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.

WTE endgame

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
07/09/2013
It’s no surprise that the Carroll County Commissioners voted last month to earmark $3 million in reserves to pay a termination penalty if they withdraw from the partnership with Frederick County to build a bi-county waste-to-energy facility and a suitable replacement partner does not step in. Those commissioners made clear long ago that a majority will not support Carroll County’s participation in the project. But by putting their money where their mouth is, the commissioners have taken a small but important step in moving toward the endgame of the divisive and unfortunate saga that this project represents. Sometime in the next few weeks or months, the Maryland Department of the Environment is likely to issue the permits necessary to allow construction of the project to move forward and set the stage for the crucial step of preparing and selling the bonds to finance it. I won’t rehash the pros and cons of this project. Since the 2005 Beck Report on Frederick County’s waste disposal options, this issue has been debated in great detail on almost every conceivable front, including its potential environmental, economic, public health and historical/cultural impacts. People whose opinions I respect have come down on both sides of this debate, and we can stipulate that this is a complex and difficult subject. I think building it would be a huge financial blunder, but I can respect that others think those concerns are overblown or trumped by other elements. I don’t know whether it will ultimately get built or not, but I hope we can cool the rhetoric enough for the Frederick County Commissioners to take another look and use Carroll County’s decision as an opportunity rather than a challenge. While WTE supporters can legitimately point to costs and risks of not moving this project forward after all these years, the financial risk to taxpayers deserves a fresh review using revised assumptions and greater sensitivity analysis than presented to date.

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.