Amendments To The Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan Introduced On Tuesday

The Frederick County Council will hold a hearing on the plan later this month.

Frederick, Md (KM) About 18 amendments were introduced Tuesday to the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan. Frederick County Councilman Steve McKay proposed 16 amendments including one to remove all proposed downzonings of some properties from agriculture to resource conservation.

“It just seems a bit of overreach with respect to the overlay that’s already there, and then added in these zoning changes from Ag to RC,” he said. “It’s caused a considerable amount of consternation and distress with myriad small property owners who we’ve heard from.”

Planner Tim Goodfellow called the zoning changes a resource protection plan. “It affords the protection of these steep slopes that are adjacent to the stream valleys from being denuded, landscape alterations, and grading on these steep slopes because that  prevents  erosion, soil runoff and stream sedimentation,” he said.

Councilman Phil Dacey proposed two amendments. One would not propose any zoning changes to land held by the Stronghold Corporation which owns Sugarloaf Mountain. Instead, Dacey says, the County should work  with Stronghold to  establish “a viable zoning category” for its properties. He noted that the Stronghold Corporation is opposed to the plan, and has threatened to close off the mountain to visitors if it passes. “I don’t think anybody in this audience wants the mountain to be shut down to the public. We all enjoy it People in the region enjoy it,” says Dacey. “And the fact of the matter is they own it. They can shut it down if they’re not happy. And they’ve made it clear to us that they are unhappy with the process; they’re unhappy with the result.”

Councilman Kai Hagen said this amendment gives too much to the Stronghold Corporation, and recommended some changes. “It might say that ‘balances,’ ‘or effectively balances’ Stronghold concerns with county goals in a way that’s consistent with Gordon Strong’s original vision and intent,” says Hagen.

During the debate over the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan, supporters continued to press that Interstate 270 be the boundary between development in the east, and land preservation in the west. Councilman McKay proposed a amendment stating that all transit projects and park-and-ride facilities along I-270 be evaluated baaed on serving the Urbana Community on the east side of the highway. “And I felt that–I know I’m not alone–that we really ought to clarify that,”: he said. “If we’re going to have this overlay in the boundary as it’s been proposed, we should be clear that we’re talking about the east side of 270 for the language in this policy.”

The amendments are expected to be added to the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan. A hearing on the plan is scheduled for September 27th. The Council is expected to take a vote on the plan and the amendments by October 18th.

Marriage Fees

The Council also held a hearing on a bill to increase the marriage license fee from $65 to $75. Part of the revenue would go to Heartly House which provides services for victims of domestic violence.

Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater outlines how much the local non-profit has received over the years. “It ranges from $149,305 in fiscal year ’18. It sinks down to $117,000 in fiscal year 2020 of which we probably know why. And then $139,000 in fiscal year ’22. And in fiscal year ’22, this represented 4.1% of the total budget of Heartly House,:” she said.

Inga James, the President and Executive Director of Heartly House, said the local organization is seeing a lot of domestic violence victims in need of help. “We have increased the number of clients we’ve helped by 57%. We don’t see this going down. We have not increased our budget or our staffing by 57% .  So we’re working in a very intense situation,”: she said.

James also pointed out 70% of funding for Heartly House comes from  grants, but they don’t cover operating expenses.

The Council is expected to vote next week on whether to add this bill to its 2023 Legislative Package.

By Kevin McManus