It removes the words ‘new town.’
Frederick, Md (KM) An amendment regarding the former Eastalco site and surrounding properties was added Tuesday to the Livable Frederick plan by the County Council.
The measure was drafted by Councilmen Jerry Donald and Steve McKay. Donald said it removes two words that generated a lot of opposition from residences in that area. “You’ll see the term ‘new town’ is gone,” he said. “The term is out of the plan altogether.”
He also said the nearly 300-acre site which once housed the Eastalco aluminum smelting operation is still owned by Alcoa. “But if somebody buys it and wishes to do something with it, we’re going to have a community outreach that includes a citizen advisory group,” he said.
Councilman McKay liked the idea of a citizens advisory group which he called “a meaningful public engagement.” “I want to not just end with this language. I want to use it as a springboard to take a serious look at our zoning ordinance and how we can do better at community engagement when we know these kinds of changes can have comprehensive impact,” says McKay.
His colleague, Councilman Kai Hagen, also supported more community engagement. “Putting something like that on a county map in the principal planning document in the county…without engaging the people in the community was a mistake, was an error,” he said.
Other parts of the amendment call for a preservation component to include a review of historic sites and archaeological resources, viewsheds and cultural characteristics; an infrastructure component, an evaluation of existing and proposed transportation systems and a comprehensive study to address MARC system access and expandability. “I know some people say ‘you’re never going to get a MARC station there.’ Well, it has rails. CSX may change their business plans We don’t what they will be in the future. What I do know is you will never get a MARC station where there are no rails,” he said.
CSX owns the tracks MARC uses to transport commuters.
Other parts of the amendment deal with a green infrastructure; a growth impact analysis on existing and planned schools; a throughout and transparent study of industrial site contamination; and an assessment of potential land use mix such as business, retail, residential, industrial, agriculture, open space, recreation and institutional uses.
Council President MC Keegan-Ayer said both Councilmen Donald and McKay were working on this compromise right to up to 5:25 PM on Tuesday, which is five-minutes before the Council’s meeting was scheduled t begin.
A vote on the entire Livable Frederick Plan is expected to take place next month.
The Council also took testimony later that evening on a bill to help facilitate the creation of more affordable housing. The legislation sponsored by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater would set aside a portion of the revenue from the recordation tax for the Housing Initiative Fund, which is used for programs such as Homebuyer Assistance, Deferred Loan, Emergency Rehabilitation, Senior Rehabilitation and Shelter Grants.
Mark Long, whose on the Affordable Housing Council and the Interfaith Housing Alliance, testified in support of the bill. “I will emphasize that the Housing Initiative Fund plays a vital role by helping to insure that we have affordable and diverse housing options, especially for residents with modest to low incomes, and it’s crucial that we fund it at an appropriate level,” he said.
Also speaking in favor was Mary Ellen Mitchell, the CEO of Housing Frederick. “To increase the Housing Initiative Fund via the increase of the recordation tax will positively affect the lives of thousands of county residents,” she said.
And Eric Soter, a member of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor. “The recordation tax is an existing broad based funding mechanism that generates revenues from residential and non-residential transactions,” he said. “Our businesses rely on affordable housing options for their workforce in an effort to attract and retain the best talent, while providing a choice to live near their work.”
The legislation requires that 1.5% of recordation tax revenues go toward the Housing Initiative Fund in fiscal year 2021. That percentage goes up to 2% in fiscal year 2022. In fiscal year 2023 and beyond, 2.5% of the recordation tax revenue will be set aside for the Housing Initiative Fund.
The Council is expected to vote on this legislation at a future date.
By Kevin McManus