick lawmaker’s bill would limit challenges to developer pacts

Opponents couldn’t take cases to appeals board under Clagett’s proposal
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
02/05/2013
A state delegate wants to make it more difficult to undo binding agreements between developers and the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to build hundreds of new homes and businesses. Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick has introduced a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would prevent opponents from asking the five-member Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn what are known as a Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, signed between the commissioners and a builder.

Frederick County opens door to another 970 new homes

Commissioners proceed on developer pact for 197-acre Ballenger Run site
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
02/01/2013
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.

Frederick County commissioners likely to leave behind plans for massive development

Young seeks 25 new developer agreements by end of commissioners' term
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
11/01/2012
When the Frederick Board of County Commissioners' term ends in 2014, it will likely leave behind plans for hundreds of new homes and businesses that can't be changed.

Frederick County commissioners plan to make growth decisions permanent

Young expects the board to approve more development
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/26/2012
Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) hopes to approve new housing and businesses in the county, while preventing future boards from overturning those decisions — even if conditions change. Young said this week several developers already have inquired about the agreement, provisionally granted to a development last week that could bring 1,100 homes to the southern part of the county. The agreements with developers — being used for the first time in the county — mark a reversal from the previous board of commissioners, which sought to limit growth by restricting land zoned for 700 properties from commercial, residential or industrial to agricultural or open space.

Frederick County commissioners plan to make growth decisions permanent

Young expects the board to approve more development
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/26/2012
Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) hopes to approve new housing and businesses in the county, while preventing future boards from overturning those decisions — even if conditions change.