Open Letter to the Frederick County Planning Commission

My name is Steven McKay and I have been a resident of Monrovia for the past 15 or so years. On October 23rd, the Planning Commission will convene to decide upon the Monrovia Town Center development. There are many issues to be considered and deliberated concerning this development, including the impacts on school, roads, other critical infrastructure, and general impacts on the surrounding community. All of these matters must be careful considered. In this letter, however, I want to focus on one topic and to make a simple request to the Planning Commission – visit our community. Before you make the decisions that will fundamentally alter our community – come visit first.

RALEverticalaerialroute75Specifically, what I would like you to do is to drive up along MD 75 from Hyattstown to New Market. As you do, take in the surroundings carefully. Look at the houses fronting the roadway, including the yards where children play. Take note of the blind turns along the twisting, hilly country road. As you drive north past MD 80, please take particular note of the downhill section as you pass the church. If you’re not aware, the top of that hill routinely freezes over in the winter due to ground water seepage. As you brake at the bottom of the hill, consider the hard right and left turns. Don’t miss the cross off to the left where two motorists died less than a year ago. Pay close attention to the next 90 degree left turn, and the ninety degree right turn after that going under the bridge. I’m sure you’re aware of that railroad bridge that seems to be a magnet for over-sized trucks, despite so many of SHA’s efforts to the contrary.

As you complete the drive up into New Market, and afterwards as I hope you reflect upon your experience driving up that roadway, I challenge you to think soberly and responsibly on what it will mean to place another 1,500 homes along that roadway, in addition to the 1,100 in Landsdale that have already been approved. Make no mistake about it -– MD 75 will be a critical artery to that bumper crop of new Monrovia residents whose future you will be deciding upon.

I have several concerns about the implications for MD 75 if you approve Monrovia Town Center. At a bare minimum, we can discuss traffic impacts. If you ask anyone that commutes south on this road toward Montgomery County, they will tell you how it routinely backs up from MD 355 most of the way to Lewisdale Road. When you add in all the traffic from these new developments, that problem is going to increase geometrically.

I could also talk to you about property rights. Specifically, why are the rights of each land owner along MD 75 worth less than the rights of the small handful of Monrovia Town Center developer and land owners? When you consider that the County has stated that because of these developments in Monrovia, that MD 75 will need to be widened to a 4-lane highway at some point, every one of those homeowners along MD 75 will be impacted. They will lose portions of their land. For many, their wells will be impacted. Their quality of life will be harmed. The impacts on all of those people will be a direct trade-off between the value you place on the rights of those homeowners versus the rights of the developers. If you approve Monrovia Town Center, you will be saying that the rights of those homeowners do not matter as much as those few that are behind the Monrovia Town Center. And if you approve, you will be wrong on that count.

These are all important arguments against this development, but the most important one is safety. There is a reason that the County has stated how important it will be to realign and to widen MD 75 because of these new developments in Monrovia. The reason is that the road is not designed to handle the increase in traffic – it won’t be safe. Recall your drive up MD 75 and think about how challenging it will be for people to do the simple act of pulling out of their driveway once the traffic volume doubles and more. I already have difficulty exiting my development along MD 80 in Monrovia, I can’t fathom how challenging it will be once these homes start filling in.

Now also think about the northern portion of MD 75 between MD 80 and I 70 – and please, think carefully and soberly about this point. That section of road is going to be exceedingly hazardous with the influx of new traffic that Monrovia Town Center and Landsdale will generate. Recall that the reason the County is promoting development in this area is partly due to the proximity to I 70 for travel to Frederick and Baltimore – MD 75 is THE PATH for that traffic, and it isn’t ready for it!

Now, in previous years, the SHA told Frederick County that there isn’t money for the MD 75 project. Given that situation, the responsible thing to do is to NOT develop in Monrovia until we can afford the infrastructure. Instead, the County has stated that they will fund the project through a “public-private partnership” with developers behind projects in the area. In fact, I know that the Monrovia Town Center developer will deposit funds against that account. However, the funds being generated for this account from the developments in Landsdale, Monrovia Town Center, Linganore, and New Market are a small fraction of the $262M required for the project (and that is just the cost to realign the roadway – widening to 4-lanes will cost even more!). So far, the numbers just do not add up, regarding how this public-private partnership will actually succeed in the goal of fixing MD 75, let alone when.

You cannot approve this development with the expectation that the MD 75 realignment & reconstruction will take place, and that the problems will be fixed. There is absolutely no guarantee that that will happen, and several decades worth of planning experience that suggests it probably won’t. So if you consider approving Monrovia Town Center, you must do so with the expectation that all of those people will use MD 75, pretty much as is. That includes the high school students districted to attend Linganore High School, who will be driving north on that treacherous portion of the road at 6 am and doing what inexperienced drivers do. That thought scares the heck out of me … and it should do the same for you.

Yes, the developer will widen the road on the small stretch north of MD 80, and yes, they may indeed build the new portion immediately south of MD 80. However, none of those changes will deal with the fundamental safety issues on MD 75. Approval of this development without a firm, committed, and budgeted plan to correct these safety issues on MD 75 – in sequence with the development – will be the height of irresponsibility and an abject failure of responsible planning. And that will be on you.

I sincerely hope that you will give this letter the thought and consideration that this issue deserves.

Respectfully

Steven McKay
President, RALE and resident of Monrovia

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More information

On the web: RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion

On Facebook: RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion

On Twitter: @RALEMonrovia

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