When the Frederick Board of County Commissioners' term ends in 2014, it will likely leave behind plans for hundreds of new homes and businesses that can't be changed.
Since April, the five commissioners have entered into three agreements with developers that are slated to bring new homes and businesses to the county over the next several years.
The binding pacts — known as the “Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreement” — remain intact for 25 years, so future boards will be unable to overturn them.
At a meeting on Oct. 25 on the latest agreement with Oakdale Investments LLC, the owners and developers of the Eaglehead/Linganore Planned Unit Development in the Lake Linganore/New Market area, Commissioners' President Blaine R. Young (R) said he wants a total of 25 agreements signed and under way at at the end of this board's term.
“We will be seeing a lot of these,” Young said.
The Maryland General Assembly approved a law in 1995 mandating that once a county government signed a Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreement with a developer, it cannot be overturned by a newly-elected board. Under the law, counties and municipalities in the state can enter into the binding agreements.
But such arrangements, available to all counties in the state, have never been used in Frederick County — until now.
The agreement gives a developer the right to build homes and businesses that cannot be undone, but also stipulates the infrastructure improvements — schools, roads, water and sewer service — the builder must make to accommodate the new growth.
Young said the agreements are good for the developer and the county because they spell out what must be done on both sides.
“The key words of the DRRA is rights and responsibilities, which assures that infrastructure will be there,” Young said.
Young has said that commissioners expect to sign additional agreements with the majority of property owners who saw their developments rights taken away by the previous board.
As part of last year's update of the comprehensive plan — a long-term blueprint for growth — the previous county commissioners rezoned about 700 properties in an attempt to curb development and prevent sprawl.
But in September the current board adopted a revised plan that gave 165 property owners the rezonings they need to develop their land. The new comprehensive plan rezones 8,824 acres of county farmland that could lead to the development of 12,688 new homes.
“Now that the comprehensive plan is done, we have certain areas [of the county] targeted for development,” Commissioner C. Paul Smith (R) said. “The [commissioners] have the ability to approve and not approve them.”
But Smith said based on the new housing numbers in the county, development will be spread out over a long period of time.
For example, when the recession hit in 2008, 304 new homes were built in the county, according to the county Planning Department. That number jumped to 443 in 2010, but dropped to 322 in 2011. As of August of this year, 343 new homes have been built.
Those numbers do not take into account new homebuilding in the city of Frederick, however.
In 2008, 75 homes were built in the city. That number jumped to 130 in 2010, but dropped to 78 in 2011. As of August of this year, 362 homes have been built.
The commissioners have already entered into an agreement with the developers of the Landsdale Planned Unit Development for the building of 1,100 homes on the west side of McClain Road, north of Md. 80 in Monrovia in the southern part of the county.
They have also entered into an agreement with the JTPL Investments LLC and Jefferson Park Development LLC, both of Potomac, for the building of the Jefferson Technology Park.
The 173-acre technology park, which is expected to cost about $135 million, will be located in the Ballenger Creek area and will include homes and a 250-bed hotel.
It is estimated that the park will generate 7,100 permanent jobs, 850 homes and 1.37 million square feet of business space in the U.S. 340 and Md. 180 corridor.
The commissioners also entered into an agreement on Oct. 25 with Oakdale Investments LLC to build a 1,354-acre development on the north side of Old National Pike and the west side of Gas House Pike in the New Market area.
In 2010, 923 acres were downzoned from residential to agriculture. In the newly revised growth plan, the land has been rezoned for new housing.
The developers could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
But Jason A. Wiley, manager of Oakdale Investments, said in an Oct. 2 letter to Young that the development agreement is necessary to provide certainty for the county that the project will be built with the necessary approvals and regulations.
It also guarantees that “no changes in zoning or other approvals may be imposed on the project,” Wiley said.