A handful of residents got their first look this week at plans to build 2,295 homes and thousands of acres of commercial and office space off Ballenger Creek Pike in Frederick, prompting them to voice concerns about roads, school overcrowding and their property values.
The Frederick County Planning & Community Development Review Department held an open house Monday night at Ballenger Creek Middle School in Frederick to inform residents of plans to build three major housing developments and a large-scale commercial center in the Ballenger Creek area.
“I’ve been in Frederick County for 23 years, and I know it’s not practical to say, ‘Close the doors [on more residents],’ but I think [county planners] need to look at the area,” said Lisa Greene, a resident of the Ballenger Crossing subdivision. “This certainly affects traffic and resale.”
It was the second open house the planning department has held to inform residents of the wave of housing and commercial development planned across the county.
An open house was held last month for residents in the Monrovia and Urbana areas. Residents from those areas packed Windsor Knolls Middle School to see plans for the Monrovia Town Center, the Landsdale Planned Unit Development and the Urbana area.
The open house meetings, intended to allow residents to view development plans and maps, also gives them the opportunity to ask questions and talk to members of the planning department in an informal setting. A series of formal public hearings will be scheduled over the next several months.
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners will decide whether to approve the zoning changes at a later date.
There is no time frame at this point on when construction on any of the developments will start.
The planning department was to hold a third open house from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday night, after The Gazette’s deadline, at Oakdale Middle School, 9840 Old National Pike in Ijamsville for residents in the Linganore area.
Tim Goodfellow, a county planner, said the turnout at Monday night’s open house was light.
“They’ve come to look at the changes,” Goodfellow said. “We’ve heard a lot of different responses. Some are indifferent, and some have a lot to say.”
Greene said she was not pleased to learn that the developers of the Ballenger Run Planned Unit Development want to not only build homes for people 55 and older, but now they want to construct 655 additional homes for people of all ages.
She worries about the impact to schools and roads in the area, because age-restricted developments typically have less school-age children.
“When we bought our house we knew [the area] would not stay a farm forever,” she said. “At the time, it was farming, but we knew that within a year the farmer would look to rezone his land. It got approved for 55 and older, and we thought that was a nice compromise. But it went from agriculture to 55 and older, and now this. I think the developer is going down a slippery road.”
RBG Family LLC, the developer of the proposed Ballenger Run Planned Unit Development, wants to build on 130 acres of property on the east side of Ballenger Creek Pike, across from Tuscarora High School.
The proposed development is currently zoned for people 55 and older, but the developers want to change that and build homes for all ages.
The plan would include 180 single-family homes, 265 townhouses, 210 apartments or condominiums and a 200-bed assisted-living facility.
Frederick land-use attorney Bruce Dean has said his clients want to open up the development to people of all ages based on a recovering housing market.
Dean attended Monday night’s open house to hear the concerns of residents. Dean not only represents the developers of Ballenger Run, he is also the attorney for the Kingsbrook Planned Unit Development.
“I’ve answered a few questions,” Dean said. “I’m trying not to intrude, since this is held by the planning department. But I’m really interested in what people have to say.”
The Kingsbrook Planned Unit Development currently has 983 homes. There are no plans to build more homes. Developers instead want to change their plans from 16.9 acres of office space to commercial development.
Kay Cunningham, the president of the Kingsbrook Community Association, said she is concerned with the change.
“Six months ago, it was going to be a couple [of] offices. Now it could be a liquor store or [dog] kennel,” she said.
“There are townhouses that will back up to that. As the president of the homeowner’s association, I’m the one who gets the phone calls. They’re screaming at me to [remedy a problem].”
Cunningham said she has been researching and talking to county planners to learn more about what is proposed for her development.
“I have a feeling the county has let us down,” she said.
Kathi Luebkemann, a resident of the Kingsbrook development, said she is also not happy with the changes.
“I have concerns about my property values,” she said.
The residents are worried that certain types of commercial space, such as a liquor store, and more housing, which will overcrowd schools and congest roads, would reduce the value of their homes.
Also proposed for the Ballenger Creek area is the building of the Jefferson Tech Park, which will include 825 homes, 125,000 square feet of commercial space, 1,375,000 square feet of office space and a hotel and conference center.
Another is the Westview South Mixed Use Development, which includes 610 homes, 24.1 acres of commercial space and 68.4 acres of office space.