Oath of office?

Frederick News Post
Russell Harris
11/22/2013
In my senior year at Virginia Tech, I joined the Order of the Engineer. As part of joining this group, I took an oath that states, “I am an engineer, I have an obligation. My obligation has become my desire. My desire is to apply the Golden Rule, our code of ethics, to the technical knowledge of the world by persuasion. My desire becomes the yardstick of my professionalism and lastly that my professionalism means to me that I will never again ask myself the question, ‘How much do I get out of it?’ but rather I will ask myself the question, ‘How much can I give?’ The symbol of the desire to be a giver is the Engineer’s Ring. The ring will say to all who see it, ‘Here is an engineer, possessed of a publicly avowed dedication to his profession and the public it serves.” Now I may be wrong, but I would imagine that public officials, such as the planning commissioners and the Board of County Commissioners, would take a similar oath in which they are appointed to serve the public and not themselves. As I watched and participated in the public hearing for the Monrovia Town Center, it did not seem that the planning commission was thinking about what was best for the public that they were appointed to serve, but perhaps what was best for them.

Commission votes favorably on Monrovia Town Center rezoning

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/21/2013
After three nights of public testimony, the Frederick County Planning Commission on Wednesday weighed in favorably on a rezoning request that would allow the advance of a 1,510-home project in Monrovia. Three members of the planning commission opposed a recommendation to approve the rezoning application filed by developers in the Monrovia Town Center project. Their “no” votes reflected their doubts that road networks around the proposed project could handle an influx of new residents. Four planning officials voted in favor of giving a positive recommendation to the rezoning request, saying the developers were meeting legal requirements with plans to fund transportation improvements. In a second decision, the planning officials voted 5-2 that a proposed agreement between the county and town center developers was consistent with the county’s overall growth plans. “For me, the main concern is the road network,” said Commissioner Dwaine Robbins, who cast an opposing vote on both matters. “It meets the letter of the law, but just in my gut, it don’t feel right.” The votes capped off a series of meetings that started last month and has drawn hundreds of Monrovia residents to Winchester Hall.

Monrovia residents say impact fee elimination would be developer boon

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/17/2013
Critics of a 1,510-home project in Monrovia are asking whether talk of changing county growth policies will lead to letting developers off the hook for millions in school construction fees. The proposed Monrovia Town Center is projected to add 840 students to surrounding schools, and county law requires the developer to put up an estimated $20.6 million in impact fees to expand classroom space for the newcomers. Opponents of the Town Center project say the impact fees will fall far short of paying for even one new school. However, they also worry that if county officials eliminate impact fees, this developer contribution for schools will drop to zero. "Instead, the costs will be borne by county residents," Steve McKay, a Monrovia resident, testified at a recent public hearing. County officials and community stakeholders are set to start brainstorming next week on the best ways to deal with growth in the county. The group has formed amid discussion of eliminating the county's impact fees and replacing them with a transfer tax levied when properties are sold.

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.

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.

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.

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.

County approves 1,735 more homes for Lake Linganore

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/19/2013
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.

Hungry for growth?

Frederick News Post
Matt Edens
06/17/2013
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.

Global Mission Church survives appeal; more legal challenges predicted

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
03/01/2013
The Sugarloaf Citizens Association Inc. and others tried unsuccessfully Thursday to block Global Mission Church's site plan for an 800-seat house of worship. The Frederick County Board of Appeals voted 4-1 to deny hearing the appeal filed by attorney Michele Rosenfeld on behalf of clients near the church site. She intended to make a case that the wrong zoning ordinance and faulty health department calculations were considered in November when the Frederick County Planning Commission approved the site plan for 78 acres at 25700 Old Hundred Road. After nearly two hours of discussion, a majority of the board of appeals concluded that it would not hear the appeal because it has no jurisdiction over septic decisions, which fall under state health department authority, and that Rosenfeld cited zoning law that did not apply to the case.

Conflicting Opinions Offered at BOCC Land-Use Hearing

Urbana Town Courier
Kristy Crawford
08/23/2012
The Frederick County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is working quickly to revise the 2010 Comprehensive Plan, which restricted the right to build in some areas throughout Frederick County. On July 31, approximately 75 people attended a meeting at Oakdale High School before the BOCC and the Frederick County Planning Commission, to express often strong opinions on the BOCC’s proposal. Close to 9,000 acres of land throughout Frederick County — largely from Urbana to New Market — and more than 12,000 homes could potentially be developed with the revised plan. The revised plan estimates a population increase of more than 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Frederick city annexation would not increase number of homes

Project would increase tax revenue, developers say
Gazette
Katherine Heerbrandt
02/03/2012
The developer of 285 acres of farmland in northern Frederick is seeking another 250 acres from the city, according to land use attorney Bruce Dean. However, the developer of Crumland Farm does not intend to increase the number of houses or commercial space it originally planned. In 2009, the city annexed 235 acres of the Crumland Farm property along U.S. Route 15, which is projected for as much as 1,200 homes and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space. Plans have not changed, but the additional acreage decreases the number of homes per acre from 9.2 to 4.5, and increases the percentage of open space from 26 percent to 30 percent. The new annexation request increases the number of single-family detached houses and townhomes and decreases the number of multi-family homes. The original plan called for 300 single-family homes, 150 townhomes, and 750 multi-family homes, while the combined annexation plan calls for 700 single-family homes, 300 townhomes and 200 multi-family homes.

Annexed farmland clear for developing

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
01/27/2012
The City of Frederick is about to gain some acres. For more than a year, two large farms just north of the city have been approved for annexation, but the city and previous county officials disagreed on zoning so developers were told they would have to wait five years. The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to end that mandatory waiting period and allow the developers to proceed immediately. The two farms -- known as the Crum and Thatcher properties -- total nearly 400 acres. Both are north of the city limits along U.S. 15. Frederick Mayor Randy McClement was at Thursday's meeting and called the commissioners' decision a positive one for the city. "We need the growth area," McClement said.

Korean megachurch wins further review of plans,

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
01/29/2010
Global Mission Church will have another chance at approval for its 138,000-square-foot building. The second part of the church's hearing Thursday before the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals explored whether the Frederick County Planning Commission treated the applicant fairly when it denied approval of its site plan. In October, the commission denied approval of the plan for the building containing a sanctuary with 1,160 seats. The congregation appealed the ruling, claiming the denial was based on erroneous conclusions about septic use and adequate emergency access. The first part of the appeal on Jan. 20 lasted nine hours, with several hours devoted to public testimony opposing the proposed church. The property is on agricultural land off I-270 in the southern part of the county north of the county line. The plan also calls for a dining hall that seats 500 and a three-story building with 67 classrooms. The planning commission based its decision to deny the site plan on estimates from the county health department the church might use more than the 5,000 gallons of septic capacity allowed. That was the main reason for denial, but the need for a secondary access route to the property was cited as a safety concern, Deputy County Attorney Wendy Kearney said.

Housing development still faces many hurdles

Frederick News Post
Pamela Rigaux
08/08/2006
Urbana developer Natelli Communities has received approval from the county commissioners to build up to 500 homes on 181.42 acres just north of Urbana on Md. 355. The commissioners voted last week to allow the tract between the community park and Park Mills Road, previously designated an employment corridor, to be developed with new dwellings -- condos, townhomes, apartments and senior housing. The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner John L. Thompson the sole dissenter. "The rezoning will worsen school overcrowding," Mr. Thompson said in an interview later. "Frederick County's going to be a laughingstock, when people in the state look at research parks and there's nothing but garden apartments." Erik Soter, the county's assistant planning director, predicted it would be two years before Natelli breaks ground and an additional four or five to complete the project because of all the government approvals the developer will need. One approval may be particularly hard to come by, he said. The county mandates that new homes must not generate more students than the local schools can accommodate, and Urbana High School is filled.

County approves senior development

Frederick News Post
Liam Farrell
04/13/2006
The graying baby boomers in Frederick County are getting another community just for them. On Tuesday night, the Frederick Board of County Commissioners approved a change in zoning to allow construction of the Monrovia Town Center, an age-restricted development of more than 1,600 units south of Monrovia. About 50 acres of the area, near Urbana, will be donated for public use and will eventually house a fire and emergency medical service substation and a Frederick County Sheriff's Office substation.The developer, 75-80 Properties L.L.C., will also put $10,000 for each market value unit, or about $14 million, toward improving neighboring roads such as Md. 75. Any new development of 25 or more dwelling units must make at least 12 percent of its units affordable for middle-income residents.

Governor: State won’t fund sprawl

Frederick News Post
Julia Robb
12/07/1998
Local government is free to make its own decisions, but state government will not pay for the developmental sprawl it allows, Gov. Parris Glendening warned Saturday in a speech at Hood College. State government means to invest in existing communities, Mr. Glendening said at the Monocacy Watershed Conference, sponsored by Hood College and Community Commons, a local environmental group. Local governments that allow development beyond their present boundaries will be forced to pay for the development’s infrastructure themselves, he said. But he said local governments that prevent sprawl will be given tax credits, low interest loans and other incentives.