Frederick County Council Adopts Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan

But it remands sections dealing with the rural overlay back to the Planning Commission.

Frederick, Md (KM) After about two years of discussion and debate, the Frederick County Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan. The document restricts development on about 20,000 acres of land from the Montgomery County line to the Monocacy National Battlefield which is mostly zoned agriculture and resource conservation.

Before that vote, the Council voted 4-to-3 to remand the sections of the plan dealing with the rural overlay back to the Planning Commission for further work. That passing motion was made by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater. “I fully believe that we can get an overlay that restricts the most egregious uses that we can put over this planning area, and we don’t have that right now,” she said.

Councilman Kai Hagen was opposed. “I think this is a grotesquely irresponsible thing to do after the last two years,”: he said. “I think that it is out of sync with what 99-percent of the people who live in that area and all of the environmental groups and all the smart growth groups have advocated for and made clear what they support.”

“Any remand, the most narrowly constrained remand risks this whole thing falling apart,” says Councilman Steve McKay. He expressed concerns that with the election less than two weeks away, the  new Council coming in  could  decide not to pursue the adoption of a rural overlay. An overlay would severely curb land uses in the area, especially areas that are environmentally sensitive.

In voting in favor of the Sugarloaf plan, Councilman Hagen said he was not totally happy with it. “It isn’t good enough, but it’s good enough to support. It’s good enough to move forward. It’s good enough to make a positive difference to help further identify and brand and consolidate the area and the community around something that they know they’re going to have to keep fighting for,”: he said.

The debate on the plan has been passionate, with some opponents saying it infringes on private property rights; and supporters fearing that without this plan, the Sugarloaf  area could be developed in the future. But Councilman Phil Dacey said everyone should be happy because there are no plans to bring residential or commercial development to the Sugarloaf region. “What I’ve heard loud and clear is that this whole area is going to be preserved, and that’s a huge win,” he says. “This whole area being preserved. Just the passion and for preservation, 92-percent of this area is never going to be developed into anything other than farms.”

Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer says it’s was long haul to get to the point of adopting this plan. “This has been a Council that has worked very, very hard to try and find a middle group. It’s been a very small eye in the needle, and we’ve have had a very large piece of thread to try and to put through,” she said.

“There are differences of opinions up here, but overall, the plan is good,” Keegan-Ayer continues. “The overlay, maybe we have some concerns about, but the plan itself is good.”

By Kevin McManus