Construction of most of the 1,200 homes and 1.3 million square feet of business space on about 537 acres north of the city of Frederick will not happen anytime soon, according to the developers.
The developers of the Crum Farm property — which sits west of U.S. 15, south of Sundays Lane and north of Willowbrook Road — told the mayor and the Frederick Board of Aldermen on Wednesday that until a new interchange is built at Biggs Ford Road and U.S. 15, only 350 to 450 homes can be built.
“None of the employment can be constructed [without] the Biggs Ford Road interchange, which is not on the state’s radar,” said Bruce Dean, the Frederick attorney representing the developer, Crum Farm Land LLC of Rockville.
Mark Friis, president and chief operating officer of Rodgers Consulting, which is also working on the project, said the state will not allow them to build an entrance to a commercial development directly off of U.S. 15.
“You’re not going to get an at-grade intersection on Route 15, so that component cannot be built without that interchange,” Friis said.
In 2009, the city annexed 285 acres of the Crum property from the county for the construction of 1,200 homes and a mix of businesses.
The applicant came before the mayor and aldermen on Wednesday to ask the city to annex another 252.76-acre parcel that sits adjacent to the 285 acres annexed in 2009. But the additional land is not slated for more homes, with the proposed 1,200 homes now spread across both properties.
The city already has agreed to provide water to the site, but the developer will be required to extend the lines. The county also will provide the sewer service.
The developers spent much of the meeting touting the 1.3 million square feet of business space planned for the property and the estimated 6,200 jobs it will bring.
“This is going to create jobs,” said Anirban Basu, an economist from Baltimore who is a consultant on the project. “The commercial outweighs the residential.”
Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) questioned the type of jobs that will be created, asking whether many of them will be service jobs, such as positions at fast-food restaurants.
Friis said the businesses they expect to come will be similar to the large government agencies and corporations that have recently opened in Urbana, such as the $500 million Social Security Adminstration building in the Urbana Corporate Center in 2011 that created 200 jobs, and the government-backed mortgage company Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association.
But Friis said those businesses most likely would not have located in Urbana if the new homes had not been built.
The homes, such as in the Villages of Urbana and the Highlands, were developed with the stipulation that the roads, water and sewer would be improved to meet the demands of new residents. Subsequently, Urbana became attractive to new businesses, because the road system and utilities had been built and upgraded.
“The residential brought the infrastructure improvements,” Friis said. “It allowed us to get the infrastructure in place...That’s the advantage of a mixed-use project: residential pays for the infrastructure.”
Developers of the Crum property have agreed to contribute 25 acres for the Biggs Ford Road interchange, but are not yet bound to any funding contribution, under the agreement with the city.
The city and the developer want state funding for the interchange, which is expected to cost $60 million. However, the state has not committed to any funding.
Jim Gugel, planning manager for the Frederick County Division of Community Development, said in an interview Friday, that the interchange is part of the state’s “Multi-Modal Corridor Study.”
Since 1994, the Maryland State Highway Administration and Mass Transit Administration have been conducting a study of a 28-mile stretch of highway from Biggs Ford Road in Frederick County south to the Shady Grove Metro station in Montgomery County. The purpose of the study is to find ways to relieve congestion and improve safety along the highway.
The plan includes toll lanes, car-pool lanes, park-and-ride lots, improved bus service and new interchanges, including one at Biggs Ford Road.
But completion of the study has been creeping along and still is in the planning stage.
There is no money allocated for engineering and construction, according to SHA documents. Over the 18 years, $17 million has been spent on planning and another $1 million for engineering. Improvements are expected to cost $4.3 billion to $4.7 billion — money the state does not have.
Gugel said planning for the improvements is on hold, because the state has no more money to proceed now. He said there also is no money set aside for the Biggs Ford Road and U.S. 15 interchange.
“If everybody waits for the state to do it, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, the city and developers will continue to move forward with the Crum annexation. The mayor and aldermen are slated to hold another workshop Aug. 15.