Lake Linganore residents band together on water quality

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
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.

Unbalanced task force

Frederick News Post
Steve McKay
Since Commissioners President Blaine Young announced his intent to rid the county of the dreaded impact fees, I have been trying to pay close attention to this subject. After all, those dreaded impact fees are an important source of funds to mitigate all of the massive infrastructure challenges being created by the county’s drive to develop, particularly here in south county. So it was with some concern that I read The News-Post’s article of Nov. 12 headlined “Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force.” In all my efforts fighting against the Monrovia development, I can count on one hand the politicians that have raised their voices in our support, and Delegate Kathy Afzali is one of them. She has been a vocal supporter in our fight against Monrovia Town Center, and against excessive growth in this part of the county. She and Delegate Michael Hough came out to our meeting in Urbana, and we had a very constructive exchange. She even stood up and testified against the development at the planning commission hearing. She is doing her job and representing her constituents — us! So I was dismayed at Sen. David Brinkley’s comments in the paper that day. First, I found the comments very unprofessional, considering that he was speaking about a fellow legislator from the same district and party. Beyond that, however, I was dismayed that he would choose Delegate Galen Clagett, someone so clearly aligned with the development community, to participate on this task force, which is already so clearly biased toward the developers. Make no mistake, this task force is going to recommend ways to make the developers pay less for the impacts that new developments have on our roads and schools. Who will make up the difference? You and me, the taxpayers. Blaine Young wants to abolish the impact fee. For Monrovia Town Center, that represents 60 percent of their contribution toward new schools. When the impact fee is gone, under the terms of the Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreement they have proposed, the developer will be completely off the hook for over $20 million! Under cross-examination at the third of four days of planning commission hearings on Monrovia Town Center, the applicant’s attorney, Rand Weinberg, confirmed as much.

County decides to relax stream buffer requirements

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
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.

Gray: More of the same coming from this BoCC

Frederick News Post
David Gray
We are coming to the end of the third year of a developer-controlled majority of the Board of County Commissioners. You might think their anti-environment, anti-education and budget-depleting gifts to their friends and contributors would begin to subside. Not so. There’s more coming — and soon. ----- There is one year left for this BoCC majority to undermine good planning and give county funds away for developer interests, and other special friends like Aurora healthcare. As a commissioner now for 19 years I have never seen a group of elected commissioners who so blatantly favor their personal and special interests over the citizens and future well-being of this county. I am disgusted to witness these and prior actions of the last three years that leave a legacy of environmental neglect, growing bills and future tax increases, in the millions, to be shouldered by Frederick County taxpayers.

County considers reducing stream buffer requirement

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Houses might be allowed a little closer to Frederick County streams if officials decide to relax certain water body buffer requirements. On Wednesday, members of the Frederick County Planning Commission will review drafted amendments to the local rules for buffers. The proposed changes would reduce minimum building setbacks, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules that apply in the Lake Linganore area. The county is tackling the stream buffer ordinance as it works through a list of suggestions for making the region more friendly to businesses. Dusty Rood, president of the Land Use Council, said the proposed changes are minor and would make the stream buffer rules more compatible with state environmental standards. However, others think the drafted changes would weaken county laws and lead to stream pollution. The current water body buffer ordinance was passed in 2008, under the board led by Commissioners President Jan Gardner, said Tim Goodfellow, principal planner for the county. Before the ordinance was enacted, the minimum setback was only 50 feet, Goodfellow said. Determining proper setbacks now involves looking at the 175-foot slice of land on either side of a stream or surrounding a body of water. The proposed changes would reduce the study area to 150 feet on each side of a stream, Goodfellow said. The studies examine the slope of the land surrounding the water bodies; for areas with predominantly steep slopes, buildings must sit at least 175 feet away from the water. The minimum buffer is 150 feet where slopes are mostly moderate, and for gentle inclines or flat areas, the setback is 100 feet, Goodfellow said.

County approves 1,735 more homes for Lake Linganore

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Frederick County commissioners Tuesday voted to rezone roughly 950 acres in the Lake Linganore community as part of a plan to fill out the development with 1,735 more houses. The board voted 4-1 to approve the proposal, with Commissioner David Gray the only one to oppose reclassifying the land from its agriculture and resource conservation zoning. Allowing the development to move forward will enable the construction of roads and other infrastructure systems that have been lacking in the community, commissioners said during the evening public hearing.

Drawing the line: Residents, developers turn out to voice opinions on rezoning

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
A mixed crowd of residents -- featuring those wanting to slow growth in their neighborhoods and those ready to build -- was out Wednesday night for the first public hearing of the Frederick County Planning Commission to discuss rewriting the county's land-use plan.

County rejects bypass proposals for New Market

Chris Brown
The Frederick Board of County Commissioners on Monday removed from plans several proposed roads that would bypass the Town of New Market, citing the lack of money. Commissioner John ''Lennie" Thompson Jr. (R) was the most stringent critic of the proposed roads, saying that without money, the roads were nothing more than ''words or lines on a map," and were not enough to build a bypass. The plan for a northern bypass from Boyers Mill Road and Summerfield was removed by a 3-2 vote. Thompson said that this would not prevent the construction of a bypass at some point, but there would need to be money first. "There's no money, there's not going to be a bypass," Thompson said.

Reactions mixed on revised plan for growth

Sherry Greenfield
No issue has elicited as much controversy in Frederick County in recent years as the New Market Region Plan. The Frederick County Division of Planning unveiled a revised plan for the first time to residents and property owners at an open house June 21 at Oakdale Middle School in Ijamsville. Due to the new plan, 12,200 homes that were slated for the New Market area have been reduced to 5,400, said Tim Goodfellow, project planner with the planning division. The reduction has left some unhappy property owners who were hoping to make a profit off their land.

Commissioners debate impact of development

Frederick News Post
Clifford Cumber
Commissioners expressed concerns this week over the environmental impact a massive development in Lake Linganore could have for a wooded area in the region. More than 4,000 homes are planned by Virginia-based Land Stewards LC, in the Lake Linganore area. Commissioner David Gray's fears over clear cutting and other development actions may lead him to make efforts to kill the Land Stewards project if he isn't satisfied the developer is taking care of environmental concerns. Steep slopes and forest characterize some of the properties where Land Stewards plan to build. "If it doesn't look like it's going to be something special for the county here, I'll do everything I can do to stop it. Period," Gray said. "Whatever I can pull off. Because I don't want to leave this place a mess. Its purely that simple."