Taking the first step on the long road to restore the luster of the Golden Mile, the Frederick Board of Aldermen Thursday night approved a framework designed to help revive the struggling shopping area along U.S. 40.
The five aldermen voted unanimously to approve the Golden Mile Small Area Plan, which includes guidelines for zoning and design standards for updating businesses in the area.
As updates are made, developers will have to follow the guidelines of the plan created by the Frederick Planning Department with input from residents, business owners and developers.
Calling the plan a great product, Alderman Kelly Russell (D) thanked all of the residents involved in the process, which has been in the works for years.
Several of the aldermen have previously called the approval the first step in a long march toward seeing economic recovery on the troubled stretch of U.S. 40 between U.S. 15 and Interstate 270.
Matt Davis, city manager of comprehensive planning, praised the efforts of the Golden Mile Alliance, a group of residents that has offered input on how to revive the area.
“The alliance is a very big help in this process.” Davis said. “They gave us a lot of help in this process and are probably a major reason why this is going to become implemented and be successful. They’re a very involved and committed group.”
Davis said the next step would be a discussion of how to best implement the plan, a process that would include public hearings and feedback from developers. A timetable for those hearings has not been set.
The area has been a frequent source of complaints from residents for years as stores have left the area, leaving vacancies in some of the shopping centers.
Residents have also complained about safety in the area, and asked for it to be revitalized.
The Frederick Towne Mall, which occupies a large section of the stretch, has just two stores inside its building.
The mall’s owners have previously asked to change the zoning of the mall from mixed use to general commercial to update the space, but no decision has been made.
One of those residents who offered input was Belinda Morton, vice president of Neighborhood Advisory Council 5, which represents the Golden Mile.
Morton said at the board meeting Thursday that she was glad to see the city taking steps to improve that area, and hoped to see the implementation of an avenue connecting all of the shopping centers, one of several ideas proposed in the plan.
The road, which would have to be created, would prevent shoppers from having to enter and exit U.S. 40 to visit the different shopping centers.
“It’s important to continue to strive for vision for that area,” she said. “... As to the avenue, I think that is probably one of the most important portions of that plan. One of the things we discovered in our sessions of talking is, first of all, each shopping center, you can’t get from one to the other.”
Morton wasn’t the only one to discuss the avenue portion of the plan at the meeting, although not everyone shared her enthusiasm.
Anne-Herbert Rollins, an attorney with Miles & Stockbridge PC, which represents the Golden Mile’s Willowtree Plaza Shopping Center, said the owners were concerned about any plan that might involve taking some of their property.
Rollins said her client purchased the property in 2003, and has spent time and money upgrading the center, which is home to Wolf Furniture and Mattress and other stores.
Although Rollins praised the plan’s concept, she expressed concerns about how the road would be implemented.
“My clients’ property would be significantly impacted,” she said. “Part of the existing drive aisles through my client’s property are proposed to be part of that avenue.... The city needs to consider how it would compensate any owners, and how that would come into play.”