RALE: Town center study underestimates increased traffic

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/28/2013
A report commissioned by Monrovia residents states that a transportation study for a proposed 1,510-home development in the area is riddled with flaws and underestimates the traffic that would be created by the new housing. The group of residents who oppose the Monrovia Town Center project has sent the analysis to officials with the Maryland State Highway Administration. The group, Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, also requested a meeting with state transportation officials before Frederick County commissioners begin deliberating on the town center project planned near Md. 75 and Md. 80. In his letter to the SHA, RALE’s president, Steve McKay, wrote that the development as planned would put drivers at risk. “It is difficult to imagine that there will not be serious adverse safety consequences that result from adding the amount of unmitigated traffic to Md. 75,” McKay wrote. “These safety concerns have been underscored by 11 hours of testimony by well over a hundred residents over the course of three nights before the Frederick County Planning Commission — many recounting first-hand accounts of severe traffic accidents on Md. 75.” After the series of recent meetings, the planning commission recommended approval of the developer’s request to rezone 457 acres from agriculture to planned unit development. The commission members also voted favorably on a proposed agreement between the county and developers.

Monrovia Town Center Hearing Packs Winchester Hall

WHAG
10/30/2013
It was a packed room at Winchester Hall Wednesday night, but despite emotions running high it was quiet. The public was instructed to wave hands, and refrain from cheering and clapping to keep the meeting running in a timely manner. The Planning Commission has heard comments from hundreds who are against the Monrovia Town Center, including more than 1,500 houses, as well as commercial properties. "They want to take basically 1,500 new homes, carve it out from the farmland and dump it next to our community. It's going to more than triple the size of our town," said Steven McKay of Monrovia, the president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion. Residents are pushing for the Planning Commission to say no when they make a recommendation to the Frederick County Board of Commissioners on November 20th. "I'm for sustainable growth, but not over development. Our roads can't take the heavy traffic, there dangerous, now our schools are overcrowded," said Monrovia Resident Stan Mordensky. Hundreds of residents echoed the same concerns, the local schools already over crowded and the roads in no condition for increased traffic.

Maryland planning official says state not responsible for town center density

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/29/2013
Maryland planners are looking to correct the record after a Frederick County official said state smart growth rules are determining the density of a controversial 1,510-home development in Monrovia. The state does not control local growth decisions or decide the compactness of particular housing projects, a Maryland Department of Planning official wrote in an email to the Frederick County Planning Commission. The email’s author sent the correspondence to address “incorrect statements” made at a Wednesday hearing on the proposed Monrovia Town Center. During several hours of public testimony, some speakers objected to the dense housing arrangement planned for the town center and said they would prefer homes spaced out on 1- to 2-acre lots. Planning Commissioner Bill Hopwood responded that the state discourages these large-lot developments. He mentioned that the commission must follow Maryland mandates and said “five, 10 houses an acre, this is what the state tells us they want.” Not so, wrote David Cotton, of the state planning department. “The state has no authority over local zoning. The densities proposed for the Monrovia Town Center project are the result of local zoning and market forces,” wrote Cotton, western Maryland regional planner.

Proposed Monrovia Town Center draws crowds to county hearing

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/24/2013
Dottie Hoffacker has lived in Frederick County since sixth grade but said if officials allow a 1,510-home development near her home, “I’m out.” She and her husband aren’t surprised that more homes are coming to Monrovia. Though they would love to “keep the cows and keep the corn” that characterize their community, they said growth is inevitable. But they said the proposed Monrovia Town Center would overwhelm their network of rural roads and crowd their local schools. The couple, their two children and more than 60 others stood on a chilly sidewalk Wednesday outside Winchester Hall to protest the development. Later, as the Frederick County Planning Commission began considering the proposed town center, rally attendees and many others crowded inside, filling the 204-person hearing room and spilling into overflow areas. The speaker sign-up sheets grew to more than 150 names, and county officials said they’d likely need a second hearing to conclude public testimony. After hearing all speakers, the planning commission will decide whether to recommend approval of the project’s rezoning request. The commission members will also evaluate a drafted long-term agreement between the county and developers. Lawrence said speakers who were unable to address the planning commission Wednesday can testify at an Oct. 30 hearing.

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.

Monrovia Town Center opponents scrutinize [Blaine] Young's campaign donations

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/09/2013
Opponents of a proposed 1,510-home project in Monrovia are raising questions about campaign contributions that Commissioners President Blaine Young has accepted from companies linked to the developers. Donations totaling $28,000 poured into Young’s campaign coffers Oct. 29, 2012, from seven companies whose resident agent is helping head up the Monrovia Town Center project. The same day, the campaign received an additional $3,000 from 75-80 Dragway Inc., a company that owns some of the property slated for development. As county officials prepare to hold an Oct. 23 hearing on the project, residents around the 457-acre site are crying foul. “I think it’s a gross conflict of interests, and it’s been one since that donation took place,” said Steve McKay, president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a citizens group that has vocally protested the town center plans. McKay’s group argues the town center would destroy Monrovia’s rural character and says the local roads and schools cannot support hundreds of new homes. While the donations to Young’s campaign were legal, McKay noted that they came a couple of weeks before town center developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC, turned in the rezoning applications for their project.

Monrovia Town Center opponents scrutinize [Blaine] Young’s campaign donations

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/09/2013
Opponents of a proposed 1,510-home project in Monrovia are raising questions about campaign contributions that Commissioners President Blaine Young has accepted from companies linked to the developers. Donations totaling $28,000 poured into Young’s campaign coffers Oct. 29, 2012, from seven companies whose resident agent is helping head up the Monrovia Town Center project. The same day, the campaign received an additional $3,000 from 75-80 Dragway Inc., a company that owns some of the property slated for development. As county officials prepare to hold an Oct. 23 hearing on the project, residents around the 457-acre site are crying foul. “I think it’s a gross conflict of interests, and it’s been one since that donation took place,” said Steve McKay, president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a citizens group that has vocally protested the town center plans. McKay’s group argues the town center would destroy Monrovia’s rural character and says the local roads and schools cannot support hundreds of new homes. While the donations to Young’s campaign were legal, McKay noted that they came a couple of weeks before town center developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC, turned in the rezoning applications for their project.

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.

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.

Pay now, or pay later for Frederick County development

Gazette
01/24/2013
The legal costs of the battles that could take place in the future over inadequate roads and schools, public safety and irresponsible decision-making make current litigation look like a minor inconvenience. So, let the debate run its course. Let the courts get involved; that’s why we have them. If we don’t, we could end up losing the very place everyone is trying to save in their own way — without having asked all the tough questions in the first place.