Testimony Taken By The Frederick County Council On Proposed Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan

A proposal by Amazon to build data centers in the area generated a lot of testimony.

Frederick, Md (KM) The question of whether Amazon should be allowed to build data centers in the Sugarloaf Mountain area dominated Tuesday’s hearing before the Frederick County. Elected officials held a hearing on the proposed Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan which covers 19,,700 acres of land between Monocacy National Battlefield and the Montgomery County border.

During the hearing, Steve Black with the Sugarloaf Alliance said the organization did some research for almost a year on plans  by Amazon to build data centers in that area. “We can now establish that Amazon Web Services intended—and as far as we can tell—still intends to put a set of data center complexes on the west side of I-270 within an area that is currently covered by the Planning Commission’s recommended boundaries for this plan,” he said.

The Planning Commission approved the plan earlier this year, and transmitted it  to the County Council.

Michelle Rosenfeld, an attorney representing the Sugarloaf Alliance, said there was considerable lobbying going on by the property owner, Tom Natelli, and Amazon. “And those efforts are to persuade the Council to change zoning laws, and to override the Planning Commission’s boundary recommendations to undermine long term protection of Sugarloaf Mountain,”: she said.

Ingrid Rosencranz, who lives on Fingerboard Road, described the impact these data centers could have on the Sugarloaf area. “I’d say things to think about would be noise and noise impacts; water issues; large power sources; too much impermeable surfaces in the headwaters of the Sugarloaf Plan area,” she said. “Each of those areas are at the top of the rise and in the headwaters. The streams flow down hill into the plan area.”

Many speakers urged the Council to approve the plan without any “carve-outs”: for Amazon. “It’s incredibly short sighted to consider allowing farmland to be destroyed and be converted into whatever the use, the houses, and all we’ve heard about Amazon, the data centers,” said Ellen Gordon who lives in Dickerson.

Many of those who spoke said I-270 has been the boundary for many years between growth in the east, in areas like Urbana, and preservation in the west. But other speakers said the Livable Frederick Master Plan does not specify that I-270 as the boundary between growth and land preservation.

Councilman Phil Dacey has proposed an amendment to the plan which would align the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan with Livable Frederick. A majority of the audience urged the Council to vote down that amendment as well, saying it would allow Amazon to build its data centers.

The Council is expected to continue its hearing on the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan on Thursday afternoon. A vote could take place  in October.

By Kevin McManus