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An Alternative View of Frederick City
February 1, 2008
by Jack Lynch
I would ask citizens to decide what vision of the City of Frederick they would prefer, which is much what began back in the Grimes administration that Mayor Holtzinger claims to love so well, but which was never translated into a reality in the last Comprehensive Plan, and which debate over, led some really good folks to abandon City input and public participation altogether.
A citizen input process, begun as Aspire Frederick, languished, died, and was transformed into a plan that may well end up being called ‘Despair Frederick.’ It started as a community-based strategic planning initiative by the City and interested volunteers in 2000. This process was led by multiple volunteers from the community with the goal of obtaining community input into the future vision for The City of Frederick.
Surveys were used in a variety of ways, along with mass community meetings, but the package of public views and ideas was slowly dropped, and then disregarded by the last Comp Plan, when the City’s borders were extended, proposed for further sprawl growth of the City, encumbered by huge new infrastructure costs.
Right now, state planning requires that a ‘municipal growth element’ be developed by Fall 2009, and planners are putting that concept together, for failure to define municipal growth by capacity for water and sewer infrastructure avails sanctions against the power to zone, which could be the greatest threat ever posed by the state.
So I would ask again, and I suggest, that with real citizen input involved, that there is an alternate vision of the City to the ever sprawling dream of the developers who appear to be running the show right now on City Boards like the newly formed Land Management Code Review Committee, and doing so with little dissent from the current Board of Aldermen.
Growth, economic development, ok! I believe that the City could expand its tax base by 50% over the next ten to twenty years without adding a single new acre of ground and do a better job of smart growth and building using existing infrastructure and proximity to existing services.
There is enough growth and economic development within the City to sustain a progressive and positive quality of life, while growing, for the next twenty years.
Just as Carroll Creek has brought out greatest single decade of positive growth, there are two other, similar options available to begin to do more with what we’ve got, and to do it better.
First, East Street offers a prime, close in, close by historic area, opportunity to do a mixed use development plan over tens, if not hundreds, of acres, depending on patterns of use out Church Street extended east.
And Patrick Street west, the revitalized Golden Mile, offers further opportunities of a magnitude that most towns would envy. The economic power to build Frederick’s future exists, but no one is driving the bus. It jumps and starts and sometimes sputters. It requires symbolic leadership – one thing the last administration had aplenty.
I contend that no one can make a case for adding twelve hundred acres to the City by annexation over the next twenty years time. And if you build it, they will come. No one will improve the roads to handle that eight fold increase in traffic on Route 15 north. The new Monocacy Boulevard will become a congested highway.
Which is the heart of the problem, traffic increased eight fold on Route 15 north of the City? Further negative impacts on the Monocacy River, and the proposed crossing of it, and building a bypass road in the prime agricultural belt splitting Walkersville from the City? Overcrowded elementary schools? North Frederick and Walkersville are already overcrowded. The school site proposed along Route 26 was never large enough. Just read the City’s own planning documents, it’s all spelled out, piece by piece.
Growing will increase taxes on existing residents while developers profit handsomely and continue contributing to political campaigns for our current crop of officials. The City shuffle plays on – and who pays the price in quality of life? The citizens they are supposed to serve –
Need a couple positive visions? How about something that bounced around during the last Comp Plan, a ‘Baker Park East’ running from east Patrick Street along Church Street extended along the Monocacy Boulevard extension route? Its already city owned and mostly floodplain. Instead, we’re trying to scrap up $10 Million and force eminent domain for a park off Butterfly Lane.
Where is the public communication of the Mayor and his top staff? Who has the responsibility to engage citizens with a vision for the City? Mayor Holtzinger is near mute, and his key staff are not given to discourse on these matters. He washes his hands of real responsibility while saying nice things about growing slowly.
He’s clearing out his top professional planner who treated all with balance and grace and who cared for city needs, and tried to build plans based on the political decisions presented to him. Unfortunately, that turns us over to the wolves, and the boardroom is stocked with those paid development advocates, calling to give us Barabas.
Public awareness of neighborhood plans is never good, the citizens are too far removed from the proposal process, information that becomes available is posted as required, and is supposed to go through NAC review, but at that point they are nearly completed development plans. Raise a concern and you’re likely met with indifference, after all, they’ve met the minimum requirements.
So let begin to end this administration of minimum requirements. Let’s let ‘Mayor Minimum Requirements’ know that the City belongs to those who live here, and that we care about its future. It begins at the top, where our leadership is lagging.
How about a citizen’s review committee that has a real review power while changes are still possible, before the Planning Commission approves the plans? Getting the public at the forefront of concerns and mitigations would do a lot to pave the way to a better city future and bring better design and practice to our growth and development.
Citizens can make a difference in local government planning and the vision of our shared future. I believe that, because I’ve seen it happen.
Check Out a lively and progressive Frederick political blog : Air It Out with George. I've recently begun posting blogs there: