Shades of Green

Saving the Planet Touches Almost Every Area of Frederick County Living, and it Comes with a Price Tag
Frederick Magazine
Linda Norris-Waldt
09/16/2013
Save the Bay. Buy recycled. Reduce your carbon footprint. Conserve water. The list goes on and on. And so does the number of programs and projects that aim to improve Frederick County’s environment— and with them, the debate about where lies the responsibility: Who pays, who is inconvenienced by change, and how much habit-breaking is practical when the returns aren’t immediately evident. A myriad of regulations, public education programs and businesses have brought environmental initiatives to our doors. The new programs, like mandating rain barrels and rain gardens for new subdivisions, roll in with great fanfare like ocean waves, supported by public demand. And then they are either delayed or abridged because of cost, impact or feasibility. A constant rebalancing is always taking place. Kirby Delauter, a Frederick County commissioner whose work in construction takes him into the field where he has direct encounters with environmental regulations, has been no fan of the feasibility of government programs regulating the environment. They have “grown exponentially and for no good reason other than to expand the role of government in our lives,” he says. “Stormwater has been ruled by courts to not be a pollutant, yet we still seem to have governing bodies that can’t let go of the power and control of regulating the lives of personal property owners.” Kai Hagen, a community activist and former county commissioner known for championing environmental causes, has a differing view. “If people knew the real environmental and economic costs and benefits associated with the choices we make—as a community—I’m convinced we would be making a lot more responsible choices than we are now,” he says. Here’s how current environmental programs in Frederick County touch water, land and lives.

Community Expresses Concern About Portables

Urbana Town Courier
Sally Alt
09/03/2013
Although the Frederick County Public County Schools (FCPS) system is working hard to ensure the health and safety of classrooms, community members believe that more should be done to safeguard the health of students and teachers in portable classrooms at Urbana Elementary School (UES). Jeff Esko, who taught for 23 years in the Gifted and Talented Magnet Program at UES, filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that his health issues were caused by working in a portable classroom. The fifth grade teacher spent seven years teaching in portable buildings used as classrooms at UES, and has been treated for ocular migraines and vision loss Health issues in some portable classrooms may be linked to indoor air quality problems, which can be caused by poorly functioning HVAC systems, chemical off-gassing from pressed wood and other high-emission materials, water entry and mold growth, and improper or infrequent cleaning, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Outdoor air should be supplied continuously when a portable classroom is occupied by students and teachers, the EPA said.

Frederick County schools rank first in Maryland achievement report

Frederick News Post
Rachel S. Karas
07/02/2013
Frederick County Public Schools scored the highest of any Maryland school district in a state report analyzing educational success. The 2012 Maryland Report Card school progress index released last month gave Frederick County a rating of 1.0558 for its academic achievement, growth, college and career readiness, and reduction of the gap between its highest- and lowest-performing students. A score of 1 or higher means a school district met the index's standards for achievement, according to the index's website. Maryland Report Card data is compiled annually by the state's Department of Education to compare the two most recent calendar years of standardized test results. This is the first year the report has included a school progress index. Stephen Hess, the county's former director of research, development and accountability, said the standing is not something to be taken lightly. Success comes from the hard work of teachers, parents and students and a countywide dedication to progress, he said.

Environmental literacy starts in kindergarten

Frederick News Post
06/11/2013
When it comes to the basics, learning about the environment belongs right up there with reading, writing and arithmetic. To that end, the Maryland State Department of Education now mandates that public school students in every district earn an environmental literacy credit as a requirement for graduating from high school. A recent Medill News Service story took a look at efforts here and elsewhere to bring environmental studies into public education. In Maryland, each county devises its own environmental literacy program. Frederick County has chosen — wisely, we believe — to embed its environmental program in social studies and science education

Frederick aldermen press developer on school overcrowding

Questioning gets heated over annexation that would add 300 homes to the city
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
03/31/2013
A plan to build 300 homes on nearly 49 acres of annexed farmland ran into tough questioning Wednesday from the Frederick Board of Aldermen which raised concerns about who would pay for possible school overcrowding. The developer, Christopher’s Crossing LLC, is asking the five aldermen for permission to build no more than 300 single-family homes and townhouses on land known as the Bargtis/Lasick-Rallas properties, located near Walter Martz and Christopher’s Crossing roads, west of U.S. 15. If the annexation is approved, construction would start in 2015. Developers first unveiled their plans to the mayor and aldermen at a Feb. 27 workshop, and were asked to come back for further discussions on the development’s impact on schools and roads in the area.

Data shows Frederick teacher salaries among lowest in Maryland

Statistics presented at joint meeting of board of education, commissioners
Gazette
Margarita Raycheva
06/20/2012
For months, Frederick County education officials have been saying the salaries of their teachers fall at the bottom of the scale among Maryland school systems. Now they have brought out the statistics to prove it.

Urbana could expand by 600 homes

Proposal requires a zoning change
Gazette
Ryan Marshall
04/18/2012
Urbana could add about 600 homes, as well as office space and retail stores, to one of the fastest growing parts of Frederick County. The plan would expand the community into a tract of land between Md. 355 and Interstate 270, according to Thomas Natelli, CEO of Natelli Communities, which developed Urbana.

The final chapter?

Shreve suggests shuttering Walkersville library
Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy and Courtney Pomeroy
03/02/2012
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 commissioners adopt school construction fee

Move allows developers to pay to build homes near overcrowded schools
Gazette
Margarita Raycheva
07/20/2011
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
06/15/2011
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.

Solving Frederick County's school construction deficit

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
06/11/2011
The upcoming public hearings at the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners on the proposed school construction (mitigation) fee will undoubtedly generate plenty of commentary about how we need to do a better job funding our school construction needs. We won't solve this problem piecemeal. It's a complicated issue, and there are a variety of relevant factors that need to be considered. In many ways our largest problem has been finding funds to renovate our older schools, but our approach to funding new capacity has more than a few flaws as well. BoCC President Blaine Young has said that our current impact fees are the maximum permissible under law -- but that is, at best, misleading. Impact fees must be based on a "rational nexus" between the amount of the fee and the actual impact of the project being assessed.

Solving Frederick County’s school construction deficit

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
06/11/2011
The upcoming public hearings at the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners on the proposed school construction (mitigation) fee will undoubtedly generate plenty of commentary about how we need to do a better job funding our school construction needs. We won't solve this problem piecemeal. It's a complicated issue, and there are a variety of relevant factors that need to be considered. In many ways our largest problem has been finding funds to renovate our older schools, but our approach to funding new capacity has more than a few flaws as well. BoCC President Blaine Young has said that our current impact fees are the maximum permissible under law -- but that is, at best, misleading. Impact fees must be based on a "rational nexus" between the amount of the fee and the actual impact of the project being assessed.

Trash options already available to residents

Gazette
07/31/2008
For the last several weeks, commissioners and other Frederick County officials have talked about options for solving the county’s waste disposal problems. Options batted around recently include an incinerator (or waste-to-energy facility) and a ‘‘zero waste park,” which includes expanded recycling options as well as commercial composting. In these discussions, several county officials have said the county already has top-notch recycling in place, with plans for expansion. But our question is, if a county has outstanding recycling programs, but few residents are aware of them, does it matter?

City approves Hargett Farm townhouses

Frederick News Post
Justin Palk
07/10/2007
Developers could proceed with a plan to build nearly 160 townhouses in southwest Frederick -- unless the city takes the property for a community park first. On Monday, Frederick's Planning Commission voted 4-0 to approve the final site plan for 158 townhouses on the Hargett Farm property. This is one part of a larger project that could include single-family homes, apartments and a retail center on roughly 150 acres on Butterfly Lane. In all, the project will include more than 640 homes. Whether this development will ever be built is uncertain, as Frederick's Board of Aldermen voted in May to condemn the property through eminent domain and redevelop it as a park. The condemnation still must be resolved in court. Alderman Alan Imhoff, who recused himself from the condemnation vote, citing his position on the planning commission, voted Monday to approve the site plan. At the start of the hearing, commission member Meta Nash reminded the attendees that the aldermen's decision has no effect on the property owner's legal right to pursue development of the property.