Help stop the development of the Ramsburg farm!

We are asking for your support and help to convince the Planning Commission and the county commissioners not to approve the development of a 124-acre farm in our rural community.

Known as the Ramsburg farm, the property is located south of I270, off of rural Roderick Road. Against the wishes of concerned neighbors, the interests of our broader community, and the original recommendation of county planning staff, the land was included in the county-wide rezoning process that took place in September, 2012. Prior to that change, it had always been zoned “Agricultural” (AG). And the property was not – and still is not – in a designated growth area.

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The owners of the property had previously divided and sold off for development all of the lots they were allowed under the Agricultural zoning designation. The zoning change was ‘snuck through’ at the last minute of that massive county-wide rezoning process, and changed from AG to R1 (residential). At that time, even the county staff recommended against changing the zoning to R1, because, for a number of reasons, this rural area, in District 1 south of I270, was not intended to be developed in this manner.

Here is what the county planning staff said in their 2012 recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners:

“Case # UR-40 (Ramsburg) – Current Board action is to deny new request for R-1 zoning. Staff Response – would continue to recommend retaining the existing A zoning. Staff and prior Board’s have consistently supported the long-standing policy of not expanding Rural Subdivisions (now referenced as Rural Residential) and do not believe that this property has unique circumstances that would warrant rezoning to R-1. This rezoning would establish a precedent to rezone other agricultural properties that adjoin existing subdivisions and would be argued to be “infill”. The A zoning on this property has been upheld in at least two prior reviews by other Boards.

When an initial Planning Commission hearing was held in January 2013, the applicant requested permission to ‘perc test’ the property. Although some community members showed up to voice their opposition to this development, we were brushed aside and told, essentially…’don’t get concerned, this is just permission to perc test’. In the year and a half since, the property owners have partnered with a large corporate developer, the Matan Corporation, and worked extensively with county planners to draw up detailed plans to build fifty-seven very large homes (5-7 bedrooms) on one acre lots.

No community input was ever sought.

The public hearing this Wednesday is only the second hearing in what should have been a longer and more thorough process for a large development, entirely on well and septic, in a rural area. The developers, county staff and county officials have essentially gone from zero to 100 miles an hour between the first and second hearing in what appears to be a rush to advance this ill-conceived development. But all the circumstances and concerns that the county planning staff referred to in 2012, when they recommended the development of this rural property be denied, still exist today.

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This proposed development is NOT in a Priority Funding Area of the county. When new development is in these Priority Funding Areas, and follows Maryland smart growth guidelines State, some state funding is available for roads, schools and other infrastructure needs. No such funds will be forthcoming from the state to support this development, including any improvements to or maintenance of Roderick Road.

Additionally, the Ramsburg property is in an area where being on well and septic systems is the only option (where there is no public water and sewer available, and there is “no planned service”). This is a sizable development on individual wells, with houses that will require more than 10,000 gallons per day by the Maryland Department of the Environment. This necessitates a special Groundwater Acquisition Permit, which may take up two years to be reviewed.

The neighbors in the area are all on private wells, and they are especially worried about stress on the aquifer and whether the additional development will affect their well water in the future.

The surrounding properties have also had difficulties passing soil percolation tests and there is concern about the effectiveness of septic systems for these large homes, particularly as wetlands on the property drain into nearby Bennett Creek.

The Frederick County Comprehensive Plan; Policies for Water and Sewerage Planning, states a guiding principle is to “Minimize new development utilizing individual well and septic systems to protect the quality and quantity of ground water resources.” So, why is the Frederick County planning staff working against Frederick County policies? What are they thinking?

Just prior to the decision to postpone the hearing (a “continuance”), Blaine Young commented that he was initially against the zoning change (but then voted for it), and later realized it would be a problem. It will be interesting to hear the comments of the Planning Commission and Commissioner Young (the liaison from the county commissioners) at the hearing Wednesday evening.

Will they get it right this time and deny this particular development?

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Ramsburg Preliminary Subdivision Plan


Below is an alert that Friends of Frederick County sent out about this issue and the hearing. (Click on the image to open a larger and easier to read version.)

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