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.

Young describes closed-session votes on Monrovia

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/15/2011
County Commissioners President Blaine Young says if he’d had his way three years ago, the proposed Monrovia Town Center development might be smaller and sit next to a large tract of agriculturally preserved land. To top it off, a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the county might not be simmering in federal court, he says. The 1,510-home project now moving through the public hearing process has caused a stir in the Monrovia area, whose residents argue the planned development would overburden their roads and schools. Moreover, some say the opinions of current Monrovia residents haven’t played a significant role in county decisions that will reshape their community. Young asserts that the project has been years in the making, and waves of public officials have targeted the Monrovia area as an appropriate venue for Frederick County’s future growth. The last county board, led by Commissioners President Jan Gardner, missed an opportunity to limit the number of homes in the town center and resolve ongoing litigation against the county, he said. “This could’ve been settled by the previous board,” Young said after describing closed-session votes under the Gardner board. Citizen activists say Young’s descriptions of past closed-door decisions amount to nothing more than blame-shifting. “He’s pointing the finger now, trying to sway people to believe it was other people that put him in this position,” said Amy Reyes, vice president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a group of town center opponents. According to Young, in the first half of 2010, the commissioners were discussing a $50 million lawsuit filed against the county by the developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC. In a closed session on April 1, 2010, the commissioners talked about allowing between 825 and 875 units on the property as long as the developer agreed to place an agricultural easement on property to the east of Md. 75, Young said. While he and Commissioner Kai Hagen supported making the proffer, Gardner and commissioners John L. “Lennie” Thompson Jr. and David Gray opposed it, he said. Young said the vote shows that even Hagen, who is “always seen as the foremost guru on planning,” recognized that housing growth would come to Monrovia. Hagen doesn’t want to get into a back-and-forth over the details of a closed-session vote, he said, but he doesn’t trust Young’s characterization of the decision. While he was open-minded about the town center project, he ultimately concluded that the local infrastructure wasn’t sufficient to accommodate the development, he said. The proposed town center site was among the areas that lost growth potential under the comprehensive plan adopted by the Gardner board, Hagen noted. Young was the only commissioner to vote against that long-range growth planning document. Hagen added that a closed-session vote on a lawsuit is a far cry from backing a development plan. “(Young) is mischaracterizing a thorough, honest process of gathering information and fully understanding the costs and impacts of the development with vacillating on the issue,” Hagen said.

Citizens Protest Proposed Incinerator

WFMD
Kevin McManus
09/21/213
Chanting "Hey, hey; ho, ho; incinerator has got to go," and unfurling a banner which read "Draw The Line; No Incinerator; Fight CLimate Change," a group of citizens gathered at the McKinney Industrial Park Saturday morning to protest the proposed waste to energy facility for Frederick County. The demonstration was local, but it was driven by national organizations such as 350.org, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which are concerned about the impact incineration has on climate change. "It's the most environmentally irresponsible approach we could take," says former county commissioner Kai Hagen, who was at the rally. "There are public health concerns and it's an incredibly risky financial endeavor that was never really justified. The economic model used to justify it was indefensible then, and it's even more indefensible now." Hagen was on the Board of County Commissioners when approval was given to go ahead with the project. He voted in opposition.

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.

Voting history shows power of Young’s bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Voting history shows power of Young's bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Frederick residents mixed on mall’s decided fate

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
07/20/2013
When envisioning the future of the abandoned Frederick Towne Mall site on U.S. 40, residents focused on opportunity. They imagined a place where they could live, work and play. They saw themselves walking down winding sidewalks to mom-and-pop shops, like in Bowie or Rockville. Some may not have pictured what the land may now become — home to Frederick's third Wal-Mart. Residents have mixed thoughts about the Board of Aldermen's unanimous decision Thursday to rezone the property from mixed use to general commercial, which will allow developer Rockwood Capital to continue drafting plans for a Wal-Mart on the site.

Frederick residents mixed on mall's decided fate

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
07/20/2013
When envisioning the future of the abandoned Frederick Towne Mall site on U.S. 40, residents focused on opportunity. They imagined a place where they could live, work and play. They saw themselves walking down winding sidewalks to mom-and-pop shops, like in Bowie or Rockville. Some may not have pictured what the land may now become — home to Frederick's third Wal-Mart. Residents have mixed thoughts about the Board of Aldermen's unanimous decision Thursday to rezone the property from mixed use to general commercial, which will allow developer Rockwood Capital to continue drafting plans for a Wal-Mart on the site.

Clagett Signs on Yellow Cabs Stirs Controversy

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
07/16/2013
Over the weekend, Democratic candidate for mayor; Galen Clagett signs were spotted atop yellow cabs in Frederick. It did not take long for comments to begin in what promises to be a hotly contested race for mayor of The City of Frederick. Community activist Kimberly Mellon first reported on the Clagett signs with a photo on her Facebook page “One Frederick, Many Voices”. When I asked her to share her concerns, she sent me the following: “I am appalled by what appears at first glance to be Galen Clagett's campaign staff's ignorance to Interstate Mobile Advertising's (IMA) Taxi Top Ads used for sponsoring Blaine Young's rhetoric on his self-named WFMD Show.” Blaine Young is Republican President of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners and host of a daily radio show. Mellon added “I'm left pondering Clagett’s intentions. Are Clagett's and Young's stars aligned with developer’s interests? Mellon mentioned an article in The Gazette dated April 25, 2013 that said in part “The bill, introduced by Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, will prevent opponents from asking the Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn any of the long-term pacts — called Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, or DRRAs — that can be in effect for a quarter of a century.”

Not our county's finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Not our county’s finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Trio of Development Projects Still Proposed

Urbana Town Courier
Sally Alt
06/28/2013
Three proposed development projects will play a significant role in shaping the Urbana and Monrovia communities. Currently, developers for the Monrovia Town Center and Urbana Town Center are seeking approval for zoning and site plans for these residential and commercial developments. The 457-acre proposed Monrovia Town Center development includes 1,510 single-family and multi-family units. The development, which will be located east of Ed McLain Road and north of the intersection of MD 80 and MD 75, needs zoning approval before starting the site plan review process. The Urbana Town Center/Northern Mixed Use development between MD 355 and I-270, south of Park Mills Road, will include up to 2 million square feet of office space and some commercial development, according to Denis Superczynski, a principal planner for Frederick County. He said the developer, Urbana Investment Properties II, LLC, plans to submit for review a site plan and preliminary subdivision, which will be focused initially on the residential portion of the project. A site plan for commercial development at the MD 75-80 Dragway property in Monrovia includes grocery stores, retail, offices and restaurants. The site plan for this development, which will be integrated with the Monrovia Town Center, is currently under review, according to Jim Gugel, the planning manager for the Community Development Division in Frederick County.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Public blasts commissioners over impending sale of Citizens and Montevue

Frederick Gorilla
Emily Holland
06/26/2013
Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young and the rest of the board members processed through a crowd that was not only unsettled, but irate. People shouted, noisemakers and cowbells rattled and clanked, and a gentleman with a megaphone spearheaded the cries. Public hearings rarely become this heated, especially in a smaller town environment, but yesterday’s event at Frederick Community College’s Jack B. Kussmaul Auditorium brought a spectrum of deep-seated emotions to the forefront. At issue was the impending sale (privatization) of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) and Montevue Assisted Living (MAL), both of which are currently subsidized by the county. The vast majority of the crowd had gathered to oppose this motion, rallying with indignant gusto. CCRC and MAL are the latest manifestations of the Rosemont Avenue property’s covenant “for the Benefit of the Poor of Frederick County and no other use, intent, purpose whatsoever forever” (as stated in the 1828 deed). CCRC was constructed in 1975, and MAL followed in 1987. New, state-of-the-art facilities were completed in 2012, but in November of that year, the Board of Commissioners announced they were looking into selling the facility to a private management firm. These plans became less speculative and more concrete with the dawn of 2013, and by June, a purchaser had been identified, Aurora Health Management, LLC

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.

Bill limiting appeals of Frederick County developer pacts passes

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. The bill, proposed by Del. Galen R. Clagett (Dist. 3A) of Frederick, will prevent opponents from asking the five-member Frederick Board of Appeals to overturn what are known as Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, or DRRAs, signed between the commissioners and a builder. Currently, the law allows opponents of an agreement to take their case to the appeals board for an administrative review and decision. If the appeals board votes to stand by the agreement, opponents can take their case to Frederick County Circuit Court. The new bill, which is expected to go into effect Oct. 1, now forces opponents to go directly to a circuit court judge.

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

New comprehensive plan opens door to construction of 12, 600 homes
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
09/13/2012
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
08/23/2012
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.

Clagett questions state on land use

Involvement in local growth a concern
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers and Pete McCarthy
07/05/2012
A late May letter from the Maryland Department of Planning -- which took issue with Frederick County officials for not giving the public enough time to digest proposed changes to the county's comprehensive plan -- spurred Delegate Galen Clagett to jump into the mix. In June, he met with the letter writer and another state planning official in Frederick to question them about their typical procedure for getting involved in local matters, especially hotly debated ones like the plan rewrite.

Frederick delegate angry about state’s criticism of county’s land use plans

Young, Hagen spar in regard letter from state
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
06/21/2012
Del. Galen Clagett was expected to meet with a Maryland Department of Planning official Wednesday about a letter the state sent to the Frederick Board of County Commissioners concerning their plan to develop 8,824 acres of farmland.

Frederick County growth plans criticized

Young: State’s stance is political, former commissioner involved
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
06/04/2012
A letter sent this past week from the Maryland Department of Planning, marks the second time the agency has criticized the commissioners’ plans to give 163 property owners permission to build homes and businesses on what now is open space.