Read Past Columns:

by Jack Lynch, Editor


Commentary from Frederick News Post, July 15, 2012: "Unconvinced by optimism of (Downtown Frederick, MD) hotel report" Link

Commentary from Frederick News Post, May 27, 2012: "Charter rule (Frederick County, MD) will be no better than today's government" Link

Discovering the Descendants of Abraham Faw

Finding a Two Hundred and Eighty Year Old House Ruin Admidst Suburban Sprawl?

To Save a Stream - Abraham Faw Run

Adolphus Fearhake of Frederick, Maryland

Plan Maryland

Bulldozer Blaine Young

Remembering my Revolutionary Ancestor - Abraham Faw

Why Not the Best?

A Tree Grows in Frederick for Anne Frank

The Tragedy of Kai Hagen

Frederick County's Gunslinger Slate, Fire from the Lip, shoot from the Hip!

A Visit to Tangier Island

Historic Snowfall, Road Salt, Watershed Protection and the Chesapeake Bay

Will It be Progress or Retrenchment in Frederick County?

Is This the End of Frederick Smart Growth?

A Series of Links Follows from the Air It Out with George political commentary website:

Chesapeake Blues on Tangier Island

July 4, 2008

Mass Burn

Appalachian Blues on Hillbilly Highway

Buying a Congressional Seat in Maryland's First District - Coming to the Sixth District?

Democratic Candidates on American Foreign Policy

All the King's Horses!

Campaign in Song: Bushie Head Out the Mixing Bowl

Democratic Campaign's Vertical Treadmill on Space Mission

A Bit of Olympic Political History

Obama for the Chesapeake Bay?

Politics is Personal: Repeat Three Times

Prediction: Bad News for Obama, The End of Post-Racial Politics

American Exceptionalism on the World Stage

Obama Speaking on March 18th - Political Equinox

Yee Haw! On to Pennsyltuckey!

American Blackface: Tragic Octoroon

Key to Success - Lesson for Frederick:

Republicrats Yes, Middlecrats No

Too Many Promises ...Loaves and Fishes

Identity Black and White in Frederick

Mashup 1968 - 2008: On to Texas, Out with Clinton?

Fat Tuesday!

Symbol, Sense and Substance

Eight More Years

The Dollar Bubble

Judging a Candidate By Their Website

Baby, We Were Born to Bun!

The subsequent links are again from older dates of The Frederick Citizen:

A Rememebrance: Beijing Spring, Interrupted

County Officials and Public Communications

The Snallygaster in Frederick County

Fourth Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

Frederick City Growth

American Promised Land - American All

Black Frederick and Matters of Race and Politics

Dumping on the Chesapeake Bay

Common Sense Writ Large

The Next Mayor of Frederick

Democracy in Action!

Ottawa: About a Greenbelt, Transit Oriented Development and Government FiatCountering Alderman Imhoff's Growth Beliefs

An Alternate View of Frederick CityGrowth Policy

An Acorn in the Bucket

Monocacy River Part II

Monocacy River Part I

New Market Regional Plan Affirmation

43 More!

Fish and Life

Talking Trash

Strike Three, Smoking Out!

A Green Fund Too Far, Or Not Far Enough?

Growth Back to the Future

Revisiting an Iraq War Opinion Four Years Later

Second Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

Unrepentant Cady

Sour Grapes and Fine Wine

There's Hope for Good Government

The Democratic Fifth

The County of Feel Good

Hypocrisy Indeed

The Alliance

The Growth Machine Slate

"The Issues are Bipartisan" - David Gray

The Importance of Jan Gardner's Campaign

Form Follows Function

Route 15 Scenic Walmart

Frederick Blue

The Curtain Rises

Housing Growth, Not Smart Growth, Not Progressive Planning

Understanding Lennie Thompson

Frederick's Tale of Two Rabbi's

Wellhead Protection

Make Believe, or Desperate Duncan?

A Progressive Concept Approved...then Defeated!

Hog Wild

Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

We're No Gwinnett County

"An Election, Not a Selection...!"  Indeed!

A Potpourri of Thoughts and Issues...

Now That the Smoke Has Cleared


How am I to Decide on Mayor of Frederick?

Doomed To Repeat It

Frantic Orthodoxy

Stealth Candidate

Another Perfect Day for Bananafish

This Summer Election

Building Issues

Just Powers

Death Defying Election?

In the Heat

Horse Sense for Frederick County?

Kudzu and Million Dollar Homes

Bartlett's Ozone Trip

Let the Games Begin

Blood in the Water

Coffee Klatch

Archaeology in Frederick

Bizarro World

Mr. O'Malley's March

Playing All the Cards

Who are Your Friends New Market?

Mixed Use

Beijing Spring, Interrupted

Passion, People and Politics in Frederick City

Millennium project

A Frederick Leader of Distinction

APFO Under Attack

State Lands Sale

Frederick Water Sourcing

Frederick Water










The Frederick Citizen Logo

July 31, 2012

City Limit sign

City Limits

by Jack Lynch

Looking ahead towards the upcoming City of Frederick Comprehensive Planning process, and looking back over the last two previous Comp Plans, yields a few insights into various theories and outcomes from our public process that suggest alternatives to continued municipal growth.  Rather than a growth, no-growth argument and its corresponding fallacy of economic benefit, we would achieve better results and improve citizen’s lives by following a model of ”benefit area” as our thinking.

To try to summarize this concept of benefit area, let’s consider the current model, which assumes that a physical and economic growth model improves the quality of life.  Under this model, our city has grown from its bounds in 1960, roughly from a map of South Street to the Odd fellows property on North Market Street, and from east Street to roughly where Route 15 traverses north on the West side.

The economic model suggests that over time the area growth in business and residential has generated untold economic benefits, and there is much to suggest these attributes.  The fallacy exists in the economy of scale assumptions, which work much better for manufacturing of single chain products than the messy services of government, such as schools, fire service, police and roads, water supply and sewerage.

But the benefit area model suggest that the City lost important aspects of its identity and citizen attributes as it grew, such as walkability and community cohesiveness citywide, then second place a broad sense of neighborhood identity, and last, but certainly not least, the cohesiveness of community across the city, the west side and east side and northern end, all feeling linked to the concerns of the city, which primarily focused on the central core.

The benefit area of the City of Frederick in 1960 included being able to walk to Baker Park, the primary City park which served the entire community and once symbolized unity of residents rather than a destination.  Instead today we have numerous parks, many fine, well developed and functional places, but also a number of development remainder parks that can be isolated and of minimal use or benefit.  

One model that may help restore a new City Limits would be the concept of a natural boundary on the City’s eastern side, which would be the Monocacy River.  East of the Monocacy could remain a greenbelt and a buffer between Walkersville and the City of Frederick. The concept of building a highway around the City on the east side of the river only exacerbates the sprawl and spreads out the City to less developed lands when it sits with ample growth opportunities in its boundaries.  It cannot be afforded, and it is not needed now.

growth map

Area East of Monocacy River - City proposed growth area

As the 2010 Comprehensive Plan suggests, the City would continue to expand, cross the Monocacy and gobble up every scrap of land until it bumps up against Walkersville.  One can only foresee a Frederick future based on surrounding and eventual annexation of the now defunct City of Walkersville, overcoming its long defiance of unbridled growth and its attempts to protect itself with a ring of protected farmland.

This presents two significant problems, first the engineering of a water supply across the Monocacy River, and then the cost of the proposed North-South Highway around the City on the East side.  The excess cost currently held in the City budget for the County water agreement is an example of the over reach and inefficiency of our growth model.  The already approved annexation and development of northern areas are examples of already determined twenty year growth.  Annexations continue to push our growth boundaries in areas meant for longer term development and lacking infrastructure.  Given our pace, an extended Comp Plan growth area should be deemed unnecessary.

From a benefit perspective, extending the City does not augment the citizen benefit qualities of proximity to downtown, ability to walk or recreate or work or shop in conjunction with the city core, etc.  In fact, it decreases those attributes and projects the error of thinking of progress by expansion, the cost will be large, and more highway sprawl will act like a hydra adding one more head.  It also presents one more difficulty in defining an effective public transportation plan for the City, another service of citizen benefit when applied correctly to planning.

Whatever became of the concept of having gateways to the City, monumental signage that suggested one had arrived at a cohesive destination, a place, a human oasis of some significance?  We are headed towards a future identity defined by a look and feel similar to any northern sprawl city of Montgomery County.  In pictures, they won’t stand out as very unique, or warm and friendly places for habituation.

It can already be seen in the view from Highland Street (behind the Frederick Fairgrounds), the vista just north is of clustered spires, and the southern view has washed out the unique and historic character of the city.  It has the character and charm of brick squares and concrete garages.

skyline FrederickClustered what?

It is the old shell game, we sell the benefits of our lovely, historic downtown as the basis of our suburban growth, but what we end up with are concentrated strip malls and big box stores.  We use attractive pictures of downtown to promote building rows of minimally distinct and slight reticulated townhomes, and football fields of retail and businesses.  We get a build out that looks more like Gaithersburg rather than the clustered spires.

Public life and identity become hollow, we hallow no ground, we pave and we build the cheap and merely utilitarian, fully expecting to tear it down one day and again build the same.  There is no vision of place, only flexible zoning and what profits the developer.  The citizen benefits are to drive everywhere and to look across parking lots.  The roads are crowded and unsafe to cross.  Commuters waste hours going down a road with an endless supply of similarity and repeated services, passing few preserves of green space and great public parks woven into the fabric of daily life.

Worse, planning in the city has become hell-bent for growth beyond reasonable accommodation of growth.  The recent waves of annexations, while in abeyance from development because of multiple roadway needs, has created a demand pressure that is unlikely to be expended with in the timeframe of the next two city Comp Plan periods, we simply won’t have the private market or government finances to compel the growth. 

Yet, given history, we can expect the city planning to project further land needs and increasingly unrealistic growth boundaries.  Just as Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of night, Joe Adkins, Deputy Director of Planning will lead the Aldermen across the Monocacy River.

The question is, Will Citizens Call the City to Account for its Planning and Growth?  Will the public process allow for a development and boundary audit that confines the current bloated growth state into a Comp Plan revision that recognizes reality?  Will the east side rise and the west side gain humanistic planning respect?  Will the retail death of the northern end ever end?  Will anyone who cares about a holistic city vision be elected?