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.

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 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.

State rejects parts of Frederick County water, sewer plan

Young blames politics, not growth plan inconsistencies for decision
Gazette
07/26/2012
Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) is blaming politics instead of state law for Maryland’s recent rejection of portions of the county’s 2011 water and sewer plan because planners found it inconsistent with the area’s own growth plan. The plan includes revisions that extend water and sewer service to properties outside the county’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint for growth updated every 10 years. The county is in the process of changing its growth plan to allow more development. The Maryland Department of Planning, which reviewed the Maryland Department of the Environment’s evaluation of the county’s water and sewer plan, said in a May 31 letter to MDE that while some of the plan’s revisions “strengthen the relationship” between the county’s growth and water and sewer plans, other revisions are inconsistent.

Commissioners OK tech park plan

Property owners to get special taxes
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/20/2012
A major development project could be headed for an October groundbreaking after a jump-start from Frederick County officials. Four commissioners Thursday voted to approve a plan to sell up to $40 million of county-issued bonds to fund road improvements and off-site sewer construction for the Jefferson Technology Park. Property owners in the development will pay off the bonds, with its new residents shouldering hundreds of dollars per year in special taxes. Owners of commercial properties could pay even more. The two resolutions and ordinance solidifying the financial arrangement represent a creative way to stimulate a stalled project and draw major employers to the area, Commissioners President Blaine Young said.

Enforcement of Frederick County ethics laws lacking

County has many statutes but goes light on punishing violations
Gazette
Katherine Heerbrandt
06/21/2012
A Frederick County commissioner can violate a ruling from the county’s Ethics Commission and suffer no more than a fleeting discomfort from an accusatory headline. Unless a majority of fellow commissioners directs the county attorney to take the matter to court, or approves the expense of an outside lawyer, there is little to no punishment for violating the conflict of interest provision in the county's ethics law.

Developers see culture shift in Frederick County’s business approach

Frederick more welcoming under Young board; no public announcements for projects yet
Gazette
Katherine Heerbrandt
02/23/2012
Frederick County’s new motto, “Open for Business,” sets off alarm bells for some, while others offer high praise. But although the barbs and accolades fly, it’s too soon to tell whether the business-friendly focus adopted by Frederick’s Board of County Commissioners in 2011 will have the intended effect of economic growth and lower taxes, said board President Blaine R. Young (R). Although he cannot name any specific projects on the horizon because of the confidential nature of negotiations, he said there is serious interest from companies that want to come to Frederick, including one that might bring 400 jobs to the county.

Looking ahead to the 2010 commissioners race

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/15/2009
The field could be open in the 2010 Frederick County Commissioners race. Commissioners President Jan Gardner, a Democrat and the top vote-getter in 2006, will not seek another term in that office. "I think three terms is enough," Gardner said. "I think it's time to let some ideas and fresh blood come into it. I haven't decided what I'm going to do next year." Of the five incumbent commissioners, only Commissioner Kai Hagen, a Democrat, has said he will run again, with Republican commissioners David Gray and John L. Thompson Jr. yet to commit. Gray said earlier this year that he will make a decision by April 2010. He could not be reached for an update Friday. Republican Commissioner Charles Jenkins announced in January he is running for the House of Delegates in District 3B, which covers southern Frederick County and part of Washington County. He said last week he still intends on doing so, even though he has yet to file. The potential lack of incumbents in the race makes the field much different than in 2006, when four incumbents ran.

Frederick County commissioners united against annexations

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
10/09/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners have fought over illegal immigration, haggled over the incinerator and stood divided when it came to government spending. But for what could be the first time in recent history, the five-member board stands united on an issue that has erupted in the county — the City of Frederick's annexation of the Crumland and Thatcher farms, on U.S. Route 15. Regardless of political affiliation and partisan interests, the five stand together in their fight against the annexations.

Commissioners expected to vote on incinerator today

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
06/23/2009
A trash debate that has dominated county discussions for years could be resolved today. Commissioner Charles Jenkins is expected to make several motions that will allow the county to go ahead with a proposed incinerator, also known as waste-to-energy because it could generate electricity. Commissioners John L. Thompson Jr. and David Gray are expected to be in support. "What should have been done 20 years ago, will hopefully be set in motion tomorrow," Jenkins said by phone Monday.

Shelving WTE

Frederick News Post
05/07/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners last week abandoned their deliberations on a proposed waste-to-energy facility. The WTE technology, which involves incinerating trash while producing electricity, had been for some time the board's favored option to address the county's solid waste disposal requirements in coming decades. The board cited a number of considerations in making its decision. Among the most influential were the huge cost of the WTE facility (in the $500 million to $600 million range), siting difficulties, pollution/health concerns, and public opposition that might generate costly lawsuits and push a solution further into the future. ome are characterizing the board's vote as a self-serving, political decision by commissioners unwilling to make a tough, but correct, call. The lone vote to proceed down the WTE path was cast by Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr., who has publicly said that a pro WTE vote by any board member would be tantamount to signing his or her own political death warrant. That may be a bit dramatic and probably overstates the case. While the opponents of WTE have run a vocal, high-profile campaign, it's clear that many others in the county supported the incinerator-based solution. The board's vote didn't actually kill the WTE option, but rather shelved it, removing it from current consideration in favor of other solutions. The alternatives the board will be investigating include increased/enhanced recycling and waste reduction, expanding the existing landfill, contracting to truck Frederick County's solid waste to an existing WTE elsewhere, and alternative technologies such as anaerobic digestion.

Political considerations part of incinerator debate

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
05/04/2009
The 2010 election wasn't far from the minds of the Frederick County Commissioners when they voted last week to hold off on awarding a contract to build a trash incinerator. Commissioners have considered building an incinerator, also called waste-to-energy, for more than two years. Commissioners plan to investigate alternatives instead. That is, in part, because the incinerator appears to be so politically unpopular it could be overturned by a newly elected board. A plant in Sydney, Australia, was shut down after it was up and running because of public opposition, Commissioners President Jan Gardner told the board last week. Additionally, any decision to approve an incinerator could come back to haunt officials in a future campaign.

Commissioners suspend incinerator plans

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
04/29/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are suspending deliberations on a proposed trash incinerator, and will focus instead on alternative disposal options. The commissioners accepted bids on the project earlier this year, and appeared to have narrowed those down to a preferred site and contractor to build and run the incinerator. But they voted 4-1 on Tuesday to suspend that process. Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. voted against the motion. Also known as waste-to-energy, the trash incinerator was intended to be a cheaper, long-term answer to the county's shrinking landfill space. The proposed project would have been built by Wheelabrator and located at McKinney Industrial Park, across the river from Monocacy National Battlefield. It would have cost Frederick and Carroll counties up to $527 million, and one commissioner said Tuesday the cost could even be as high as $615 million. A motion to proceed with that contract and add requirements to make it less visually intrusive was defeated 3-2, with only commissioners Thompson and David Gray in favor.

Framework adopted for sustainability commission

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
03/11/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are moving forward with a plan to make the county cleaner and greener. The commissioners adopted a framework for countywide sustainability. They also approved the creation of a Sustainability Commission, which will act in an advisory role. Both moves represent the commissioners' desire to incorporate environmentally sound approaches into county functions. Hilari Varnadore, director of the county's new Office of Sustainability, said the goal is to link environmental policy with economic and social considerations. "When these are combined and decisions are made that integrate all three, you can achieve a sustainable community," she said in her PowerPoint presentation to the commissioners Tuesday. The sustainability commission ideally will have 13 members representing energy, agriculture, education, small business, health and grass roots. The commissioners supported Varnadore's framework with a consensus vote. Commissioners Jan Gardner, David Gray and Kai Hagen voted to support the commission.

Burnt Out

Frederick News Post
Katherine Heerbrandt
12/03/2008
'm not wild about writing yet another column on the waste-to-energy discussion. I stick with it not only out of a sense of moral obligation and civic duty, but in the sincere hope that someday Frederick County will get the answers it needs to make the right choice. Then everyone on both sides of the debate will form a circle, join hands and sing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" just like in that old hippy-dippy Coke commercial. OK, that's never going to happen. But come on, we're talking three years that this issue's been in the news. It's certain that county staff's been working at it much longer. And yet we still don't know with certainty how much it's going to cost to build and operate, where it will be located, or whether Frederick County will produce enough trash to feed the gaping mouth of the mass-burn beast we've come to know as WTE. Will it be a 1,500-ton incinerator or a 900-ton incinerator? With or without hauling Carroll County's garbage into the county, coming up with 1,500 tons of trash a day is no small feat. So will the county one day be forced to advertise outside its borders with slogans like, Your Trash is Our Treasure; You Bring it, We Burn it; or Got Trash? And I still can't get a logical answer to this burning question: How are aggressive recycling efforts compatible with the WTE's exceptionally large appetite for traditional recyclables like plastics and paper?

Hagen attacks incinerator idea

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/19/2008
The only Frederick County commissioner opposed to a trash incinerator asked other board members at a meeting Tuesday to step back and re-evaluate their research. About 100 people attended to watch Commissioner Kai Hagen's PowerPoint on an incinerator and what he sees as the alternatives. His presentation comes as the commissioners are poised to review two final bids for the incinerator. It is also known as waste-to-energy because it will produce electricity. The incinerator is estimated to cost $325 million, though that number will be more exact after the bids are revealed. County staff members are evaluating those bids, and commissioners expect to have them before the board by the end of the year. Hagen criticized the board for basing the preference to build an incinerator on uncertain assumptions, such as population growth, how much trash each household will produce, or what environmental regulations could be put in place in the future. He also said they have underestimated the value of flexibility in dealing with waste, and overestimated the benefit of the certainty that an incinerator would bring to waste disposal. "It is more important to make the right decision than a rush decision," he said. He asked for a professional study of the economic risk waste-to-energy poses should those assumptions be different and asked for alternatives to be reviewed. His preferred alternative would include a combination of recycling, composting and diversion, along with using landfill space that would have to be used for ash with an incinerator, and hauling the rest of the trash to out-of-state landfills. He said with a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020, and 80 percent by 2030, the county would spend less long-term than with an incinerator.

County may license trash haulers

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/29/2008
The Frederick County Commissioners may replace a controversial trash franchising plan with a new proposal to license trash haulers. As the commissioners culled their list of 2009 state legislative priorities Tuesday morning, they opted not to vote about moving forward on franchising. They will discuss licensing as an alternative at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 6. County officials had touted the franchising bill as a tool to increase recycling because it would allow them to make curbside pickup mandatory in trash collection contracts. Only 54,000 households now get curbside recycling. That service is provided by the county. The franchising bill failed last April in the Maryland General Assembly, when trash haulers objected and Frederick County Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, refused to support it. The bill would have given the county the authority to arrange area trash hauling contracts instead of letting residents individually choose haulers. Licensing haulers could have the same effect, by requiring curbside pickup as a condition of getting a license from the county. Commissioner Kai Hagen announced Tuesday that he will oppose franchising, sparking interest in the licensing alternative. He decided to oppose the franchising legislation, he said, because he believes the county could increase its recycling programs with the powers it has now.

Political notes — Talk shifts from growth to trash

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
08012008
I knew times were changing when Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. asked me to pay more attention to a bottle tax than the almost-adopted New Market Region Plan. The five Frederick County commissioners were elected at the end of 2006 on platforms focused largely on managing growth. No issue was more pressing than the New Market Region Plan, which was adopted the May before their election. The plan would allow thousands more houses in a region overburdened by growth, and they said it should be revisited. Fast forward to today: a final draft of that plan is up for a public hearing at the end of the month. In the meantime, the commissioners have started tackling the growing pile of trash in the county's landfill. They are considering building a $325 million trash incinerator, and opponents are calling for more investment in recycling instead. Suddenly, it's become the hot political talk. Thompson wanted me to focus on his proposed bottle excise tax aimed at charging producers for the costs of disposal instead of New Market this week. It's what's important, he said. Virtually every conversation I have with the commissioners eventually comes back to trash. They are sending dozens of e-mails per day about trash with locals who are interested. But at least one commissioner said in one of those e-mails that politics will not be on his mind as he approaches the waste problem. "I can assure you that re-election issues will not be a factor in my decisions from now till Nov. 2010," wrote Commissioner David Gray. "That's just the way it is. I need adequate sleep at night."

E-mail exchange on trash intensifies

Frederick County commissioners, residents exchange dozens of e-mails daily regarding incinerator
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/31/2008
Frederick County commissioners and residents opposed to building an incinerator in the county continue to hash out the issue via multiple e-mail exchanges. The daily exchange intensified this week following a July 24 Gazette story that said a recent presentation praising recycling programs in Boulder, Colo., did little to convince commissioners John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) and Charles A. Jenkins (R), that building an incinerator, or waste-to-energy facility, is wrong for the county. For the first time, Thompson found himself drawn into the back-and-forth e-mail exchanges, when his comments were questioned by incinerator opponents.