Old Line Academy spokesperson out of line

The hearing about the proposed and controversial training center and firing range on property adjacent to Sugarloaf Mountain is in just a few hours, so I’m going to keep this focused, without addressing all the issues. (You can find a variety of relevant and helpful links below).

The hearing is before the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals, today at 1:00pm, at Winchester Hall in downtown Frederick.

Please note that because a large turnout is expected, the hearing may last all afternoon and into the evening. The key point there is that everyone who wants to speak will have the opportunity, even if they don’t arrive until this evening (so long as the hearing lasts that long).

From the agenda:

The hearing will begin at 1:00 P.M. with Presentations by Agencies and Appellant, followed by Citizen Testimony. The Board will break at approximately 5:00 P.M. and will resume at 7:00 P.M.

What is to be considered by the Board of Zoning Appeals today is the “Request for Special Exception to establish a Shooting Range/Club as per Zoning Ordinance Section1-19-8.355, located on Thurston Road (2230 Thurston Road)

The request is from “Old Line Arsenal, LLC c/o William J. Valois, Jr.”

Anyway, yesterday, Alison Valois, one of Old Line’s organizers, managers and spokespersons posted this on her Facebook page:

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She is unequivocally wrong!

Of course, I also hope that “zoning laws will be adhered to” in this process (and in every process). But the confident assertion that the zoning law makes this a no brainer is incorrect, and appalling coming from a spokesperson for an organization that has been dealing with this issue for a while now.

The applicant is requesting a “SPECIAL EXCEPTION” to the zoning in place. The law requires that “The Board of Appeals should consider the relation of the proposed use to the existing and future development patterns”

Rather than excerpting or paraphrasing the relevant section of the code to you, here it is (as found in the Staff Report):

General Criteria – Special Exception:

Under the provisions of Section 1-19-3.210 of the County Zoning Ordinance:

(A) An application for a special exception may be made only by persons with a financial, contractual or proprietary interest in the property for which a special exception is requested.

(B) A grant of a special exception is basically a matter of development policy, rather than an appeal based on administrative error or on hardship in a particular case. The Board of Appeals should consider the relation of the proposed use to the existing and future development patterns. A special exception shall be granted when the Board finds that:

(1) The proposed use is consistent with the purpose and intent of the Comprehensive Development Plan and of this chapter; and

(2) The nature and intensity of the operations involved in or conducted in connection with it and the size of the site in relation to it are such that the proposed use will be in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the neighborhood in which it is located; and

(3) Operations in connection with the special exception at the proposed location shall not have an adverse effect such as noise, fumes, vibration or other characteristics on neighboring properties above and beyond those inherently associated with the special exception at any other location within the zoning district; and

(4) Parking areas will comply with the off street parking regulations of this chapter and will be screened from adjoining residential uses, and the entrance and exit drives shall be laid out so as to achieve maximum safety.

(5) The road system providing access to the proposed use is adequate to serve the site for the intended use.

So, let’s be clear and accurate.

The question of whether or not this proposed facility, in this particular place (within the “Resource Conservation” zone) is “consistent with the purpose and intent of the Frederick County Comprehensive Plan” is not one that clearly or certainly favors the request.

The question of whether or not “The nature and intensity of the operations involved in or conducted in connection with it and the size of the site in relation to it are such that the proposed use will be in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the neighborhood in which it is located” is not one that clearly or certainly favors the request.

The question of whether or not the facility and activity will “have an adverse effect such as noise, fumes, vibration or other characteristics on neighboring properties above and beyond those inherently associated with the special exception at any other location within the zoning district” is not one that clearly or certainly favors the request.

It is sloppy and shameful that anyone representing the applicant and the proposed facility would suggest that the public hearing is pointless, and that the testimony of the neighbors and other concerned citizens should “not be taken into consideration.”

Neighboring residents and businesses have a knowledge and experience of the area. Others have specific and legitimate concerns. Some speakers may have specific expertise about sound issues, or roads and traffic, or other considerations.

While some people will share testimony that may not be within the specific and legal scope of the matter, it is irresponsible and incorrect to conclude and assert that public testimony is “never” relevant “in a zoning case.”

I hope and expect that many citizens will be there today to offer information to support the point that the proposed facility is not consistent with the purpose and intent of the comprehensive plan, that it would not be in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the neighborhood in which it is proposed, that the noise would have an unusual adverse effect on neighboring properties, and more.


Sugarloaf Alliance on the web
Sugarloaf Alliance on Facebook

Old Line Academy on Facebook

Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals Staff Report as a pdf file

Board of Zoning Appeals Agenda as a pdf file

Frederick County Comprehensive Plan

Sugarloaf Alliance press release: “Sugarloaf Mountain at Risk!”

Frederick News Post, Letter to the Editor, by Nick Carrera
“Gun range approval would weaken zoning regulations”
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Frederick News Post
“Board postpones hearing on gun range
Friday, July 25, 2014

WJLA
Overwhelming public attendance, outrage postpones meeting on proposed Frederick gun range
July 25, 2014

Frederick News Post, Letter to the Editor, by Margy Simpson
“Firing ranges and horses don’t mix”
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Frederick News Post
“Sugarloaf area residents fight plans for shooting range”
Wednesday, July 23, 2014