Del. Galen Clagett was expected to meet with a Maryland Department of Planning official Wednesday about a letter the state sent to the Frederick Board of County Commissioners concerning their plan to develop 8,824 acres of farmland.
Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick said he asked to meet with Peter Conrad — author of the letter — to ask why the county’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly wasn’t notified. In the letter, sent May 30, Conrad warns the building of more homes and businesses in the county could lead to urban sprawl, strain services and result in the inefficient use of land. He also warns development will encroach on Walkersville’s green space.
“I want him to tell us why we were excluded from this information,” Clagett said in an interview Friday, adding he’s so angry about the letter, he’s considering taking up the matter with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
Clagett, president of the real estate firm Clagett Enterprises in Frederick, said his concern about the letter has nothing to do with his business, and he does not represent any of the 163 property owners. However, his son is representing one property owner looking to develop 21 lots in Frederick’s Spring Ridge development.
Controversy about the letter continued June 12 between Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) and former county commissioner Kai J. Hagen (D), spilling out at the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony at Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center.
Young has accused Hagen of being behind the state’s letter because he met with state planning officials in February. Hagen said he met with them, but isn’t tied to the letter.
At the ribbon cutting, Hagen said he walked by Young and Clagett and heard his name mentioned regarding the letter. He said he told Young “I ‘wished he would stop saying that in meetings and on the radio since he has no way to know that, and because it simply wasn’t true.’”
The confrontation became heated with both men calling each other liars.
“I responded by noting that he lies everyday and that, really he lies for a living,” Hagen said.
Young said he continues to believe Hagen is behind the letter.
“Kai sold them a line, and they went with it hook, line and sinker. ... Kai made the whole thing political.”
Clagett is upset planning officials met with Hagen, but Conrad needed permission to meet with him.
“I’m fed up with their arrogance. This is a push by the state to run planning and that’s wrong ... What we have here is war,” Clagett said.
John Coleman, spokesman for the department of planning, said the meeting with Hagen occurred months before the May 30 letter to commissioners. He said a first letter was sent to commissioners in November addressing the same issues. A second letter was sent when they learned the planning commission voted Nov. 17 to discontinue a planned series of public hearings on the rezoning requests from 163 property owners.
The commission voted to discontinue the process because they were against rezoning that could lead to more houses. They also recommended the commissioners discontinue the rezonings.
“We felt it was important to send a second letter after the planning commission vote,” Coleman said. “The board of county commissioners decided to move forward even after their recommendation, so a supplemental letter was sent. ... Counties usually don’t move forward after such recommendations.”
Coleman said if a staff member meets with an elected official, it must be approved by his or her supervisors. He also said the department was under no obligation to notify senators and delegates about the letter.
Sen. Ron Young (D-Dist. 3) of Frederick, who served as deputy secretary and acting secretary of the Department of Planning for 10 years, also said the department is under no obligation to notify the delegation. He’s aware of the letter, but is unconcerned the delegation didn’t get a copy.
“They review everybody’s [development] plans,” he said. “They really hold no weight. Other than a critique, it puts the county under no obligation to change anything. I know the county doesn’t like it, but they’re under no obligation.”