Council Rejects 2018 Monocacy River Plan

But supports bringing back a revised 2017 plan.


Frederick, Md (KM) The 2018 Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan was rejected Tuesday by the Frederick County Council. The vote was 5-1 with Councilman Phil Dacy in opposition. He says the document emphasized private property rights for landowners along the river. “i do think  it’s important that the documents spell out individual property owner rights whatever that may end up looking like in a revised plan,” he said.

Councilman Steve McKay voted to reject the 2018 plan. “I think it’s fundamentally imbalanced. Too much environmentally focused information, none of which represented a threat to property rights, was removed as the document was augmented with property rights protection language,” he said.

When a 2017 river plan was introduced, landowners along the river felt it gave  the county the right to take their properties through eminent domain in order to build a bike path or hiking trail. The Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board revised the plan with a strong emphasis on property rights.

The Council held a hearing on that 2018 plan last week, and heard strong arguments pro and con for the new document.

Supporters of the 2017 plan say it’s only advisory. But Councilman Dacy disagrees. “We’re all smart up here. We recognize this document is going to be utilized in the future and is a building block for future things. And that’s why we had such a passionate debate,” he said.

Councilman Vice President Michael Blue voted against the 2018 plan, but he says he supports property rights. “I can’t support  the 2018 plan, but I will not support a 2017 plan with amendments that don’t  protect property rights, with some clarifications for the concerns that the citizens had,” he said.

Councilman McKay also said property rights are important. “The fundamental purpose of this document should be about protecting the river. That’s the purpose,” he said. “Property rights protection is our job here. But I accept that it can and should be discussed and emphasized in the plan. I just think it was overdone, and it shouldn’t come at the expense of legitimate environmental information.”

In a separate vote, the Council agreed to bring back the 2017 plan with some revisions which address the concerns of citizens who testified last week. Councilman Dacy said it should include a definition of the role of the plan; and Councilman McKay said it should not overlook the positive changes in the 2018 plan.

Council President MC Keegan-Ayer provided a list of proposed amendments to the plan which will be discussed at a future meeting.

DRRA Reforms

In other business, Councilman McKay introduced a bill to reform the way development rights and responsibilities agreements are drafted. He says they would apply to residential developments of 1500 or more homes, define and require  enhanced public benefits, and specify laws and fees that apply to land developed under a DRRA. “Limit the term of DRRA’s to no more than five years with one possible extension of up to five years,” he says. “Specify items to consider during an amendment process.”

McKay introduced the legislation on behalf of County Executive Jan Gardner. She had proposed this bill during the last County Council, noting that the last Board of County Commissioners often approved DRRA’s lasting up to 20 years, not taking into consideration changes that could happen in the economy in the future.


By Kevin McManus