Businesses say yes, residents say no to rezoning for Wal-Mart

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
Business owners on the Golden Mile are all for a new Wal-Mart on U.S. 40, but residents who live nearby say it’s the last thing the city needs. More than 120 people filled the City Hall boardroom Wednesday night to tell the mayor and Board of Aldermen their thoughts on rezoning Frederick Towne Mall and the Conley Farm. The bulk of the crowd at the public hearing commented on the mall property. Rockwood Capital, which owns the 20-acre mall site on U.S. 40, has requested a zoning change that would allow it to demolish the mostly vacant mall and build a Wal-Mart. The zoning would change the land from commercial use to a mix of commercial and residential uses. After hearing more than 30 public comments Wednesday, aldermen finalized conditions of the rezoning, which is scheduled for a vote July 18.

Stroll and the City

Frederick Magazine
Frederick City’s planning office works to make sure residents and visitors can traipse through the city with ease. Deputy Director of Planning Joe Adkins has a pedometer clipped to his belt and estimates that at least a half dozen of his staff regularly walk or bike to city hall. Downtown, with its tree-lined side streets and historic buildings to admire, speaks for itself as a great place to walk, as does Baker Park and Carroll Creek Linear Park. But Adkins says plans are moving forward with projects such as a pathway from the Golden Mile to Downtown and one connecting Worman’s Mill to the MARC Station on East Street, following the railroad tracks. He sounds almost gleeful when he talks about the idea of using the temporary pedestrian bridge on Motter Avenue, “if we can get it at a good price,” as a permanent link over Md. 26. Walkers grooving with their way of getting around tend to evangelize. On a recent rainy Sunday, about 60 people delayed their dinners to fill the seats in City Hall to listen to Washington, D.C., architect and city planner Jeff Speck talk about Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time, the title of his newest book. Speck is a huge fan of Frederick and if certain pieces of his family’s life hadn’t fallen into place he would now be calling the place home. “Frederick is a good example of a city that has great bones. Frederick may not be as dense or as large as other cities, but at its heart it performs extremely well,” he says.

Trio of Development Projects Still Proposed

Urbana Town Courier
Sally Alt
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.

Washington County commissioners approve $544,000 school mitigation for developer

Opponents protest decision
Hagerstown Herald Mail
C.J. Lovelace
The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a school mitigation proposal with a local developer, despite a protest by opponents who turned out with signs asking the commissioners to deny the proposal in accordance with the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The commissioners voted 3-1 to allow The Reserve at Collegiate Acres, a planned 272-unit multifamily development in northwest Hagerstown, to move forward at a cost of $2,000 per unit, or $544,000 total, to be paid for schools that will be directly impacted by projected growth from the new apartments. Commissioners President Terry Baker cast the dissenting vote. Commissioner John F. Barr was absent from the meeting. The county plans to hold a public hearing in late July to amend its APFO to add a formula and cost structure for future charges to developers that want to build in areas where schools may be at or over student capacity.

Rezoning for Wal-Mart would have conditions

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
Wal-Mart or no Wal-Mart, the Frederick Towne Mall site will have conditions attached to its rezoning if it gets rezoned next month, city officials agreed Wednesday. The Board of Aldermen came to the conclusion that conditionally rezoning the property at 1301 W. Patrick St. to general commercial zoning has the potential to advance the city's long-range plans for the area's redevelopment. They agreed the conditions attached to the rezoning should be general concepts and goals, not a specific plan that Wal-Mart has presented.

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.

‘Coalitions’ an ineffective way to spend taxpayer money

Frederick News Post
t's hard not to see the $25,000 the Frederick County Commissioners have allocated to a coalition of rural counties to resist the so-called, state imposed "rain tax" as a waste of money. It's understandable the county board is agog at the total cost to Frederick County for its part in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay -- a staggering $1.88 billion by 2025. But in light of how tight the commissioners have repeatedly protested the budget is -- the maintenance of effort allocation to schools, the cuts and gradual attrition to zero of grants to emergency need nonprofits, the aggressive push to sell Citizens and Montevue because of the money it will free up -- the $25,000 to pursue a purely political lobbying effort is a questionable investment.

'Coalitions' an ineffective way to spend taxpayer money

Frederick News Post
t's hard not to see the $25,000 the Frederick County Commissioners have allocated to a coalition of rural counties to resist the so-called, state imposed "rain tax" as a waste of money. It's understandable the county board is agog at the total cost to Frederick County for its part in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay -- a staggering $1.88 billion by 2025. But in light of how tight the commissioners have repeatedly protested the budget is -- the maintenance of effort allocation to schools, the cuts and gradual attrition to zero of grants to emergency need nonprofits, the aggressive push to sell Citizens and Montevue because of the money it will free up -- the $25,000 to pursue a purely political lobbying effort is a questionable investment.

Hungry for growth?

Frederick News Post
Matt Edens
As Blaine Young is fond of pointing out to his critics, Frederick County is currently growing at its slowest rate since the 1960s. Less than 1,000 residential building permits have been approved in each of the past five years, but the Board of County Commissioners president/radio personality remains hopeful for 2013. His most recent in a long series of letters to the editor declared that “if the economy holds, and if the banks will ease off the flow of construction money, we may actually get to 1,000 homes per year.” Young and his reliable majority on the board are doing everything they can to nudge that number along. Of the 202 fees the commissioners have reduced or done away with in the name of making Frederick County more “business friendly,” well over half have to do with the planning, zoning and permitting related to development. Those statistics are enough to set Young’s shrillest critics to shrieking, but the shriekers overlook an important point. And so does the Board of County Commissioners. While policy changes at Winchester Hall can make supply easier to deliver, there’s little the county can do to goose demand. And there are signs that demand is slowing for the sort of product our zoning and development apparatus largely remains set up to deliver.

Watching elected officials over Wal-Mart

Frederick News Post
Katherine Logan
Despite what you may hear, many of us are against the proposal of a new Wal-Mart at the old Frederick Towne Mall. There is a petition with over 1,500 signatures and yet the public outcry against this has gone unanswered by our elected officials. Instead, we are left with the consistent denial of the “elephant” in the room while city officials repeatedly say this isn’t about Wal-Mart. This is about Wal-Mart.

Planning commission approves Urbana development

Frederick News Post
Kelsi Loos
Urbana will soon be a lot more developed or a little less green, depending on your point of view. The Frederick County Planning Commission approved the development of 701 homes Wednesday in the Landsdale development along the west side of Ed McClain Road, north of Md. 80 and to the west of Md. 75. The project will add to the first phase of the development plan, which was approved in January and included 200 townhouses.

Pulte housing plan for 1,000 units in Boyds under fire

Coalition recommends shifting density to unbuilt Clarksburg Town Center
Virginia Terhune
[Montgomery] County environmentalists are recommending that a plan by the Pulte Group to build 1,000 homes on three ridges in the Ten Mile Creek watershed in Boyds be scaled back or eliminated by placing most of the 538-acre rural site into the county’s Agriculture Reserve. “The only way to preserve fragile water systems is to cap development in their watersheds, clear and simple,” according to a 26-page report released June 6 by the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition.

Develop-Mental: GIMCRACK MILE?

Frederick Gorilla
Matt Edens
The big box is out of the bag. Matt Edens questions the merit of transforming Frederick Towne Mall into a “power center.” The big box is out of the bag. After months of rumors, the owners of Frederick Towne Mall have finally ’fessed up: They want to build a Walmart. Whether the city’s Board of Aldermen will overrule the recommendations of the planning commission and grant the mall’s owners the zoning change they need to build the big box, I don’t know. But I personally think it would be a damn shame.

Opposes Wal-Mart based on business practices

Frederick News Post
Sandy Doggett
I am against another Wal-Mart in Frederick because the company has a history of shoddy practices. There are so many hidden costs to taxpayers to make their low prices possible. Wal-Mart is one of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare in the U.S. Due to low wages , many of their employees are forced to sign up for food stamps (SNAP), housing assistance, earned income tax credits and Medicaid or SCHIP for their children’s health. U.S. taxpayers are forced to support Wal-Mart workers. Their wages are so low that they can’t support their families with a living or just wage. I have a few questions for you to consider. Do you want a company that...

[City of Frederick Planning] Commission to review Wal-Mart proposal

Frederick News Post
Wal-Mart's proposal for the Frederick Towne Mall property gets another review Monday. The Frederick Planning Commission, with a packed agenda, will consider Wal-Mart's proposal to tear down the mall at 1301 W. Patrick St., leave Boscov's, Ollie's Bargain Outlet and Home Depot as they are, and build a Wal-Mart on the north side of the 40-acre site. The commission meets at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Board Room at 101 N. Court St.

Boom in multifamily housing moving to Frederick

But is there a bust on the way?
Sonny Goldreich
Multifamily vacancy rates in Frederick County stand at about 2.3 percent today, falling by more than half since the 4.9-percent rate in 2010, he noted in a blog posted last week. During the same period, apartment rental rates in the county have increased almost 6 percent since 2010. There are 6,061 units currently in the county pipeline, with 4,069 units in the city of Frederick alone. This is a slow-moving construction boom that could take until 2030 to be completed, but developers see value in building apartments that they don’t see in other sectors of commercial real estate, Mackintosh said

Challenging county growth decisions soon to cost $1,200

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Local residents now will have to put up $1,200 if they want to charge Frederick County commissioners or the planning commission with erring on development decisions. Commissioners last week established the fee in what officials said is an attempt to offset the cost of dealing with these grievances. But some say the change is an attempt to suppress the public's concerns about county growth planning. "The vote is yet another roadblock to the democratic process," Janice Wiles, director of Friends of Frederick County, wrote in an email. "This $1,200 fee is so high that almost no one could afford to appeal."

County approves 20-year agreement for Urbana projects

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
County commissioners Tuesday gave their stamp of approval to a 20-year agreement with developers of the Villages of Urbana, the Urbana Office Research Center and other nearby building projects. Crafting a development rights and responsibilities agreement is important "so we all understand the ground rules and so investment can be made in the right ways," said Thomas Natelli, president and CEO of Monocacy Land Co. and managing member of other involved development companies. The contract covers the roughly 300-home unbuilt portion of the Villages of Urbana, a large development north of the intersection of Md. 80 and Md. 355. It also applies to the Urbana Office Research Center, the site of the Fannie Mae data center. The Urbana Town Center and Worthington Square projects, slated for 610 and 72 homes respectively in addition to employment and commercial space, also fall under the agreement.

Big stick for blight

Frederick News Post
Frederick’s lawmakers are moving forward conservatively with legislation that would allow the city to go to court and appoint receivers to handle properties that are a hazard to public health, welfare and safety. The receivership program, which the mayor and aldermen began discussing Wednesday, will perhaps be the biggest stick among a suite of proposals under consideration to encourage or force property owners to rehabilitate ramshackle buildings.

615-home building plan wins county approval

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Frederick County commissioners Tuesday night signed off on a plan to build 615 homes on the Westfield South property and agreed to accept an $800,000 payment from developers instead of a school site.