City reverses Citizens-Montevue subdivision

Some now hope county will reconsider sale
Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
11/27/2013
The Frederick County Board of County Commissioners will need to retrace its steps when pursuing the privatization of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living facility. The city's Zoning Board of Appeals voted Tuesday to reverse the city Planning Commission's decision to subdivide the land. The land the centers sit upon must be subdivided from the rest of the parcel they are on in order for the county to sell the land and privatize the centers. The Board of County Commissioners voted this past summer to privatize the centers. A planned sale to Millersville-based Aurora Health Management, which is now operating the centers, is not yet final. The plan has faced opposition from residents and members of the centers' former board of trustees, who think the centers should continue to serve as public entities serving low-income residents. The board of trustees was dissolved in June when the county commissioners voted to move forward with the sale of the two facilities. In its decision Tuesday, the board agreed with the one former board member and two residents who appealed the Planning Commission's decision in a few ways, stating that the county's application was not complete, and the commission should have considered the intent of the subdivision and how the county's plan for the land would affect city residents. The commission erred when considering the incomplete application, erred in failing to evaluate whether the plan conflicted with the city's comprehensive plan, and erred when thinking that that they were restricted from asking the county its plan for the land, said Jim Racheff, zoning board chairman. The zoning board voted unanimously to vacate the approval of the subdivision, and remand it back to the planning process.

Report: Seniors want more transportation options

Frederick News Post
Kelsi Loos
11/23/2013
Frederick County seniors want more transportation options as some of them age out of driving, according to a report from the county's Department of Aging. About 16 percent of licensed drivers, almost 647,000 in Maryland, are over 65, according to Motor Vehicle Administration spokesman Buel Young. Some of those seniors may voluntarily give up driving if they notice their ability is not what it used to be. The MVA may also deny licenses to people of any age who have medical conditions that make it unsafe for them to drive. “It's a big issue, it really is, because Americans are tied to their cars,” Frederick County Department of Aging director Carolyn True said.

Lake Linganore residents band together on water quality

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/19/2013
When Lake Linganore resident Betsy Smith looks out the window after a storm, she watches the land around her acting as a “huge water filter.” Plants and soil slow the flow of rainwater and help remove sediment and pollutants before the runoff reaches Lake Linganore and surrounding tributaries, she said. The filtration step is important not only for preserving water quality, but also because sediment can build up and reduce the lake’s capacity. But Smith and her neighbors are concerned that planned development in the area will replace these vegetated areas with paved surfaces, she said. “We just didn’t see how it could work to do all of the development right there in that really big water drainage area,” she said. Smith has expressed her opinion at public meetings, she said, but she doesn’t feel her voice has been heard by county leaders. So Smith and some of her neighbors decided to band together. In late October, they filed the articles of incorporation for a new group called Cleanwater Linganore Inc. Smith is president of the nonprofit’s five-member board, all of whom live in the Lake Linganore area.

Year-round education center brings community to Fox Haven Farm

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
11/04/2013
More than 65,000 new trees and shrubs have been planted on the 582-acre farm, which has been certified for organic hay and vegetable production under the Maryland organic certification program. The farm’s conservation, forest stewardship and nutrient management plans guide land-use decisions, but Fox Haven has added a year-round ecological retreat and learning center that offers sustainable practice, weekend or daylong bootcamp workshops, stream walks for exploration and discovery, career and art workshops, and map and compass learning sessions.“For over 30 years, Fox Haven’s forest and farmland have been a proving ground for innovative, sustainable farming practices to restore the health of the land to protect the water quality of Catoctin Creek, and to provide habitat for wildlife,” according to the farm’s mission statement atfoxhavenlearningcenter.org. “While we have worked informally to share those practices with others over the years, in 2011 we set a goal to make that information more widely available through an education center that is open year-round,” said Renee Bourassa, the learning center’s deputy director.

State warns 1 cent storm water fee is "insufficient"

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/03/2013
Frederick County's 1 cent storm water fee could end up costing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, state environmental officials recently warned. A Maryland Department of the Environment review determined the county's fee would be "insufficient" to pay for the water cleanup efforts required by a state-enforced permit. The fee of 1 cent per eligible property is estimated to raise $487 annually for county water programs. "We believe that this level of funding will be insufficient to support the people, programs and projects that will be necessary for the county to meet its obligations under the Watershed Implementation Plan and the new MS4 permit that we expect to issue to your county next month," stated an Oct. 25 letter written by Robert Summers, the state's environmental secretary. The county could get slapped with fines of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of its storm water permit, which is in the process of being renewed, the letter continued.

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.

One in four county bridges in line for upgrades

Frederick News Post
Kelsi Loos
10/20/2013
Keeping Maryland's bridges safe for traffic is a big job. Frank Mills, a State Highway Administration supervisor, oversees 18 inspectors who work in seven teams to check the integrity of bridges and overpasses around the state. “A lot of them work seven days a week,” he said. Inspectors check welds, bearings, cement and guardrails for deficiencies. They also make sure a thick coat of paint is in place to prevent rust damage. “We use pretty simple tools, geology picks, that kind of thing,” Mills said. A geology pick is a small hammer often used to chip rocks. When counties issue a flood warning, like Frederick did earlier this month, crews check bridges for scour — or erosion — on bridge pillars as waters rise. Mills' crew has thousands of bridges to inspect and keeping up with all of them can be challenging, he said. “We're always shoveling sand against the tide,” he said.

Officials in holding pattern on waste-to-energy

Young: Incinerator's future is uncertain
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/06/2013
An effort to build a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick County remains on ice as the state weighs a trio of environmental permits. County officials expected the permitting process would be wrapped up by August. More than a month later, they are not sure how much longer it will take. With leaders from Frederick County, Carroll County and possibly other jurisdictions locked in a holding pattern, Commissioners President Blaine Young says the fate of the waste-to-energy project is unclear. "I think it's a coin toss," Young said. "I don't feel confident to say the project is dead. I don't feel confident to say the project is a go." Frederick County leaders are waiting to determine whether it still makes financial sense to build a facility that would consume trash to generate electricity. Carroll County, a partner in the project, wants to back out, but must find a replacement or pay a fine. And no replacement partner is going to show serious interest until the project secures its approvals from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Young said."Nobody really knows where these permits are at and where the issue is here," he said. A spokeswoman for the state agency wrote in late September that "MDE is still working through the permit process" and doesn't have a set date for completion.

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.

Changing faces

Frederick News Post
0924/2013
Any resident of Frederick who hasn’t noticed the increasing diversity of the city’s residents must be either a very unobservant person or doesn’t get out much. Everywhere one goes in town — shopping districts, neighborhoods, the workplace, schools, parks — one sees increasingly significant racial and ethnic diversity. According to The News-Post’s Sept. 19 story “New data: Frederick city more diverse,” that diversity continues to increase. We think that’s a good thing that strengthens the community in a number of ways. As we would have expected, during the last five years both Frederick and Frederick County have grown, with the county making the most gains. When it comes to diversity, however, the city is a veritable melting pot compared to the county. The Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey found that in the city of Frederick one of every three residents are a member of a minority group. In the county, only two in 10 are minorities.

No success for secession

Frederick News Post
09/14/2013
The last time a state was able to successfully break away from another was West Virginia after pro-North residents split from Virginia more than 150 years ago. But that hasn’t stopped others in recent years from trying in other states such as Colorado, Michigan and California. And now there’s another campaign afoot in Maryland — this time with the state’s five westernmost counties, including Frederick. The five counties, which also include Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Carroll, have a majority of registered Republicans in a heavily Democratic state. To say this is an uphill battle is an understatement. There’s virtually no chance this is going to be successful, and we’ll tell you why in a minute.

The 51st State, Western Maryland: How to succeed without seceding

MarylandReporter.com
Barry Rascovar
09/22/2013
The mountain natives are restless in Maryland. They want to have it their way, though they represent just 10 percent of the state’s population. Here are a few things that annoy them: * A stream of tax increases (including one on rain!) from Annapolis. * State restrictions that devalue their land. * Tougher gun-control laws. *A bleeding-heart law that does away with the death penalty. * A state law legalizing gay marriages. * Political map-makers who deprive them of their conservative congressman. It’s enough to make you want to secede, which is the plan put forth by a Carroll County blogger, Scott Strzelczyk of New Windsor, for the five counties often lumped together as Western Maryland. The verb “to secede” is a curious term not to be confused with the similar-sounding verb “to succeed.” Indeed, were the five western counties to secede from Maryland, there would be no chance for that movement to succeed. It won’t happen Here’s why. * The 51st state: Western Maryland would be the third smallest by population (less than 660,000). Only Wyoming and Vermont would have fewer residents. * It would be a state divided between “haves” and “have nots.” Under-populated and impoverished Garrett and Allegany counties would be heavily outvoted by the far more crowded, well-off jurisdictions to the east. As the French say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” * It would be one of the most homogeneous states, close to 90% white with few African Americans or Latinos. Nearly everyone would be Christian, too. * It would be filled with non-productive residents. Folks of retirement age and children 18 years or younger would constitute over 40% of the population. * Two wealthy counties – Carroll and Frederick – would be forced to support the other three jurisdictions that have high unemployment (Washington County’s jobless rate, for instance, stands at 8.4%). * The five counties would lose $622 million in direct Maryland school aid and a lot more Maryland aid earmarked for other social programs. Yet these jurisdictions only produce $326 million in income tax revenue.

Incinerator opponents plan weekend rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/20/2013
Opponents of building a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick County are planning a Saturday morning demonstration at the site of the proposed facility. The gathering fits into a nationwide movement to protest projects that protest participants believe will intensify global warming, according to a news release. The Frederick County event will begin at 10 a.m. at 4549 Metropolitan Court. Event organizers say projects that create climate problems will place a burden on future generations. "Sure, we need to challenge our kids. But not to pay bigger bills while adjusting to a warmer, more disaster-prone climate," said Kathryn Ruud, of Middletown. "We need to challenge them to create energy with renewable sources and to learn ways to consume and recycle that do not create mountains of trash and materials to bury." The Draw the Line campaign is supported by 350.org and Chesapeake Climate Action Network and will include rallies, demonstrations and other events.

New data shows Frederick is growing, city remains more diverse

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson and Kelsi Loos
09/19/2013
Moving to Frederick was pure economics for the Hughes family. “Honestly, the rent was a lot cheaper here,” said Shontez Hughes, who moved with his wife and two children to Frederick in January after considering Montgomery County, where he works. The Hugheses, an African-American family, are part of the city’s diversifying population. As more people move into Frederick County, the area is increasingly becoming a melting pot — especially the city, according to data released today in the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey. Frederick County’s population grew by 2,837 from 2011 to 2012, to 239,582 people. Frederick city’s population grew 225 residents, to 66,390, according to the data. In the last five years, from 2007 to 2012, nearly 15,000 people have moved into the county and nearly 5,000 people have moved into the city. The community survey data is less accurate than data from the U.S. Census, and the margin of error can be higher than 5 percentage points in some categories. In the city, one in every threeresidents is now a minority, about 33.4 percent of residents, according to the data. Step outside the city limits, however, and the diversity diminishes. About eight in every 10 county residents are white, or about 81.6 percent of residents, the data states.

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.

Gardner exploring run for county executive, plans first fundraiser

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/07/2013
Former Frederick County Commissioner Jan Gardner has filed to open a candidate committee account and says she is considering a run for county executive. Gardner said she mailed her paperwork to the Maryland State Board of Elections late last week and is already working to organize her first fundraiser. She said she's also planning a series of listening sessions across the county because many in the community feel their voices are not being heard by sitting officials. The 2014 election is a critical one for the county because it marks the shift to a new form of government, she added. "It's really important right now as the county transitions to charter (government) that we have strong leadership in place to make sure that transition goes well, to make sure we have open and ethical government," Gardner said. She said she is "very committed" to a race for executive, but wants to hear from local residents, gauge her support and raise funds before making her final decision. Gardner, a Democrat, served as Frederick County commissioner from December 1998 to December 2010 and from there went to work as a state director for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski. She left her post with Mikulski in July.

Challenge for builders is finding construction crews

Frederick News Post
Ed Waters Jr.
09/02/2013
New home construction is picking up, but builders are finding it challenging to find construction crews. "It's been a long time coming," said Dan Ryan, president of Dan Ryan Homes, "but it has created other challenges." Ryan, whose company builds in six states, said many construction workers left the industry when the economy took its toll on the housing field. "It is a volatile and cyclical industry," Ryan said. Additionally, he said the costs of both materials and labor have increased.

City of Frederick can't plan in a vacuum

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
08/19/2013
We need to change our way of thinking about the demands upon the City of Frederick's planning. While the city's authority comprises only the area within its metes and bounds, its urbanized area (a census term, built by contiguous census tracts with population densities of 1,000 person or more each) extends much farther, meaning that the City of Frederick does not control what happens in these areas, but they have great impact upon its outcomes for roads, schools and services. These combined areas are different than the rest of Frederick County. We need to start thinking about how these factors contribute to our decision-making and the impacts of the future growth of the city in conjunction to these broader areas. Planning in a vacuum, as we prepare the next rendition of the City of Frederick Comprehensive Plan, will likely result in a failure to adequately guide the city through the next 20 years.

City of Frederick can’t plan in a vacuum

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
08/19/2013
We need to change our way of thinking about the demands upon the City of Frederick's planning. While the city's authority comprises only the area within its metes and bounds, its urbanized area (a census term, built by contiguous census tracts with population densities of 1,000 person or more each) extends much farther, meaning that the City of Frederick does not control what happens in these areas, but they have great impact upon its outcomes for roads, schools and services. These combined areas are different than the rest of Frederick County. We need to start thinking about how these factors contribute to our decision-making and the impacts of the future growth of the city in conjunction to these broader areas. Planning in a vacuum, as we prepare the next rendition of the City of Frederick Comprehensive Plan, will likely result in a failure to adequately guide the city through the next 20 years.