The Bottom Line Tonight: Enabling and facilitating a WalMart Supercenter on the Golden Mile is a choice!

It is with genuine disappointment I note that, tonight, a majority of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Frederick are probably going to vote to adopt a new zoning map that will, among other things, change the zoning for the Fredericktowne Mall property, and, in doing so, enable and facilitate the development of a massive new WalMart Supercenter on the site — the third Walmart in the area.

The truth is that the issue is more complicated than much of the public discussion or letters to the editor and more might reveal. But…no matter what else is true…let’s be perfectly clear about one thing:

With or without the general “suggested conditions” that have been negotiated, the Board of Alderman DO NOT have to make this change.

Just a few months ago, in fact, on March 11, 2013, the City of Frederick’s Planning Commission voted (to recommend to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen) that the Fredericktowne Mall property retain the current Mixed Use zoning.

In 2012, the area defined by the Golden Mile Small Area Plan (ncluding the Fredericktowne Mall property) was removed from the process of comprehensively rezoning the City, to allow time for the completion and adoption of the Golden Mile Small Area Plan.

goldenmilesmallareaplan260x175The assumption – and assertion – has been that the current Mixed Use zoning of the Fredericktowne Mall property would only be changed if it was in harmony with the recently completed Golden Mile Small Area Plan, which was created in a rigorous and thorough public process that included residents, property owners and business owners, city planners and local officials.

You can open or download the Golden Mile Small Area Plan here: http://www.cityoffrederick.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1143

The Golden Mile Small Area Plan is not short. But it is an impressive document that is easy to read…and worth reading, whether you have time for a quick or thorough review.

As it notes, “the design and redevelopment of the Golden Mile is framed and organized” by a set of principles that merge with the aspirations, goals and policies of the broader Comprehensive Plan.

“The seven principles embody the core values for redevelopment of the Golden Mile and are reflected in the three development visions and will also direct development review of future projects, both public and private.”

The seven principles (which are summarized on pages 9-12 of the plan) are:

Walkable, Connected, Vibrant, Safe, Complete, Attractive and Sustainable

Here are a few selected excerpts from the summaries:

The scale, character and detailing of buildings, public spaces and infrastructure will not only accommodate pedestrians but will provide an enjoyable experience enticing visitors to spend more time and money in the neighborhood.

A lively destination is created with the ability to draw shoppers, employers, residents and public events. Retail is incorporated with public spaces and integrated with office and residential uses.

The neighborhood is promoted, creating a sense of community with multiple users providing watchful eyes in the day and night.

All phases of development interact and complement one another.

Buildings are designed with multiple stories; retail is located in appropriate places for window shoppers; office and commercial uses are strategically placed in locations to support vital businesses; and all uses are accessible to residential dwellings.

As redevelopment occurs and the new Golden Mile identity emerges, a private/public partnership is created to manage and facilitate public improvements.

…and here are a few selected excerpts from the “supporting goals” in the Implementation Section:

Accommodate commercial, retail and office development that provides local residents with employment opportunities, goods and services, creates a destination for visitors, enhances the image and appearance of the Golden Mile and The City of Frederick, and increases tax revenue.

Create an attractive and distinctive image for the Golden Mile.

Ensure the Golden Mile Planning Area prepares for sustainable redevelopment.

There are many reasonable and legitimate ways in which one can interpret the principles and goals above. They are not simple, black and white, completely objective items that can be definitively or unarguably met with a few “suggested conditions” about internal circulation, external connectivity, parking and building design!

aldermenandmayor300wSo…do not let anyone tell you that the “conditions” that have been negotiated made the zoning change so clearly or fully compatible with the principles and goals of the Golden Mile Small Area Plan that they had to approve it — that it was the only reasonable or legitimate vote — and, in doing so, enable and facilitate the construction of a new WalMart Supercenter on the Fredericktowne Mall property.

Because that is not the case.

Citizens and businesses with sincere and serious concerns about and objections to the construction to a new WalMart Supercenter on the property have been reminded, correctly, that the discussion and debate…and the final vote…is not about WalMart, and should not be about WalMart. We’ve been told it is only about whether or not the requested zoning change, with the conditions, conforms to the small area plan and the comprehensive plan.

If that is so, there is a good case to be made, especially but not only when one is thinking broadly and long term, that it does not conform to Golden Mile Small Area Plan.

There may a variety of reasons why an elected official might vote to make this zoning change (and, with it, a significant change to the very recently completed and approved small area plan), but, whatever else is true, voting to support this change is a choice.


More…

City of Frederick’s Golden Mile Small Area Plan

June 18th Public meeting and hearing.

Executive Summary for the June 10th meeting/hearing about the “Comprehensive Rezoning of the Golden Mile Small Area Plan study area and the Cawley Property and Conley Farm.” NOTE: This document includes a lot of detailed information, including background history, the suggested conditions, the draft ordinance and a number of maps.

The WalMart / Golden Mile controversy in the media

Open a chronological listing of links to news articles, editorials, columns and letters to the editor from the News Post, Gazette other news sources about this issue.

Please note this from the News Archive home page:

Envision Frederick County is compiling an archive of news articles, editorials, columns and letters to the editor, from a range of local and regional publications. The archive will grow to include well more than 1,000 entries, covering the last decade or so.

In other words, the link above will take you to some, but not all of the “news articles, editorials, columns and letters to the editor” about this issue, as we are working to catch up with the past.