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Real Estate Values and Frederick County's Comprehensive Plan – Part 2

This should really be two posts, but since it”s my blog, I”m giving to you all at once. 

The Frederick News Post (FNP)Preparing for the War of Words featured Round 3 of the Comprehensive Plan War of Words in this past Saturday”s paper on page A-10 with two OpEd”s from Jack Lynch and Krista McGowan.

Jack Lynch was given top billing with his article “”.  I got to know Jack when he asked me for advice as he contemplated launching his (what turned out to be short lived) mayoral campaign in the last City election.  Mr. Lynch is a very nice guy, but he took some hard ball swipes at both attorney Rand Weinberg and Blaine Young, questioning the sincerity of their statements in their recent FNP OpEd”s (which I have referenced in my blog post of May 6, 2010).  He stated that they “represent the pointy end of the spear in the political efforts to challenge and rewrite the county ordinances and zonings to the benefit of their own property and power interests.”  He goes on say that “we cannot proceed at our current pace of development [of] land and population impacts if our future is to accommodate our common interests … [verses] the efforts by these “defenders” to strangle our interests in favor of their own.”

Before I get to Saturday”s other article on the Comp Plan topic (Part 3), let me address Mr. Lynch”s assertions.  I am sure that when he refers to the italicized term “defenders”, he is referring to the now defunct organization known as “Defenders of Citizens Rights”, which rose up at lightning speed from hundreds of angry Frederick County citizens who rebelled against a series of down zoning and policy rewrite proposals made by Board of County Commissioners Jan Gardner, Lennie Thompson and David Gray back in 2001.  The community lost trust that our county government had its best interest at heart.  To the dismay of the BOCC trio, the efforts of the Defenders were successful in stopping what many – myself included – believed were ill conceived and, frankly, ill contrived approaches to planning and zoning.  A core reason being that practically no community input was allowed.  The Defenders were far from a “developers” club, as it included and had large support for the farming community and their supporting organizations.  Business leaders from across the spectrum joined into oppose what had some absolutely absurd proposals.  Car dealers for instance would be required to build a fifteen foot berm around their facilities to hide their car display lots, and farmers were required to obtain architectural design approval for any outbuildings they wished to build (we”re talking sheds here!) … and that only scratches the surface.

For the record I was a proud member of the Defenders, and as it turned out the voice they represented in the County spoke up at the polls and carried the day in the election. 

I have been an active member of this community for nearly 40 years, and like me, many of these people  have given a tremendous amount of their time and money to its civic and community organizations to the betterment of this wonderful county.  The idea that any of the people that Mr. Lynch refers to don”t have the best interest of Frederick at heart is absurd.  The vision of having a vibrant city with grand open spaces is what everyone wants. 

In the last county election even I was maligned by a local FNP columnist as a  ruthless ungrateful raper of the lands … and I have never been a candidate for public office!  So I understand how demonizing works.  Mr. Lynch and Ms. Wiles are setting the stage for the November election —  to pigeon hole all those they disagree with into the so-called evil developer group – a scare tactic that will not play this time.  Because although it”s still about preserving our wonderful quality of life here in Frederick County, but its more so about fairness and dealing with a government that we can trust.

As stated, Jack is a nice enough guy, but the fact of the matter is that with or without this new Comprehensive Plan, the world of out of control development in Frederick County has virtually no possibility to happen ever again.  Any new Board of County Commissioners would never be able to unravel the mountains of Federal, State and County regulations and fees that have created a maze and path of risky hurdles that fewer and fewer developers are willing to deal with, especially in the current economic climate. 

Yesterday I enjoyed a friendly lunch with Commissioner Kai Hagan (a candidate that both Lynch and Wiles support), and even he did not dispute my assertion that this new plan does not provide enough zoned land for housing and light industrial uses to support the future population projections that the BOCC endorsed. 

With all this said as the development process has become more regulated, land and commercial real estate values have been negatively impacted — way beyond what the economy has thrown at it.   Putting the maze and the hurdles aside, the real issue is the risk that anyone faces when they apply for a permit for a site plan.  Many times the rules are not clear or have changed during a process as simple as getting a site plan approved for their business or a plan for a new home.  The fact is that the business community and many others have once again lost trust in our county government.  Will the policies, procedures and the fees be the same at the end that of the application process that they were at the beginning?   What I often hear from these people is “Just let me know the rules, and I will dot every “i” and cross every “t”; but don”t change them on me in mid-stream” 

So when the risk is high and the applicant cannot trust what they are getting themselves into, it is ultimately reflected in the value of the underlying land they are using.   

This brings me to address the second article that was on page A-10 in last Saturday”s paper by local attorney Krista McGowan “,” which I will touch on in Thursdays post … Part 3.

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18 Responses to “ Real Estate Values and Frederick County's Comprehensive Plan – Part 2 ”

  1. Bob Smariga says:

    Rocky, great comments. You are 100% correct about Jack and Janet’s campaign.

  2. Kyle Bostian says:

    Mr. Mackintosh – regarding your statement “this new plan does not provide enough zoned land for housing and light industrial uses to support the future population projections that the BOCC endorsed…” I’ve heard the commissioners claim the opposite and I have no idea who is correct. How many residential units do you think we need in the pipeline? How many acres or square feet of LI? And over what term?

  3. Kyle, Just consider this: A Comprehensive Plan is typically a 20 year plan. The BOCC agrees with the Maryland’s population projections that by 2030 we will have another 100,000 people in the county … including all our municipalities. If we figure that there are 2.3 people per household, that is about 43,500 housing units. Our new Comp Plan provides for about 18,000 units of zoned land .. 30% of all these housing units are apartments and condominiums. This includes all projects in various phases of approvals throughout the county and all jurisdictions, but a large percentage is just zoned land and nothing more … The number out of this for new single family detached homes is extremely low … for those in the business, the word is that “if” the county were to develop out at the 1,600 units per year that the BOCC projects, but at our traditional rate on singles, we will be completely out of single family lots in about 6 years … Ok, so one might say, but that’s 6 years from now … but keep in mind in today’s very complex development world it takes about 5 to 7 years to get major subdivisions projects approved. So if you’re looking to build a new home in 2017, figure on a townhouse or an apartment.

  4. Kyle Bostian says:

    Thanks for the information. A lot to chew over there. I generally come down on the Thompson/Hagen side on growth issues, but at the same time I’d much rather new workers due to BRAC, NCI’s growth, and the biodefense labs be able to live in Frederick county, rather than Washington, Adams, or Jefferson counties.

  5. BRAC is already putting a big demand on housing needs … despite that we can avoid sprawl … there are several things that I can feel good about in the plan, but I think that there has been an over kill on the growth issue … also remember when people can’t find places to live here and have to move to the surrounding counties, it puts them on the roads for longer periods of time … and you know what that means!

  6. [...] focus in Part 2 of this series was directed at how the demonization process is starting up again on the development [...]

  7. Jack Lynch says:

    Rocky thanks for the promo – don’t forget the fact that while I was against City annexations, I was the most progressive and aggressive voice for redevelopment and infill growth we’ve ever seen in the City of Frederick. We had a lot to agree on, but you see it from a current perspective of how difficult and costly it is, while I see it as a challenge that government working with private development interests must solve and accommodate.

  8. Jim Racheff says:

    Hi Rocky, you write: ” Our new Comp Plan provides for about 18,000 units of zoned land…” but am I right that figure only applies to the unincorporated areas of the county?

    The municipalities are still free to annex and increase residential units; in fact, we just saw the City of Frederick add an addition 1,100+ single family residential units via the Crum Annexation and several hundred more with the Summers acquisition. Similarly, Brunswick Crossing will add over 1,500 residential units to the overall inventory.

  9. Farrell Keough says:

    BRAC is date certain and this will likely come as a shock to folks! With this down-zoning, even attempting to get people to move here and work here will be stiffled!

    Exellent comments Rocky!

    Yeah, just annex – until you need water & sewer…

  10. Jim, I started to respond to your great question, then realized that I might as well make it a full blown blog post … so for the complete answer to your comments tune in on Tuesday … but quickly: the 18,000 units is ALL approved housing units of ALL types throughout the entire county including municipalities. If you take out lots that do not pass APFO and the senior housing components, we are left with 12,000. Out of that is about 5,300 single family lots … with very little other zoned land that can be developed to address even the BOCC projections for growth. In another words we have between a 5 and 6 year supply of lots then we are completely out of lots. Typically it takes 5 to 7 years to get any major project approved from raw land to the point you can deliver a new home to the buyer .. and if it is annexed into a town or city and the county objects to that annexation, then add another 3 or so years. Those are the hard cold facts using county data. Much more detail on Tuesday. Thanks for commenting & have a great weekend!

  11. Shawn Burns says:

    Great post.
    We need more discussions and more information like this spread out to everyone in Frederick County so the voters can make informed decisions.

    Most of the decisions Kai and Jan make, I feel they make without listening to the people. And they certainly do not make it easy to get the facts on the issues. Especially when the facts(truth) do not support their agendas!

  12. Jan Gardner says:

    Rocky – Your information certainly needs to be corrected. The recently adopted county comprehensive plan DOES fully accomodate the state’s 20 year population projections and also fully provides for all projected commercial/office, industrial land needs. To suggest otherwise is simply inaccurate. Even the State Secretary of Planning is on record stating that our plan fully provides for projected growth. I find it difficult to believe that Kai Hagen would have stated anything otherwise and thus believe this was left to confusion. Rocky – Your historical comments are also factually wrong. In 2001 the planning commission proposed downzonings along US 15 that lead to opposition by the Defenders and others. The planning commission then reversed this decision. The County Commissioners had virtually nothing to do with it! The County Commissioners also never adopted zoning that would require the setbacks for car dealers as you suggest. This was recommended by an outside consultant but was never adopted. History revisionist!

  13. Commissioner Gardner, thanks for chiming in!

    I’m fitting this in between a couple of meetings today … so can’t touch all right now … but I’ll start here with the Defenders’ comments on 2001 “history” … first … as I re-read my comments regarding the car deal matter, there was a section that stated that if a car dealer was to ever apply for a building permit or site plan of a certain minimum size, the “proposal” stated that a berm would have to be constructed (may be it was 10 feet or 20 feet, I can not recall exactly) … and you are correct it was never adopted, and I did not state that it ever was.

    However, the idea did come from an outside consultant by the name of Lane Kendig, who the BOCC worked with extensively before they passed the “proposed” ordinance revisions on the Planning Commission (FCPC)… so I have to assume, and I’m sure I’m correct here, that the BOCC would not have sent it on to the FCPC if they did not endorse the proposal.

    As for how the matter died or “was never adopted” I only stated that “to the dismay of the BOCC … the Defenders were successful in stopping …[the] ill contrived approaches to planning and zoning.” So I really don’t see where you can say that the BOCC had nothing to do with it, as Mr. Kendig was a consultant that the BOCC hired! … and the buck does stop with the BOCC, doesn’t it?

    You are also correct in saying that the RT 15 matter is what sparked the Defenders … “my bad” for leaving that out … sorry, but the revisions to the ordinance followed so closely on the heals of the downzoning efforts that it only inflamed the Defenders’ group more. Just not seeing any “revisionisms” here … but thanks for trying to keep me in check!!! I always welcome criticism – constructive or whatever the other kind is called!

    As for the current Comp Plan comments you make … I will gladly respond to that, and more to solidify my points … but it will have to wait ’til next week, as it is time to get on to a meeting. … Thanks again for participating!!!

  14. Kai Hagen says:

    Rocky wrote:
    > “Yesterday I enjoyed a friendly lunch with Commissioner
    > Kai Hagan (a candidate that both Lynch and Wiles
    > support), and even he did not dispute my assertion that
    > this new plan does not provide enough zoned land
    > for housing and light industrial uses to support the future
    > population projections that the BOCC endorsed.”

    Rocky: If I “did not dispute” your comment that there is not enough land zoned or designated for housing or other categories in the new Comprehensive Plan, it must have been because the conversation moved elsewhere, not because I agree with it.

    In fact, while I may not have said it during our lunch, I have been on the record many times already pointing out that this plan does accommodate the growth that is projected (by the state) for the county over the next twenty years.

    I’ll note that does not include any adjustments for the recent slowdown.

    I’ll also note that I’ve pointed out both the ability for municipalities to grow and annex outside of our county plan (or their own current plans)

    And that, even though this is a twenty year plan, it is designed to re-engage and re-evaluate land use and zoning in various dynamic corridors, much sooner and more frequently, and around municipalities when they are reviewing their own comprehensive plans.

    It is a twenty year plan, that does accommodate projected growth AND is able to evolve/change in an orderly manner.

  15. Kai, Thanks for the feedback.

    Fair enough on the misunderstanding … but frankly, I was surprised with what I thought I heard … as I recall I made the comment about lack of supply … and your response focused on the fact that the plan will be reviewed in 5 years. Be that as it may … that’s why we open this up for responses!

    With all said the real issue is that – in my opinion – there is not enough land to accommodate the growth projections the BOCC anticipates … as I said I will get into this next week. I’ll do some mathematics that I think will show that future boards and/or municpalities may be put in a position of having to approve 1,500 to 3,000 units a year of new projects that will have to pass APFO in the not to distant future in order to the growth projections of the state — a chilling thought, when it is practically impossible now pass the APFO test in places people want to live!

    … and by the way check out my OpEd in this weekend’s FNP … it’s a follow up to another matter that we discussed! Have a nice weekend!

  16. Jan Gardner says:

    To Mr. Burns – The entire county comprehensive plan is posted on the county webpage. There were over 100 public meetings, open houses, etc… on the plan. A very transparent process. The BRAC jobs are already here. Over 1,100 new jobs have already happened at Ft. Detrick. The housing is here to accomodate all of the BRAC growth and all of the BRAC associated business growth. A 700 acre BRAC zone has been designated by the State of Maryland at the request of the City and the County. It is the area targeted for this growth. If there is specific information anyone is looking for, I will gladly provide it. Jan

  17. Correction to “The BRAC jobs are already here” … better to say that “The BRAC jobs have just begun to arrive.” That is if we play our cards right with proper planning, many more will come in the future via the private and public sectors … and we’re talking great clean while collar jobs … people who will want choices in the types of available housing …

  18. [...] sparked the creation of a political group known as Defenders of Citizens Rights which later acted as a catalyst to change the faces of many BOCC members in the 2002 [...]

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