Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reactions mixed on revised plan for growth

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No issue has elicited as much controversy in Frederick County in recent years as the New Market Region Plan.

The Frederick County Division of Planning unveiled a revised plan for the first time to residents and property owners at an open house June 21 at Oakdale Middle School in Ijamsville.

Due to the new plan, 12,200 homes that were slated for the New Market area have been reduced to 5,400, said Tim Goodfellow, project planner with the planning division. The reduction has left some unhappy property owners who were hoping to make a profit off their land.

The Wagstaffs came to the open house to view maps showing how their property has been changed.

‘‘I can’t believe the county commissioners went back on the plan that everyone worked so hard on,” said Mary Jane Wagstaff, who owns 31 acres in Lake Linganore.

Since 1993, the county has designated the Wagstaff property for residential development. In the updated region plan, commissioners have decided that the property will remain agricultural. Wagstaff said she was hoping to eventually sell the land and give the proceeds to her children.

Jim Maleady and his wife Helen own Watersville Homes — a small homebuilding company in New Market, and also attended the open house. The Maleadys live in Eaglehead at Lake Linganore, and are concerned about the decision to revise the region plan.

Commissioners are slated to adopt a revised plan by end of the year. No group is more pleased than Friends of Frederick County, a public interest group that led the charge last year against the adoption of the original plan.

‘‘We hoped for this and we all were pushing for this,” said Janice Wiles, a member of Friends, at last week’s open house. ‘‘I feel like we’ve been rewarded.”

The region plan determines how much growth will occur during the next 20 years. The New Market Region Plan includes Mount Airy, Lake Linganore, Bartonsville, Ijamsville, Monrovia, New London and Spring Ridge.

In May 2006, the Frederick Board of County Commissioners adopted the plan under a cloud of scrutiny, anger and mistrust. The plan pitted former commissioners Michael L. Cady (R), John R. Lovell (R) and Bruce L. Reeder (D) against current commissioners John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) and Jan H. Gardner (D).

The process raised concerns that decisions were made without resident input, confusion existed over the number of new homes that would be built, and Cady and Lovell took campaign contributions from developers who had pending requests for land rezoning.

Since the county had no law banning commissioners from taking campaign contributions from those with pending business before the board, Cady and Lovell said they did nothing wrong.

In the end, voters ousted Cady and Lovell in November, and a new slow-growth board — including Gardner and Thompson — was ushered in. Reeder did not run for re-election. The new board immediately began major revisions to the plan, and outlawed commissioners from taking campaign contributions from people who have pending business before the board.

Public Hearing

Frederick County Planning Commission public hearing on the New Market Region Plan: 7 p.m., July 18, at Linganore High School.