He cites a breach of ethics by a former County Commissioner.
Frederick, Md (KM). It’s victory for opponents of the Monrovia Town Center. Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Bill Nicklas voided the approvals of the massive residential project by the former Board of County Commissioners, and ordered the case to be sent back to the county for reconsideration.
“Wow,”responded Steve McKay, President of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, the citizens group which had been fighting this project for a couple of years. “It’s almost four years to the day that over 300 people from the community descended upon the first set of Planning Commission hearings about Monrovia Town Center. And nearly to a person, they were all against it; and have been against it. The community’s been against it.”
The developers of the the Monrovia Town Center, 75-80 Properties and Payne Investments, planned to build 1,250 new homes on 392-acres located near Routes 75 and 80. It received approval in 2014 by the County Commissioners,despite strong opposition from nearby residents. They said the roads in the area were not adequate to handle the increased traffic, and they noted the state has no plans to upgrade Route 75.
RALE sued the county, saying the process was tainted by a letter purportedly from the Frederick Area Committee on Transportation, which supported the project. It was submitted by former Commissioner Paul Smith on the final night of hearings when all public comment had been completed. That brought protests from opponents who say they weren’t allowed to examine the letter and ask questions.
McKay said the judge’s ruling had a lot to do with ethics. “It all boiled down to the ethics violation that Paul Smith committed,” he says. “And it’s not just the fact that he did not report the communications. It’s the nature of the communications themselves.”
He says Smith didn’t state with whom he spoke. “One of them was the father of the lead engineer on the project to concoct this letter to sell it to the public at the hearing process as this objective statement from this revered transportation group when really it was none of that. And that was their undoing.”
Judge Nicklas, in his ruling, cited state law which requires officials disclose private communications about pending applications to the Chief Administrative Officer.
The county could appeal this ruling to a higher court. “The county doesn’t have to do a thing,” says McKay. “If the developer wants to pursue this project, the developer has to resubmit and go through the development review process again. The county doesn’t have to do a darn thing. ”
If the developer decides to go through this process again, McKay says RALE will testify in opposition. “I can guarantee you that there will be a large outcry from the public in opposition to that project when and if it comes back to rehearing,” he says.
By Kevin McManus