Former Frederick Mayor Jeff Holtzinger (R) said this week that he “feels good” about how the city put its 2010 growth plan together, despite a lawsuit filed last month by the Friends of Frederick County that claims the plan is “invalid.”
The conservation advocacy group filed the lawsuit on July 10 in Frederick County Circuit Court to stop the city from annexing more property and to slow progress on annexations approved after April 1, 2010.
The city wasn’t notified of the lawsuit until last week.
The lawsuit claims that the city’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan did not follow state law and should be considered invalid until the city rectifies its mistakes.
By challenging the city’s long-term blueprint for growth, the group can have a “collateral effect on the city’s annexations,” the group’s attorney, David Brown of Rockville, said in an interview.
“If we are successful in requiring them [the city] to go back to the drawing board ... it means annexation plans cannot be approved …. This group is not very keen on these annexations. They think they are moving much too quickly and too uncritically,” Brown said.
But Holtzinger said the lawsuit has little substance, and he does not believe it will hold up in court.
He said the city did its due diligence by passing a law that requires roads, water and sewer to be in place before building can begin, along with a water agreement with the county to serve the growth areas.
The annexations are consistent with the county’s growth plans, and represent less growth than outlined in the city’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan, Holtzinger said.
“That lawsuit is too vague and general,” Holtzinger said. “What they determine is not legally sufficient is based on their personal opinions.”
The Friends of Frederick County now has three open court actions, including two lawsuits against Frederick city, and one against the town of New Market, according to court records.
All involve land-use policies that the group argues will stretch resources, including water, schools and roads, and hurt the quality of life in the county.
Two previous lawsuits against Frederick County on similar issues are no longer active; one was dismissed by the court, and the other was voluntarily withdrawn by Friends, according to Frederick County Attorney John Mathias.
“Friends of Frederick County promotes good land use planning in the County and in the City of Frederick. State law furthers this same goal by requiring the city to adopt a Comprehensive Plan that carefully and comprehensively addresses how future growth can be accommodated while protecting our existing quality of life,” Friends’ Director Janice Wiles wrote in an email. “Our lawsuit alleges that the City's 2010 Comprehensive Plan fails to meet the stringent requirements of state law, and seeks corrective action by the City before any more annexations take place.”
A previous lawsuit filed against the city in 2009 is still working its way through the court system, according to Frederick City Attorney Saundra Nickols.
That lawsuit challenges the annexations of the Crum and Thatcher properties north of Frederick along Md. 15. That case is scheduled for trial in October.
As reported in The Gazette on Aug. 9, the city has received two new annexation applications, which, together with those approved for the Crum and Thatcher properties, would add 3,000 new homes to the city.