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February 15, 2005

Who are your Friends New Market?

A lot of crazy chatter surrounds public hearings on regional plans in Frederick County.  Right now we’re looking collectively at the New Market Regional Plan proposed by the Frederick County Planning Commission, which includes nearly 14,000 new homes between the City of Frederick line, the Linganore area, and New Market. 

The Commission tossed out the recommendations of county staff to concentrate development around existing towns and to protect our agricultural land and water supplies, they added entire areas of rural subdivisions on well and septic against State recommendations for growth within PFA’s (Priority Funding Areas) where road and school costs will receive contributions.

The Commission Chair told the FNP, “I just don’t see what the problem is…”.

Mayor Burhans of New Market said that in order for the town to pay $20,000 annually to support one mile of U.S. Route 40, the town needed to build both 2,500 new homes on top of the existing 100, but also a bypass road north of the town.  Again, this is against the State’s recommendations, they will not contribute to paying for bypass construction.  And about six average single family homes will bring in that $20,000 in taxes to pay for the road maintenance.

But our friendly developers are glad to pay to build these new roads, the profits are just too ripe not to do so.  They’ll throw in schools too.  Just don’t bother them with an APFO or impact fees equal to the actual infrastructure costs.

Many residents feel otherwise.  Some want to retain the small town charm and quality of life they’ve enjoyed.  Some want growth that is slower and less intensive.  It is doubtful that many of them want the number of homes proposed, the traffic gridlock, the pollution effects, the diminishment of their quality of life.

Thankfully, the residents have a few Friends, the Friends of Frederick County.  I proudly count myself one of their members and the Vice Chairman of the group.  We believe that the New Market plan will set in motion a model for sprawl development that will consume the county piece by piece until our overall quality of life is destroyed in every region.

So we’ve challenged the assumptions of the Planning Commission.  We’ve challenged their rezonings after public input was closed.  They changed their tune on that.  Now they’ll keep rezoning and allow us to protest it.  I suppose that’s a slight plus.  At least the door is open again to some light and fresh air on the process, no more behind closed doors dealings.

Last night, we also challenged the State requirement that the Commission performed the mandated studies and research to base the New Market plan on an honest vision of its impacts and costs.

Friends postulated that the New Market plan was an illegal action, because the base Comprehensive Plan was not updated within six years as required by State law.  That failure meant that the Commission's authority was voided by inaction.

Commissioner White asked County Counsel to address the issue without a clear response.  Mr. Cady, the Board of County Commissioners liaison to the Commission, requested that the Counsel address the issue in writing.  We await that ruling.

In the meantime, we will prepare to move forward with efforts to address the Frederick County planning process.

And we ask rhetorically, who are your Friends, Frederick County?


Visit the Friends Here