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A Progressive Concept Approved…then Defeated!

January 31, 2006

by Jack Lynch

Frederick County’s new Planning Director proposed a logical improvement to the overall regional planning process, one that most other counties in Maryland already use, and it was at first approved by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).  What was proposed and first adopted by the BOCC was to conduct regional comp planning prior to allowing a defined period of rezoning requests.  What it would do, effectively, is putting the horse of master comp planning, in front of the cart of individual interests: or promoting ‘sustainable’ development, not full build out.  That makes good sense and good public policy.

One of the great faults of the regional planning process is that it begins with no goal for an area.  Instead, it assesses how much of the former plan was built out – which, if an area has not used 70% of its grow out, no further development planning is to go forward – not that even this is good enough for the vehement land use attorney’s and advocates, who’ve said we needed to ‘rethink’ that 70% rule.

Therefore we not only move forward with no overall plan, but in the case of the New Market region, which had not met the 70% rule, no adherence to the basic planning concepts were upheld at the initiation of renewed planning.

Then, what happens is that every landowner can ask for a slice of the development pie, or a piece of preservation of land use.  The inmates get to run the prison.  If you want to develop, you can change the regional plan and get what you feel personally benefits your interests.  Fine and well, many would say, that’s property rights.  Turn the farm over to developers if you want to do so. 

And generally that is agreeable, but what happens is that the process becomes open ended.  In fact, the process was extended in the New Market regional plan, with new rezoning applications showing up at every public hearing on the plan.  And the pressure of competing interests grows, and the power and impact of rising land values and landscape changes push the landowners who did not foresee selling out, to sell out and leave the farm.  When your fence will soon be up against a hundred townhouses, it’s harder to spread manure and run a tractor at early morning or late night hours.

But worse, what has happened in New Market rezoning, is that the boundary line demarking planned growth and development on public infrastructure, versus land use preservation, has been overrun by development interests.  Land not contemplated for development from prior to the last regional plan is now requesting rezoning and being rezoned.  Land not amendable to public water and sewer is being rezoned residential.

The result is that everything approved in a regional plan is weighted heavily towards greater growth and development.

Why this goes forward is that because Mr. Cady, beholden to development interests, as BOCC liaison to the Planning Commission, will use his bully pulpit in favor of greater development rather than use his ‘liaison’ role in favor of standing up for the BOCC approved rules governing regional planning and development.

And Cady is just downright false in declaring that voices for moderate or sustainable growth are simply trying to regulate population growth, for if he were truly honest about population growth driving the development planning, we’d see higher densities in growth areas and promotion of smaller home sizes on smaller lots, rather than the large lot well and septic planning we see in New Market.

Ah, but you can see the crocodile tears for the unborn  and unwanted huddled masses at our shores being rolled out as the reason out of state developers should bulldoze Frederick County and build more mini-mansions!


Worse, we have hidden hands in the mix, prominent land use attorney’s stirring the pot, not just to contract further land for development, but meeting with and writing the Governor’s top aides to stifle State Department of Planning input into the process.  We have the power of the state’s top executive putting a hand over the mouth of the state’s own planning rules in order to muffle dissent on poor planning.

And yet, the apologists of Frederick County say that we do not need lobbying legislation.  No need to fix a system that supports and feeds us well!

And again, by proxy of the ‘Go Growth’ Planning Commission, Commissioner Cady rules the roost over allowing another regional plan to move forward without the mitigating effect of comp planning, and rules over his own two little frick and frack’s, Lovell and Reeder, to approve that the Walkersville regional planning process will not be amendable to the new BOCC approved rules on regional planning.

But instead, will follow the disparaged process of New Market planning. 

Three hands go up and its done…now if only the question could be…who won’t be reelected to the BOCC in the Fall. 

And three hands up!

Agricultural Stewardship Act of 2006: SB 5, HB 2

Don’t count on anything like this emerging from the State Legislature in Maryland, but it is noteworthy that farm protection interests and water quality interests have entered a Senate bill into committee requiring counties to have priority preservation areas in their development plans.  Those areas are likewise required to preserve at least 80% of the preservation area, in conjunction with a counties overall preservation goal, and in keeping an appropriate support base for agriculture.

Frederick Reforestation

Commissioner Chairman Lenny Thompson is proposing that we increase the requirements for reforestation on developers as a response to protecting water sources and mitigating the impacts of increased road traffic's air pollution effects. 

I’ve long argued that Frederick County, in particular, has not maintained its forest cover.  Like most of the Appalachian areas to the west, it has been denuded over three hundred years, primarily for farming and extraction industries.  Now, although that farming is much decreased in the county, the forests are not yet back to a respectable level for a sustainable ecology and population growth. 

Increasing requirements for development reforestation is a progressive and timely effort if we are to work towards a sustainable future for Frederick County.  It is of particular urgency as we look forward to the massive increases in homes and traffic in the New Market regional plan.