Campaign Ad By Authority of
Eric Winnette, Treasurer
July 15, 2013
North Side of the City of Frederick Needs to Include Citizens in a Small Area Planning Process
by Jack Lynch
There is no small area plan for the northern end of the City of Frederick where I live, why not? Do residents there matter to the city government, and do our elected officials care about us?
Citizen participation is fundamental to our democratic values, it encourages civic commitment. This type of overwhelming impact would not happen to our downtown historic district, depending on the final impacts of the Carroll Creek project anyway.
It is time for our City of Frederick elected officials to devote themselves to the concerns of residents on the northern end of the city.
Tremendous changes have already occurred, and the results speak poorly for the planning process.
When I moved to Frederick some dozen years ago, there were a few small businesses, a couple fast food places and a gas station, and the Routzahn’s furniture store. A CVS and an Auto Zone came in, across from the Frederick Trading property, which for a time housed the new Montessori Charter School.
I participated in the early meetings of our local Neighborhood Advisory Committee, or NAC, about ten years ago. When residents commented on liking living near those lovely green fields across Rt 26, I tried to communicate to them what was being planned for all these development projects. They looked like deer in the headlights. You’ve got to get involved in the planning process ten years out to have an impact on what’s coming, I told them then.
Then a new Walmart was the first big change, meaning a lot of new traffic on Rt 26 and intersection improvements along Rt 26. The strip of shops with a Giant Food was added. For a few years the economic growth cooled a bit, but plans continued, and the growth across the Monocacy at the Riverside and Corporate Center began to bring a bit of new traffic, with more expected.
More recently, the Clemson Corner and Market Square projects were approved and built, with fairly decent traffic mitigation, but clearly much increase in movement on Rt 26, now at about 70,000 cars per day. I have famously called the side of Clemson Corner facing Rt 26, which consists of the backs of a number of stores lined up atop the hill, the “Great Wall of Frederick.”
Market Square includes 300 new townhouses alongside retail, an athletic center, box stores, and restaurants. You can walk out your front door with your morning coffee and basically look at a strip mall. The new compact residential does appear to better address the market for entry level housing.
These new developments offer little in the way of pedestrian plazas or green space, they're drive in, drive out communities. Their motto might be "Shop Here, Leave Here by Car!" At Clemson Corner, if you take transit, you await the bus on an unsheltered bench in the middle of the parking lots regardless of the weather.
Located next to the historic Harmony Grove community, the square includes a small, fragile tenant house from about 1850 that may have been occupied by free blacks prior to the Civil War. As an historic housing type, we often fail to save such structures, opting to place our primary focus upon mansions and log cabins, such as at Rose Hill.
It appears our next change could be a much larger Walmart Supercenter at the Trading lane property, along with three other retail pad sites. But they want to dramatically impact the Monocacy Boulevard access and really want Rt 26 access. Aldermen already approved a text amendment to allow less water runoff mitigation on the parking surfaces of the property.
The rear parking lot and loading docks of the new Walmart are supposed to back up to residential properties, imagine grilling on your deck and overlooking that!
Contention arose within Worman’s Mill over the town center changes and increased density. Residents of the community association have fought for recognition of their property ownership voting rights on the project and the city appointed a committee to look at the handling of that type of claim, being caught in a quandary between the developer and the citizens.
Part of the issue with the way our area is being built out is the way our mixed use zoning is being addressed. Mixed use allows a mixture of residential and commercial or office spaces to coexist in one project area. It also allows much greater density of both.
What is supposed to come from mixed use are better design standards, and a tradeoff of density for more green space, green infrastructure, and community amenities like better biking and pedestrian access. These are not evident in the designs were getting on projects.
Among future annexation targets is the location of Maryland’s first Governor’s home, Richfield. While it lacks the original home, the site’s archeology has proven rich, and Frederick truly has had no extensive colonial period site, although its heritage as transition of economy from plantation based to yeoman farmers makes it worthy of greater inquiry.
So with all this paving already done, how does it feel to consider the area I moved to some dozen years ago? I know that I see a need for our planners to address design and project connections and the benefits of increased density to community improvements.
It also calls for the city to include our area in the small area planning process, which was neglected. As the northern annexations proceed, and the Monocacy Interchange at Route 15 builds out, there is still much at stake for citizens to address in a forum that has delegated authority and citizen input.
It is almost too late to do anything about the growth now and easy to imagine current residents moving away. A trend like that might even lead to overall decay and further failure of community building.
Right now the northern end of Frederick is looking like the city’s revenge for the commercialization south of the city by the county along Route 85 and Route 355 years ago.
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