It could lead to more than 12,000 new homes being built.
A new comprehensive plan was adopted on Thursday by the Frederick County Commissioners, replacing the one approved by the board in 2010. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner David Gray in opposition. "The plan is neither comprehensive nor a real plan as far as the future," he says.
The plan restores a number of zonings which were removed from the 2010 plan that was passed by the previous Board of County Commissioners which included Gray. "It was based on their campaign promise to give land zoning to people which had it changed in the prior plan," he says. "I think our responsibility is a whole lot broader than that." He called the "yes" votes by his colleagues "payback for campaign promises."
Commissioners' President Blaine Young acknowledged that in a statement. "When the majority of this board ran for office, we promised that we would right the wrongs of the previous board in terms of downzoning properties that resulted in the destruction of millions of dollars in property values. This down-classification of thousands of acres of property in Frederick County caused real people to lose real money and also negatively affected the county tax base."
The Maryland Department of Planning said last year that rewriting this plan would extend residential sprawl and require construction of more roads and schools. Gray says that could make it difficult for the county in the future. "When we have bad plans like this that propagate sprawl, the State of Maryland, which is trying to stop a lot of sprawl, will tend not to help us with the public facilities that are needed to serve it. In other words, schools, and roads, and particularly roads," he says.
Gray also says the process was rushed, oftentimes with the Commissioners spending only about a minute discussing each request for rezoning. "It's a hodgepodge of ill-conceived votes with no real good thorough discussion," says Gray.
The plan is expected to be more aggressive when it comes to residential construction, with projections of 12,600 new homes going up on about 9,000 acres. Planning Manager Jim Gugel says that number is accurate, but it won't all happen at the same time. "Now, it's important to understand that buildout may occur over a 20 or more year time frame," he says. "Some of the properties will have to apply for zoning, go through development review. Some may already have the zoning to go through that process."
And there's also the weak economy to consider," which is still really not going to support a lot of residential development right how," says Gugel. "We certainly expect these 12,000 units to come on line over a 20 or more year period."
Critics of the plan say all this development could overcrowd schools. Gugel says several elementary school sites, along sites for middle and high schools, have been identified. "It would establish our ability that as the developments actually proceed, that we would be able to gain the school site, and they would go through the typical process as the demand would warrant," he says.
Several environmental groups sued to stop the rewrite of the plan, but their lawsuits were dismissed in June as premature.