County considers reducing stream buffer requirement

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/8/2013
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.

Frederick’s Next Dead Mall

Frederick Gorilla
Matt Edens
09/30/2013
Well, that’s settled: We’re getting another Walmart. In July, the Board of Aldermen approved the controversial rezoning that will make way for a new Walmart Supercenter in the middle of what was once Frederick Towne Mall. Opinions varied widely in the often acrimonious debate leading up to the vote. The most outspoken proponents promised that the big box retailer would be the boost the area needs to reclaim its past glory as a shopping destination. Meanwhile, the direst opponents painted the supercenter’s grand opening as a dark day that would bring the Golden Mile — and maybe America — one step closer to oblivion. By and large, I doubt either prediction will come to fruition. In fact, that’s primarily why I opposed the rezoning. Choosing general commercial over the mixed-use model that’s been the key component of at least half a dozen successful shopping center makeovers in the region essentially preserves the status quo. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that in 10 years the Golden Mile will remain what it is today: a struggling retail strip, albeit one with a Walmart. I doubt it will have a Kmart, however.

Citizens Group Raises Concerns About Residential Development

WFMD
Kevin McManus
09/29/2013
The discussion over 8300 new homes planned for the Monrovia is heating up. Members of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion say they're worried about that many homes in their neighborhood. which they say it could increase traffic on Route 75, which can't handle it, and overcrowd area schools. RALE President Steve McKay also says he's worried about a campaign contribution to Frederick County Commissioners' President Blaine Young during the 2010 election. McKay says the developer of the Monrovia Town Center, his wife, and four limited liability companies gave a total of $24,000 to Young's campaign. Two weeks later, the developer filed an application for the project. "When you can so specifically tie a contributor with a development application, that may make a world of difference legally, but I don't think it makes a wit of difference to people on the outside looking in who say 'hey, that's a conflicted situation.'" McKay says. He notes it's legal, but it's not ethical. RALE asks in a news release whether there's a conflict of interest when Young accepts money from a developer whose application he will preside over.

Frederick County group eyes farm growth rights

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/242013
The nine people charged with designing a market for selling farm growth rights agree that the new program should be straightforward and promote agricultural preservation. Reaching consensus on the details could be another matter, and time is in short supply. County commissioners gave the work group a November deadline for hammering out a proposed transfer of development rights program. While the group spent its first three meetings discussing options for the program, they still have some knotty issues to untangle, such as whether shifting growth rights would actually increase development rather than preserve farmland. A TDR program allows farmers to sell their subdivision rights to other property owners.

Planning commission OKs plan for 147-home Libertytown project

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/14/2013
A plan for 147 new homes in Libertytown has area residents talking about the need for a global look at development in the area. The concept plan for the Mill Creek development, situated on about 66 acres along Jones Road and north of Green Valley Road, won approval Friday from the Frederick County Planning Commission. The project that began in the early 1990s has faced numerous hurdles over the years, but it is finally gaining steam, said Ed Wormald, who represented the developer and landowner. However, three neighbors of the proposed project are wary of moving forward too quickly. Many of the roads leading to the subdivision are narrow and rural, and Rustin Gallagher, one of the residents, said they should be improved before more cars are added. Traffic accidents on these roads have already claimed lives, he said. "Mike Fink was killed right there," he said, pointing to a road on the map of Mill Creek. Fink died in a January 2012 collision with a tractor-trailer on Md. 75 near Jones Road.

Glendening describes mismatch between housing supply, demand

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/05/2013
he American dream is changing, and community design must keep up with it, former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening told a Frederick group Wednesday. In a talk focused on smart growth, Glendening said an increasing number of people are eschewing large, single-family houses in the suburbs and instead settling in dense, walkable communities. However, there’s a growing disconnect between the types of housing people want and what’s available on the market, he said. “Keeping our downtowns strong and keeping our communities economically vibrant in the long term will require a different approach to growth than we have been doing for the last 60 years,” he said during the event at Frederick City Hall.

Green acres, not greenbacks

Frederick News Post
Chuck Honse
09/04/2013
The Monrovia and Green Valley areas are about to change. The folks living there are about to lose the lifestyle for which they moved into the area — lots of green space instead of blacktop and concrete; lots of peace and quiet instead of the sounds of traffic and emergency equipment; lots of fresh country air, the smell of freshly cut grass and hayfields instead of the fumes generated by huge volumes of traffic; lots of peaceful living instead of living in fear of increased crime, which is often the result of densely populated areas; lots of space around their homes instead of having to listen to their neighbor snoring, sneezing or their radio/TV program; lots of sounds of children at play in their spacious backyards, birds chirping and singing instead of the sounds of honking horns and screaming sirens. Head puppeteer Blaine Young and his three puppets (Billy Shreve, C. Paul Smith, Kirby Delauter) are about to change it all.

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.

Board OKs lifting age restriction from Ballenger Run project

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/29/13
Frederick County planning commissioners have granted a request to let people younger than 55 live in the proposed Ballenger Run development. The owner of roughly 197 acres on Ballenger Creek Pike on Wednesday night secured the county planning commission's unanimous blessing to lift an age restriction from the bulk of the project. With the volatility of the housing market, age-restricted communities had become a less viable option for the Ballenger Run development, project representatives said. "It was also very clear from the beginning that this location, with schools all around it ... was much better suited to an all-age community," said Steve Oder, the project manager. Plans approved in 2006 allowed for 970 age-restricted homes on the property just across from Tuscarora High School. The development plans now would include 855 dwellings, a community center, open space, a trail along Ballenger Creek and a roughly 13-acre school site.

County to consider letting farmers sell growth rights

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/21/2013
Owners of agricultural land in Frederick County might eventually bring to market their development rights as well as their farm produce. A nine-person work group has formed to consider allowing farmers to sell their property’s growth potential to land owners elsewhere in the county. A transfer of development rights program would allow farmers to drum up cash without selling off their land piece-by-piece, supporters of the idea said. “My goal is to give the farmer more tools in the toolbox to keep their farms working farms because, really, their land is their 401(k),” Commissioners President Blaine Young said. “So what this allows them to do is basically access their 401(k) by selling their development rights.” It can also be used for conservation. The county has preserved thousands of acres through purchase programs, but these initiatives rely on a limited pool of taxpayer funding. Creating a TDR program could leverage private dollars for the same purpose. The programs are a way of decoupling development rights from a property and treating them as a separate commodity.

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.

Frederick County officials advance Jefferson tech park housing plan

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/15/2013
Developers of an 825-home project southwest of Frederick aim to give future residents space to park, store their stuff and plant a garden, but it hasn’t been a simple task. At a Wednesday meeting, county officials talked about whether designs for the Jefferson Technology Park would produce a comfortable community or whether it would create problems. The preliminary subdivision and site development plan ended up passing muster with the Frederick County Planning Commission by a vote of 6 to 1. While much of the planned technology park is devoted to office and commercial space, the roughly 60-acre residential section will include 223 townhouses, 374 condos and 228 apartments. County officials heard that the technology park’s dense layout presented some challenges for planners, like making sure there’s enough room for cars. By Frederick County zoning law, the community must include at least 2,025 on-site parking spaces. The developer’s plan provides 1,243 spaces in driveways, garages and parking lots, 116 shared spaces and another 1,045 spots along the street, for a total of 2,404 spaces.

Below the belt

Frederick News Post
Glen and Gloria Dunham
08/08/2013
My wife and I are among the many in southeast Frederick County opposing the two massive developments, Lansdale and Monrovia Town Center, which Blaine Young and his Board of Frederick County Commissioners voting bloc so adamantly supports. We have written to the commissioners. To their credit, we received replies, but they clearly did not consider our argument that Frederick County currently has a dozen municipalities wanting growth, and that future growth should be within those boundaries instead of creating a brand-new townhouse city on beautiful farmland.

City decides Wal-Mart better than nothing

Frederick News Post
07/24/2013
Our hope is that a new Wal-Mart will spur economic activity on the Golden Mile and help revitalize that section of the city — that it will be good for other businesses on the strip, as opposed to making things more difficult for them. We also hope that the plans for the property will hew as closely to the letter and spirit of the small-area plan as possible. We encourage city officials to press the future occupant for any and all contributions it can make in support of this plan. It would be a real tragedy if this decision turned out badly over time. That’s possible, but we do believe it was made in good faith and after much debate and soul-searching by city officials whose alternative was basically to continue to do nothing and hope for the best.

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.

Will Wal-Mart Vote Impact City Election?

Frederick Politicis
George Wenschhof
07/19/2013
Redevelopment of areas of cities affected by economic and social demographic changes will always be a challenge for city planners and elected officials. Looking outward to discover what other cities across the country have done successfully in similar circumstances is a must. Having the courage and conviction to develop a vision and implement it is paramount. It remains to be seen if the Wal-Mart will be built and if so, what long term impact it will have on the area. Meanwhile, the city election nears, with two of the current aldermen; Kelly Russell (D) and Michael O'Connor (D) running for reelection, two running for mayor; Karen Young (D) and Shelley Aloi (R) and one; Carol Krimm (D) intending to run for Maryland state delegate next year. Will their vote on this issue influence voters when they go to the polls this Fall?

City makes way for Wal-Mart on Frederick Towne Mall site

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
07/19/2013
The stage is set for a third Wal-Mart in Frederick. After hearing more than an hour of impassioned public comment Thursday, the city's Board of Aldermen voted 5-0 to rezone the Frederick Towne Mall property. The rezoning will allow Rockwood Capital, which owns the 20 acres on U.S. 40, to move forward with a proposal to bulldoze the nearly vacant mall and build a Wal-Mart. The developers will need to bring forward a site plan before finalizing its plan.

Commission OKs concept plan for 314-home village

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/11/2013
The first round of drawings and plans for a 314-home development in Ijamsville brought the project one step closer to approval. The Frederick County Planning Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to approve the concept site plan for building Oakdale Village on roughly 52 acres north of Old National Pike and west of Eaglehead Drive. The property is sandwiched between Oakdale High School and Oakdale middle and elementary schools, and much of Wednesday's discussion related to the potential for worsening the existing traffic congestion during peak hours. Colby Hubble, who said she has lived her entire life on Old National Pike, said cars in the area of the proposed project are at a standstill for about 20 minutes most mornings. "The designer hasn't seen it, hasn't lived it," she told the county planning board. However, representatives of developers Oakdale Properties said the village would be ideally situated near schools and the future Linganore Town Center. "This is a very unique site. I can't think of a better place to put some density and establish a walkable community," said Mark Friis, president of Rodgers Consulting. Planning commissioner Robert Lawrence said he doesn't think the design provides enough access points to the community. Lawrence predicted backups at the Old National Pike entrance.