Column Archive

A missing balance

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
10/23/2013
The Frederick County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at Winchester Hall this evening regarding the proposed Monrovia Town Center development at the intersection of Md. 75 and Md. 80 in the southeast portion of the county. The hearing before the planning commission is the penultimate step in the approval process for a 25-year Development Rights and responsibilities Agreement that will allow for the construction of 1,510 new dwelling units and a small commercial center just west of Md. 75. Coupled with the already approved 1,100-unit Lansdale project adjacent and just west of the proposed Monrovia Town Center, this quiet area of rural subdivisions and large lots is projected to grow from a population of around 700 within a 1-mile radius to over 7,700. If approved, the character of the area will certainly be transformed. Some residents undoubtedly would prefer to leave things the way they are and it’s hard to blame them for feeling that they have no say in something that could profoundly change their everyday lives.

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.

The 51st State, Western Maryland: How to succeed without seceding

MarylandReporter.com
Barry Rascovar
09/22/2013
The mountain natives are restless in Maryland. They want to have it their way, though they represent just 10 percent of the state’s population. Here are a few things that annoy them: * A stream of tax increases (including one on rain!) from Annapolis. * State restrictions that devalue their land. * Tougher gun-control laws. *A bleeding-heart law that does away with the death penalty. * A state law legalizing gay marriages. * Political map-makers who deprive them of their conservative congressman. It’s enough to make you want to secede, which is the plan put forth by a Carroll County blogger, Scott Strzelczyk of New Windsor, for the five counties often lumped together as Western Maryland. The verb “to secede” is a curious term not to be confused with the similar-sounding verb “to succeed.” Indeed, were the five western counties to secede from Maryland, there would be no chance for that movement to succeed. It won’t happen Here’s why. * The 51st state: Western Maryland would be the third smallest by population (less than 660,000). Only Wyoming and Vermont would have fewer residents. * It would be a state divided between “haves” and “have nots.” Under-populated and impoverished Garrett and Allegany counties would be heavily outvoted by the far more crowded, well-off jurisdictions to the east. As the French say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” * It would be one of the most homogeneous states, close to 90% white with few African Americans or Latinos. Nearly everyone would be Christian, too. * It would be filled with non-productive residents. Folks of retirement age and children 18 years or younger would constitute over 40% of the population. * Two wealthy counties – Carroll and Frederick – would be forced to support the other three jurisdictions that have high unemployment (Washington County’s jobless rate, for instance, stands at 8.4%). * The five counties would lose $622 million in direct Maryland school aid and a lot more Maryland aid earmarked for other social programs. Yet these jurisdictions only produce $326 million in income tax revenue.

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?

Clagett Signs on Yellow Cabs Stirs Controversy

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
07/16/2013
Over the weekend, Democratic candidate for mayor; Galen Clagett signs were spotted atop yellow cabs in Frederick. It did not take long for comments to begin in what promises to be a hotly contested race for mayor of The City of Frederick. Community activist Kimberly Mellon first reported on the Clagett signs with a photo on her Facebook page “One Frederick, Many Voices”. When I asked her to share her concerns, she sent me the following: “I am appalled by what appears at first glance to be Galen Clagett's campaign staff's ignorance to Interstate Mobile Advertising's (IMA) Taxi Top Ads used for sponsoring Blaine Young's rhetoric on his self-named WFMD Show.” Blaine Young is Republican President of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners and host of a daily radio show. Mellon added “I'm left pondering Clagett’s intentions. Are Clagett's and Young's stars aligned with developer’s interests? Mellon mentioned an article in The Gazette dated April 25, 2013 that said in part “The bill, introduced by Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, will prevent opponents from asking the Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn any of the long-term pacts — called Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, or DRRAs — that can be in effect for a quarter of a century.”

Not our county's finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Not our county’s finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

WTE endgame

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
07/09/2013
It’s no surprise that the Carroll County Commissioners voted last month to earmark $3 million in reserves to pay a termination penalty if they withdraw from the partnership with Frederick County to build a bi-county waste-to-energy facility and a suitable replacement partner does not step in. Those commissioners made clear long ago that a majority will not support Carroll County’s participation in the project. But by putting their money where their mouth is, the commissioners have taken a small but important step in moving toward the endgame of the divisive and unfortunate saga that this project represents. Sometime in the next few weeks or months, the Maryland Department of the Environment is likely to issue the permits necessary to allow construction of the project to move forward and set the stage for the crucial step of preparing and selling the bonds to finance it. I won’t rehash the pros and cons of this project. Since the 2005 Beck Report on Frederick County’s waste disposal options, this issue has been debated in great detail on almost every conceivable front, including its potential environmental, economic, public health and historical/cultural impacts. People whose opinions I respect have come down on both sides of this debate, and we can stipulate that this is a complex and difficult subject. I think building it would be a huge financial blunder, but I can respect that others think those concerns are overblown or trumped by other elements. I don’t know whether it will ultimately get built or not, but I hope we can cool the rhetoric enough for the Frederick County Commissioners to take another look and use Carroll County’s decision as an opportunity rather than a challenge. While WTE supporters can legitimately point to costs and risks of not moving this project forward after all these years, the financial risk to taxpayers deserves a fresh review using revised assumptions and greater sensitivity analysis than presented to date.

Frederick: A Bicycle-Friendly Community

Frederick News Post
William Smith
07/09/2013
In 2010, Frederick mayor Randy McClement, with the assistance of city planner Tim Davis and the newly-created Frederick Bicycle Coalition, formed what was then termed the “Mayor’s Ad-hoc Bicycle Committee”. Numerous people from the area were interviewed for positions on the committee, which was to be composed of people who lived in the city or owned businesses here and were interested and/or possessed knowledge of bicycling. Its first goal was to obtain “Bicycle-Friendly Community” (BFC) status as granted by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).

Blaine and Co. bad for Frederick County

Frederick News Post
George Wenschhof
07/07/2013
The 4-1 vote recently to sell the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities and disband their board of trustees, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business.” Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Co.,” the moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Co. wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation. The resulting action from Blaine and Co. was felt immediately after their election, when they moved to eliminate $2 million in county funding for Head Start, a proven and effective federal program that helps children in need during the critical early years of development. What has followed over the next 2 1/2 years has been a continued move to follow an irresponsible privatization path in governing.

Holtzinger Files for Mayor

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
06/27/2013
The long anticipated entry into the City of Frederick mayoral race by Jeff Holtzinger is now official with his filing for the office at city hall. The former one term mayor will face incumbent Randy McClement in the Republican primary. The race for mayor promises to be the one to watch in the city election where voters will elect a mayor and a five member board of aldermen. Already in the race for mayor, are Delegate Galen Clagett and alderwoman Karen Young who will face each other in the Democratic primary. Rounding out the familiar faces is former Democrat Jennifer Dougherty, another one term mayor, who on her fifth run for the office, has filed as an unaffiliated candidate. The Republican and Democratic primaries will be held on September 10 and Dougherty, who will not have a primary, receives a free pass to the General Election to be held on November 5.

When Ideology Trumps Reasonable Representation, Bad Things Happen….

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
06/23/2013
The proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business”. Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Company”. The moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by the “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Company wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation.

Letter from a millennial: We're not going to buy your house

Baltimore Business Journal
James Briggs
06/19/2013
If you're a homeowner, there has been a lot of great news for you lately — namely rising home prices, lack of inventory and bidding wars among increasingly desperate buyers. Although the housing market isn't on fire like it was in the early 2000s, it also isn't imploding like it was in 2009. All in all, if you're looking to sell a house now, you should feel thankful about your timing. But take heed, baby boomers and Generation Xers. If you're planning to hold onto your home for years to come, don't count on my generation — the millennials — to buy it from you.

Letter from a millennial: We’re not going to buy your house

Baltimore Business Journal
James Briggs
06/19/2013
If you're a homeowner, there has been a lot of great news for you lately — namely rising home prices, lack of inventory and bidding wars among increasingly desperate buyers. Although the housing market isn't on fire like it was in the early 2000s, it also isn't imploding like it was in 2009. All in all, if you're looking to sell a house now, you should feel thankful about your timing. But take heed, baby boomers and Generation Xers. If you're planning to hold onto your home for years to come, don't count on my generation — the millennials — to buy it from you.

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.

Young Heavy Handed with City Alderman over Proposed Citizens/Montevue Sale

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
06/13/2013
The proposed sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living, already beset with legal questions surrounding deed restrictions on a sale, has now entered a new contentious stage. In a strongly worded official letter, dated June 11, 2013, Frederick Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young (R), used strong language when addressing the members of The City of Frederick board of aldermen, who oppose the sale of the Citizens/Montevue complex.

Develop-Mental: GIMCRACK MILE?

Frederick Gorilla
Matt Edens
06/10/2013
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.

Disappointed in Myersville

ClimateHoward
Elisabeth Hoffman
05/16/2013
Federal regulators have denied Myersville residents a rehearing on the permit for a planned compressor station in their rural community. Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community (MCRC) had asked for a rehearing on Dominion Transmission Inc.’s planned 16,000-horsepower compressor station for fracked natural gas, saying in part that the environmental review was insufficient and the process was inadequate and unfair. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), however, agreed with itself. On every issue. In its 35-page ruling issued today, it disagreed with each of MCRC’s points, from concerns about the need for the compressor station and the size of the facility to the noise, danger, air pollutants, environmental assessment and effect on property values. In a ruling summary issued this morning, FERC said, “The order makes clear that the local laws and regulations upon which the Town bases its denial are preempted by the Natural Gas Act.”

The $500M boondoggle

(Sometimes doing something is a lot worse than doing nothing. This is one of those times.)
Frederick News Post
Marta Mossburg
05/08/2013
The fact that it is even being considered at a time when cities and states across the country are buckling under a combined $7.3 trillion debt load makes the project make even less sense, especially for the alleged fiscal conservatives in office.

Walmart will only further tarnish the ‘Golden Mile

Gazette
George Wenschhof
05/02/2013
If anything, hard work needs to be continued to ensure efforts made to revitalize the once vibrant Golden Mile is well researched with the entire community in mind and an eye to the future.