Oath of office?

Frederick News Post
Russell Harris
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.

Community Expresses Concern About Portables

Urbana Town Courier
Sally Alt
Although the Frederick County Public County Schools (FCPS) system is working hard to ensure the health and safety of classrooms, community members believe that more should be done to safeguard the health of students and teachers in portable classrooms at Urbana Elementary School (UES). Jeff Esko, who taught for 23 years in the Gifted and Talented Magnet Program at UES, filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that his health issues were caused by working in a portable classroom. The fifth grade teacher spent seven years teaching in portable buildings used as classrooms at UES, and has been treated for ocular migraines and vision loss Health issues in some portable classrooms may be linked to indoor air quality problems, which can be caused by poorly functioning HVAC systems, chemical off-gassing from pressed wood and other high-emission materials, water entry and mold growth, and improper or infrequent cleaning, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Outdoor air should be supplied continuously when a portable classroom is occupied by students and teachers, the EPA said.

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.

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.

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.

Conflicting Opinions Offered at BOCC Land-Use Hearing

Urbana Town Courier
Kristy Crawford
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 County officials to hold public hearing on rezoning 8, 824 acres of farmland

Commissioners have given preliminary approval to proposal
Sherry Greenfield
A proposal to rezone 8,824 acres of farmland in Frederick County could lead to the construction of 12,688 homes, a majority of which would be built in the Monrovia, New Market and Urbana areas.

Urbana District Park open for business

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
The completed work marks the first phase of construction. Plans call for adding fields, but no timeline for the work has been set. "It's been a long time coming on this," said Bob Hicks, deputy director of parks and recreation for Frederick County. "It's a great achievement for the people of Urbana and the citizens of Frederick County. We are looking forward to it being well used."

Urbana could expand by 600 homes

Proposal requires a zoning change
Ryan Marshall
Urbana could add about 600 homes, as well as office space and retail stores, to one of the fastest growing parts of Frederick County. The plan would expand the community into a tract of land between Md. 355 and Interstate 270, according to Thomas Natelli, CEO of Natelli Communities, which developed Urbana.

Korean megachurch wins further review of plans,

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
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
For years, farmers in Green Valley, Monrovia and Urbana have been planning to scale back on crops and livestock to make room for houses. Now, for another two to five years, the reverse is true -- some are gearing up to plant crops on land that had been planned for homes. A number of factors account for the switch. Homes aren't selling as fast and at least one big residential developer, Toll Brothers, is withdrawing from contracts involving several Urbana farmers. Some farmers are trying to make ends meet until they can realize profits from future developments. Dairy farmer Mike Wilcom, for example, said Thursday his 168-acre Green Valley farm will be part of the Monocacy Town Center development, which includes shops and 1,600 homes for people 55 and older. Md. 80 will be widened at the intersection of Md. 75 and drivers will be able to access the shops from Md. 80. The land has been surveyed, but Wilcom won't be paid until the houses are built, and that won't happen for three to five years, he said. The project is waiting on public water and sewer.

Housing development still faces many hurdles

Frederick News Post
Pamela Rigaux
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
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.