(10/2017) Frederick County is energized by innovation
Frederick County is a great place to live because of the people who call it home. Our home is a place where people work to improve global health and cure cancer; a place that provides food and fiber for our nation; a place where people take care of each other; and a community that values our history and ensures our bright future. Frederick County continues to lead the way!
To learn how Frederick County is energized by innovation, please watch my State of the County address at 8:30 a.m. on October 6th. The presentation will be broadcast live on FCG TV, cable channel 19, and web-streamed from www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/video.
Kudos to this year’s winners of the Agricultural Business Council awards, which were announced on opening night of the Great Frederick Fair. The Zene and Audrey Wolfe family of Wolfsville earned the title of 2017 Farm Family of the Year! Mary Sue and Richard Grossnickle of Johnsville were named Agricultural Advocates of the Year. And Walkersville’s Matthew Toms was
recognized as Young Farmer of the Year. The Ag Business of the Year is Hostetter Grain in Mount Pleasant. The County is pleased to sponsor these awards and congratulates all of this year’s winners.
We are so blessed in Frederick County to have communities that care about their rich agricultural history. Congratulations to all the participants of the Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show! It was wonderful to watch the traditional parade of flags to kick off the annual event. The Glade Valley Community Show always draws a great crowd to its Friday night dinner and
baked goods auction.
Making Residential Growth Pay its Way
Residential growth has been and will likely continue to be a hot topic in Frederick County. As I attend events around the county, people often express concern about residential growth, raising issues ranging from clear cutting and tree removal, to overcrowded schools and congested roads. Citizens see new housing projects popping up in parts of the City of Frederick and in
the New Market, Monrovia and Urbana areas. Some of these areas are already experiencing serious road congestion and school overcrowding.
It is reasonable for people to ask "How can the county allow more residential growth when it is obvious that roads and schools are not in place to support new residential growth?" This is a good question, and the public has the right to know.
That’s why I ordered studies on the impact of residential growth that has already been approved, to determine what needs to be done to address the impact on our roads, schools and critical county services like fire and EMS.
I, along with every taxpayer in Frederick County, was dealt a bad hand by the prior administration, who approved a large number of new housing projects and signed 14 contracts with developers that will ensure severe school overcrowding and traffic congestion particularly in the New Market, Monrovia and Urbana areas. At the same time, the Board of County Commissioners
weakened long-standing county laws that required developers to pay for the necessary infrastructure. I believe new development should pay for itself. Unfortunately, the prior board of commissioners decided to intentionally shift the cost of residential development primarily to the taxpayers.
Here are facts about the pipeline of residential development previously approved and not yet built, which will:
• Permit 21,000 new housing units.
• Add 50,000 residents. The New Market area alone will see new residential growth equal to two Urbanas.
• Add 9,700 additional school-aged students (25% increase in school enrollment).
• Create a need for more than $500 million in schools and roads projects, according to two recent studies:
o 10 new or expanded schools beyond what is already planned over the next six years, at a cost of $510 million. After impact fees and mitigation fees are paid by developers, taxpayers will be left to pay $167 million.
o $340 million in road projects in the Monrovia/New Market area.
The cost to taxpayers to build the necessary infrastructure will exceed $500 million, according to studies on schools capacity needs and roads. Both studies can be found on the county webpage at www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/ResidentialGrowth.
Much of the residential growth was approved with legally binding contracts, known as Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreements (DRRAs). County officials can only modify or change these DRRA agreements if the developer agrees or it is essential to protect public health and welfare, a situation that may come into play.
Never again! To make sure the county never allows these agreements again, I have proposed a bill to limit the use of DRRAs or developer agreements in the future and to prohibit the freezing of fees developers usually pay. The prior board froze the fee that developers pay for regional transportation improvements at $0 for the next 20 to 30 years in these agreements! It is
absolutely shocking that the prior administration did not think residential development should contribute toward transportation improvements.
I also proposed legislation to increase the school mitigation fee so that it reflects the actual cost of school construction to generate enough money to actually build needed schools. The school mitigation fee should not be confused with impact fees. The prior administration allowed residential developers the option to pay an extra fee called a school mitigation fee, which
allows housing development to build in areas even when the project failed the school adequacy test and schools are already overcrowded with no new schools in the county capital improvement plan. Plus, this nominal school mitigation fee does not provide enough money to actually build the needed schools. This was a plan to allow developers to "buy out" of school adequacy requirements with no plan
to fund or build the needed schools. I have already removed this option from the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance so no new housing projects can use this buy-out option. However, those projects with developer agreements that permit the use of the school mitigation fee should pay the actual cost of school construction or should wait until the schools are adequate. Residential growth needs to
pay its fair share so taxpayers don’t get stuck with the tab!
I encourage residents to speak up and support these initiatives.
Stay tuned! There will be more to come on the topic of growth and who should pay.