Two Issues Generated Discussion At Last Week’s Frederick County Council Hearing

Both dealt with the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan.

Frederick, Md (KM) Whether there were attempts to revise the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan outside of the public view was brought up during last Tuesday’s Frederick County Council hearing on the plan. The Sugarloaf Alliance conducted an investigation into that after it received word  of the proposed modifications last year.

“In the spring of 2021 during the original drafting of the Sugarloaf plan, there were some changes made outside of the public process. In other words, in the back room, the boundaries  of the plan area were modified,” says Steven Black, President of the Sugarloaf Alliance.

He said it wasn’t easy getting information from the county. “The Sugarloaf Alliance asked questions how that change had come about, and we didn’t get any answers,” Black continues. “So we filed Public Information Act requests with the county government to try to uncover the origins of these back room manipulations of the plan boundaries.”

The county was supposed to reply within 30 days, but he says there was  still no response. A civil suit was filed with Frederick County Circuit Court to get  the County to respond, and it did. In the materials it provided, Black says “there are references to e-mails  and summaries of e-mails  between County Government officials and some people who worked for {Developer Tom} Natelli and others to industrialize the west side of I-270.”

He says the purpose of these talks was  to “engage in a project with Amazon Web Services to install a set of data center complexes,” he continues. “These are sets of buildings. Not just one data center building, but groupings of two to five buildings in each one of these areas.”

Natelli, the CEO of Natelli Communities, owns land in the area of the Sugarloaf plan, and asked the county to remove these properties from the plan.

Supporters of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan support keeping Interstate 270 as the boundary between development in the east, mainly the Urbana area, and land preservation in the west. But opponents say the Livable Frederick Master Plan does not state that I-270 is the border between development and land preservation.   Black says the Livable Frederick Plan does not specifically state that I-270 is not a boundary between growth and land preservation. “Livable Frederick does not specify in any way the geographic boundaries of that development corridor, ” he says.

“The people in favor of spreading industrialization across I-270 are referring to a diagram that conceptually says around, or along or near I-270 there should be a development corridor,” he says.

The Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan does recognize I-270 as a boundary between growth in the east, and land preservation in the west. “At the Planning Commission, at the staff’s recommendation, drew that line at I-270.”? says Black.

The Frederick County Council is scheduled to decide on some aspects of the plan during a meeting on Monday afternoon. Members are expected to vote on a bill to allow private parks in resource conservation areas; the Sugarloaf Rural Heritage Overlay District; and any final amendments based on the public hearing on September 27th. The Council meeting begins at 5:30 PM.

By Kevin McManus