The Fate of Schley Farm and East Frederick

Just like there is good and bad cholesterol, there is good and bad development.

Among other things, good development depends on where it occurs, its relationship to the environment, and its design quality. For two decades, Maryland has defined preferred location choices with their designations of Areas of Opportunity – Priority Funding Areas, which includes the east side of Frederick. Since growth will most likely continue in Frederick no matter what, where and how it ends up is critical.

One important emphasis is on containing urban growth and focusing new development in and near existing communities with adequate infrastructure and services.

There are many benefits to that approach. For instance, from an environmental perspective, it will lower nitrate impacts on the Chesapeake Bay by minimizing well and septic concerns. And, by mixing residential density closely and sensitively with shopping and employment and along pedestrian and biking pathways and public transportation routes encourages the reduction of automobile dependency.

And so, when an applicant came into the Frederick City Planning Department in the early 2002 with a concept plan for the old Clorox property that fronts on East Church Street, that proposal use was discouraged due to potential future economic and social negative impacts on east Frederick.

That proposal showed industrial buildings that looked something similar to this:

(click on the image to open a larger version)

(click on the image to open a larger version)

Fortunately it was not built, because it would have set a tone that would have damaged the potential future of the 2000-acre area to the east.

However, in 2005 a number of citizens, who had no direct monetary interest in the east side but cared about Frederick as a whole, began thinking more seriously about the future of that large piece of land, within the city and so close to downtown.

This group formed a non-profit called East Frederick Rising. A VISION for the area was then created through the group’s efforts and document was produced and then shared with the larger community and was accepted and officially endorsed by the City government in 2010.

This VISION has had a major impact in not only changing attitudes about the area and attracting new energy and people to it, but also heightened interest in the east side with clear direction and sense of new possibilities. Developers have responded with much more sensitive, nuanced and creative proposals and they have hired some of the best planners and designers in the country like as seen in this plan for the 220-acre Renn Farm.

Currently another project has been proposed for the area called Monocacy Gateway:

An outstanding team was assembled to design the Schley Farm. They took a year and a great deal of care in reaching out to many in the community and making sure it fit with East Frederick Rising’s VISION. Additionally they took criticism and advice to heart from that organization on refining their proposal to meet its high standards.

(click on the image to open a larger version)

(click on the image to open a larger version)

However, on December 11, 2016 the Frederick City Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend denial of this plan based on the supposition that it might threaten the viability of the airport. East Frederick Rising’s Board of Directors disagreed and on January 10, 2017 voted unanimously to object to the Planning Board’s recommendation and declared their logic flawed.

The Board thought that if the property remains in its current zoning of Light Industrial – which is the most realistic alternative, it will look something like this:

(click on the image to open a larger version)

(click on the image to open a larger version)

And, an important opportunity will be lost, and this is exactly what why, for years, so much effort has been focused on this part of the city and its future.

The Mayor and Council had a workshop on this on January 11th with another one scheduled for January 18th. An official hearing and vote will probably take place in February or March. This is a major decision for the future of Frederick, and everyone should look very carefully and decide what choice will be best for the City of Frederick.

Frederick News Post
Developer hopeful about final vote on rezoning request near Frederick airport
January 23, 2017
By Mallory Panuska

Frederick News Post
Aldermen get first look at Monocacy Gateway development project
January 11, 2017
By Mallory Panuska

Developer’s website about the proposed Monocacy Gateway

East Frederick Rising on the web

Monocacy Gateway on the East Frederick Rising website