Frederick County Council Votes Down Overlay District For Sugarloaf Region

It would have provided the area with some extra protection from development.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Frederick, Md (KM) In a 2-to-5 vote on Tuesday night, the Frederick County Council voted down a proposed overlay as part of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan. If it was adopted, it would have provided the area near the mountain an extra layer of protection from development.

Councilmembers Brad Young, Kavonte Duckett, MC Keegan-Ayer and Renee Knapp voted against the overlay district. Councilmen Steve McKay and Jerry Donald voted in favor.

McKay made the original motion to approve the overlay. “You can develop it, and it’s gone,”: he said. “It hard to save it. But It is important to save it for our children. Not just here in Frederick County. This is resource for the entire Washington Metropolitan area. It’s unique and it deserves our protection.”

Councilwoman Keegan-Ayer said she  had problems with the overlay as it could interfere with proposals by the state to improve I-270. “The state is looking at ways to address ongoing development and widening of 270 to address the constant daily traffic concerns, the traffic issues along 270,” she said. “Those plans will have to taken into consideration if Frederick County continues to grow.”

Councilman Donald spoke in favor of the plan. “I’ve tried to make this as strong as possible. I don’t think in a hundred years those who will be here then will have any regrets about us conserving an area. I don’t think they’ll regret that at  all,”  he said. “I think they may be saddened if we let something slip away that can never come back.”

But Councilman Carter said the current zoning in the Sugarloaf area already protects it from development. “What we’re doing right now is working,”: he said. “There’s a reason homes are not popping up in that area because our ag {agriculture} and RC {resource conservation} zoning has effectively worked and preserved the region.”

Prior to voting on the overlay, the Council voted down seven amendments which would have been added to the Sugarloaf plan. One sponsored by Councilman McKay would have prohibited data centers in the Sugarloaf area. He said many people from Frederick County and surrounding regions visit the mountain to climb the summit. “There are spectacular views up there. That’s what makes this cherished and treasured. The last thing you want to see is to look down at warehouse-type buildings at the base of the mountain. That would be ridiculous,” he said.

Councilwoman Renee Knapp is part of a work group tasked with coming up with regulations for data centers in the county. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to try and confine or suggest that the work that work group has been working on since August: we don’t have their conclusions yet. So I think this amendment is premature, and I will not be supporting it,” she said.

In 2022, the County Council voted in favor of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan. But it also remanded it back to the Planning Commission for consideration of some issues such as the overlay. The Commission sent it back to the Council with the overlay intact.

By Kevin McManus