The Frederick County commissioners heard from a steady stream of people Tuesday night railing against a proposal to rezone 8,824 acres of county farmland that could lead to the construction of 12,688 homes.
The five commissioners, along with the seven-member planning board, listened for three hours as a handful of attorneys asked that their clients’ land be rezoned for commercial development or new housing.
They also listened as some 80 people begged the commissioners to protect their quality of life by not moving ahead with the rezonings.
“I love this county,” said Mark Long of Thurmont. “I’ve been here my whole life, and I care very much about this county. I just hope you folks think about our future and our children’s future, and not just the short-term narrow interests.”
Long said that although he makes a living doing home inspections, and has done business with Commissioner Kirby Delauter (R), owner of the construction company W.F. Delauter & Son Inc., in Emmitsburg, he finds the board’s decision to consider the rezonings “shortsighted and misguided.”
Long, like many of the lifelong area residents who attended the public hearing at Oakdale High School in Ijamsville, beseeched the commissioners to protect the county’s farmland, streams and open space.
Others who recently moved to Frederick County said they left neighboring Montgomery County to get away from the traffic, congestion and overcrowding.
“Remember you have it in your hands to preserve our way of life and prevent us from becoming another Montgomery County,” said Pam Abramson of Monrovia. “If we build up everything now, there’s going to be nothing left in our future.”
On the other side, attorneys representing some of the 163 property owners who have asked commissioners to rezone their land for commercial development or new housing, said their clients only want to build on their land — an opportunity that was taken away by the previous board of commissioners. They argued that their clients had a right to develop their land.
Frederick Attorney Bruce Dean said his clients, Glade Valley Joint Venture and Beattie Renn, have been hurt by the previous commissioners’ decision in 2010 to place their land in agricultural preservation.
“Neither properties wanted to be considered in ag preservation,” Dean said.
The 882.75-acre property owned by Glade Valley Joint Venture sits on the north and south sides of Md. Route 26, west of Crum, just outside of Walkersville. The 387.55-acre property owned by Beattie Renn sits on the north and south sides of Gas House Pike, just outside of Walkersville.
Both landowners are requesting that their properties be put in Frederick’s future growth areas because they are adjacent to the city, Dean said.
Former county Commissioner Kai J. Hagen (D) said the 2010 growth plan calls for the construction of 36,000 homes over the next 20 years — a number they considered more than enough to handle the county’s population, which is expected to grow from the current 234,669 to 287,913 in 2020.
Hagen criticized the current board, saying that their preliminary approval to grant the rezonings was made without discussion and careful consideration.
“The entire process has been a complete lie before it happened. ... There was no discussion on 95 percent of those properties. Blaine, you made one motion after another and [the board] just said ‘yes,’” Hagen said, referring to Commissioners’ President Blaine Young.
Young attempted to cut Hagen off, but not before Hagen said that more people would have come to the hearing, but assumed the commissioners would ignore their pleas.
Commissioner David P. Gray (R) — who was a member of the previous board and the lone current commissioner against the rezonings — agreed with Hagen.
“This is a long-term bad plan that will undermine the quality of life for everyone speaking about this tonight,” Gray said.
Commissioner C. Paul Smith (R) said his focus is to create jobs, and the proposed rezonings will do just that.
“This is a vast undertaking,” Smith said. “I’ve been taking notes. I’m taking this very seriously.... We have an economic and job focus, at least I do. As I look at it, we have an opportunity here.”
Both Young and Smith said they want to do what is best for the county.
“I’m dedicated, and I think everyone here is dedicated to preserving the quality of life,” Smith said.
“We all want the same thing,” Young added. “We want to make Frederick County the best it can be.”