A state commission that promotes and advocates smart growth, listened closely Monday as Frederick’s elected leaders touted job growth and development plans for the city and county.
The 36-member Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission — created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2010 to advise, evaluate and promote “smart growth” in the state — gathered at the C. Burr Artz Library in downtown Frederick to hear first-hand about the development plans in Frederick County.
Smart growth is a concept that channels development into areas where public transportation is available and residents can walk to nearby businesses as a way of avoiding urban sprawl.
The meeting was also a chance for county and city officials to boast about the quality of life the county and city have to offer.
“We are an emerging county,” Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said. “We’re very happy that we’re starting to see an uptick in the [financial] market, and we want to plan for that prosperity.”
Although members of the growth commission made little comment, Chairman Jon Laria acknowledged that the county and the city are in the middle of a boom.
“So much is going on in Frederick County and Frederick city with respect to these issues,” he said. “Virtually every land-use decision exists here.”
None of the members of the state panel is from Frederick County.
Young said the county is working to ensure that commercial and residential growth is carefully planned — despite what critics opposed to more development claim.
“I believe we plan appropriately,” he said. “We’re hear to work with everyone. Obviously, there is going to be concerns. But that’s life.”
Young left the specifics to Jim Gugel, planning manager for the county Community Development Division.
The county’s current population is 237,853 residents, which is expected to grow to 294,900 by 2030, Gugel said.
The number of new homes being built has been fluctuating as a result of the recession and economic downturn of 2008, he said.
In the 1960s, an average of 470 new homes a year were built. By the 1990s, an average of 2,000 homes were built annually. But between 2010 and 2012, that number dropped to an average of 720 homes, according to Gugel.
“That includes a couple of years of the recession,” he said. “Basically, what we’re experiencing is 40-year lows in terms of development.”
Gugel said most of the residential growth is planned for the Linganore, Ballenger Creek and Urbana areas.
“That is the county’s primary growth areas,” he said.
There are plans to build 2,295 homes in the Ballenger Creek area in Frederick, 610 homes on the southwest side of Md. 355 adjacent to the Urbana Community Park in Urbana and 1,735 homes in the Lake Linganore area.
However, opposition remains strong among some residents who are against the tide of residential growth plans, including the trend toward long-term agreements between developers and the commissioners allowing construction if certain impact requirements are met.
Frederick Mayor Randy McClement (R), also took the opportunity to boost the city.
The city of Frederick, the largest of the county’s 12 municipalities, currently has a population of 67,000 residents, said McClement, who touted the downtown area, arts community, technology companies, Frederick Keys baseball and the Frederick Municipal Airport.
“Baseball, beer and biotechnology are just a few things that make Frederick a place to be,” he said.
There are also plans to build 2,050 homes on 555.43 acres of farmland in the northern end of the city, as well as 275 townhouses, 18 single family homes and 179,000 square feet of restaurants and retail shops at the new Market Square on the corner of Md. 26 and Wormans’ Mill Road.
Market Square is currently under construction, although several of the businesses have opened and homes have sold.
A new Super Walmart has also been proposed to replace the nearly-dead Frederick Towne Mall on the “Golden Mile,” in Frederick. There are also plans to replace the Walmart on Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick with a new Super Walmart at the corner of Monocacy Boulevard and Md. 26.
Joe Adkins, deputy director of city planning, cited transportation concerns in some parts of Frederick, including Metro rail not being available in the county and traffic congestion along U.S. 15.
“Right now [U.S. 15], is at capacity, and in the future it’s really going to hurt,” he said.
Currently, about 78,000 cars travel daily on U.S. 15, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.