Posts Tagged ‘ development ’

East Frederick Rising: The Future of Modern Urban Renewal

Can the east side of Frederick become a Dutch wonderland on American soil?

During the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to travel with my husband and children to Holland to visit extended family.  Prior to our trip, I read with trepidation that the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in the European Union.  I pictured my small children being swept out of my hands and into Amsterdam hash bars on a tide of boisterous crowds rivaling Times Square on Thanksgiving weekend.

I was way off base, as it turns out–about the crowds and the hash bars–because the Dutch are masterminds at urban planning and engineering.

The streets of Amsterdam were bustling and alive, but not crowded.  In the nearby suburb of Wassenaar–where my brother-in-law lived with his family–it was a 30-minute stroll from the center of the charming village square through suburban neighborhoods to the farms that ringed the outskirts of the community.  We spent a sunny August afternoon on a pristine beach just a 20-minute bike ride from his home–again, busy and lively, but not unpleasantly crowded.

Best of all, it is possible to travel to just about anywhere in the Netherlands by way of bicycle on dedicated bike paths criss-crossing the entire country.  Perhaps as a result of the heavy dependency of the Dutch on bicycle travel, obesity did not appear to me to be a problem there (this despite the fact that most food groups in Holland are served fried into some sort of pancake).

I would never have guessed at any point during our all-too-brief time in the Netherlands that nearly 17 million people are crammed into such a tiny jewel-box of a country.  To this day, I have no idea where those millions of people were tucked away.  (I also had trouble spotting the very discreet Amsterdam “coffeeshops” until they were pointed out to me.)

My thoughts have returned to Holland many times as I’ve watched Frederick’s political pendulum swing back and forth between pro-growth and no-growth administrations.  In Amsterdam I saw proof positive of an existence that allows for the best of both worlds:  a vital and breathtakingly beautiful urban city community, surrounded by bucolic villages and farms.  An existence with room for all kinds of people living in all kinds of environments supporting all kinds of lifestyles.

I have a tendency to become enchanted abroad, so this Utopic vision of Dutch life is no doubt partially a result of travel-dazzle and jet lag, but only partially.  If the Dutch can create such beautiful clean-living harmony for millions of people on so few square miles of land (land that they largely artificially engineered out of reclaimed river delta) why can’t we create something similar here in Frederick?

Frederick may have a chance to do exactly that with East Frederick Rising, a 2,000 acre mixed-use smart growth project located between Carroll Creek Linear Park and Frederick’s expanding airport just west of the Monocacy River.  Billed as “Mid-Maryland’s Economic Hub for the 21st Century,” this project is planned to marry the walkability of Frederick’s historic downtown with modern technologies and sustainable methodologies to create a community very unlike typical suburban developments.

East Frederick Rising is the next natural step in building on what was begun with Carroll Creek Linear Park, a beautiful destination born of Ron Young’s determination and indomitable will to solve the problem of recurrent flooding in the city and at the same time create a park drawing locals and tourists alike.

It may seem counter-intuitive for a city the size of Frederick to undertake a project of such substantial scope in a lackluster economy.  However, the stars are aligning in a manner that suggests this project is entirely feasible:

  • Millenials: East Frederick Rising dovetails perfectly with the zeitgeist of the millennial generation:  urban living in walkable, vital communities served by public transit, rich in restaurants and cultural activities, and surrounded by environments that support active lifestyles.
  • Political Will:  Smart Growth is here to stay, and East Frederick Rising could potentially be a marquee project setting the bar for sustainable development in Maryland going forward.
  • Location: Frederick is well within commuting distance of Baltimore and D.C. and airports serving both, and 2,000 acres is a massive tract of land for an urban renewal project.
  • Capacity: We’ve had conversations at MacRo with several regional developers (all deep of pocket and rich in experience) who are enthralled with the character and charm of downtown Frederick and chomping at the bit to develop innovative mixed-use multifamily projects here.  Without exception, they would all like to see a high-end grocery store located in the east end first, but that may be putting the cart before the horse.
  • Jobs potential: The Frederick region has long been nurtured as an incubator for the bio tech industry, and with our highly education population has the potential to become a hot-bed of start ups and entrepreneurs.

Combine developer money, TIF financing, political clout, cultural shifts to urban living, a charming historic town in a highly-desired location, and steady job growth…and what do you get? A sweet spot where the impossible begins to seem possible.

The Urban Land Institute conducted a workshop to develop recommendations for implementing the vision of the project, and presented its findings to the City of Frederick yesterday.  Judging by the comments of aldermen and the public alike, most saw the potential in the project, and understood the importance in having a vision and a plan to ensure that the fate of east Frederick isn’t left to the vagaries of market forces.

It goes without saying, East Frederick Rising will need a stalwart champion (or champions) with the vision, determination, patience, and clout of the Carroll Creek Linear Park advocates lead by Ron Young decades ago.  And of course, this is a project that will also take decades–perhaps as many as five of them–to come to full fruition.

If executed true to the vision, East Frederick Rising has the potential to be an astounding mixed-use community that rivals anything Maryland has ever seen:  a modern marvel in urban renewal that compliments and co-exists intimately with Frederick’s historic heritage and is locally sustained by its rich agricultural assets.

It’s enough to make even the Dutch a little envious.

The author:  Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.  Thanks to this post, she’s been afflicted with a strong hankering for international travel.

What is this thing they call a Comprehensive Land Use Plan?

In the world of real estate, it is not “what you see is what you get!”

Very often in my meetings with prospective land buyers and property owners, I find that many tend to make very broad assumptions about the possible future uses and development potential a tract of vacant land may have.

This also goes for neighboring property owners who discover (often after the fact) that the vast amount of pristine open space they have been enjoying from their kitchen window for the last several years is on the verge of receiving final approval for a substantial mixed use land development project.

I often sit in public hearings (as I did just last night) and hear local residents come out in protest of a site plan that has been proposed. In many cases I feel bad for those speakers as some claim that they were not aware that a nearby property could be developed. 

Privately owned land that has laid vacant for years may have been master planned for development for years. But for many that vacant period can lead some to believe they are entitled to see that property remain the same for as long as they live there.

In all of these cases it comes down that ancient Latin phrase Caveat Emptor.  Very familiar to lawyers, real estate professionals and others engaged in the business of transferring property.  In English it translates to Let the Buyer Beware.  

“Beware of what?” some may ask. 

The “What” is something most residential Realtors are not familiar with, as well as a surprising number of commercial real estate brokers, if they are not engaged in the land use arena of real estate development. 

It is known as the comprehensive land use plan, which is the foundation from which all land use decisions are based upon at a local level in Frederick County, Maryland. 

Every property owner and would-be resident of a community should understand the purpose of the county’s comprehensive plan and the impact it may have on nearby property in their community … and all real estate agents/brokers who sell and/or lease any type of real estate should make it part of a disclosure package given to their customer and clients.

Not unlike a majority of jurisdictions throughout the nation, this document is supposed to be influenced and developed from several parties on a local level:  residents, county planners, nearby communities and municipalities … and of course, local elected officials.  But there is also a significant amount of direction that is driven by the State of Maryland Department of the Environment and its office of Planning which mandates that such a plan be developed in the first place.

It’s meant to be a twenty year road map for state and local governments to use to deal with the inevitable population growth in the region.  This includes the proper mix of housing, commercial development, traffic patterns, public utilities, schools, parks, police protection, etc. over that period.  Additionally in recent decades there has been a strong push to carve out and create corridors of open space, protect prime agricultural land and other areas targeted for land conservation. 

The state requires that this plan be updated periodically at a local level to keep up with changes in demographics, socioeconomic trends, the economy and other matters that may significantly influence the dynamics of a complex plan.

A comprehensive land use plan is what lays a foundation for where certain zoning designations are placed — what I’ll call the allowed “here and now” uses.  So a property can be zoned for an agriculture use, but “master planned” for a future residential mixed use development in the comprehensive plan.

As an area grows and maximizes the current zoned area, the “master plan” will provide good cause for a possible change in zoning to accommodate that growth in surrounding areas.

So it is important to understand that there is a very clear distinction between the long range outlook for a region provided by a comprehensive plan and the allowed “here and now” uses of a zoning designation.

Frederick County’s current comprehensive plan was adopted in the final year of the Jan Gardner administration of the Board of County Commissioners in 2010.

The state mandate at the time was for the local governments within the county plan for an increase of 36,000 new households by 2030.  How they got there was pretty much up to the county.

A significant component of such a gargantuan effort requires a collaborative planning effort among the county, its twelve municipalities and other jurisdictions such as Fort Detrick.

In Frederick County, due to the very polarizing and significant influences of the growth verses no-growth advocates (interestingly it is hard to find anyone who will openly state that they are a hard-line Growther or No-Growther), this process can and has become more of a political football which has often left out many key players.

So for one to think that politics have not driven a zigzagging course in recent years is just naïve.

For example many have forgotten the fact that there was minimal communication, and much less collaboration on the part of the Gardner Administration with these other jurisdictions, as they set forth to craft a plan that was completely unrealistic in being able to meet the 36,000 unit target.  It included the removal of future development land use designations from about 400 properties in the Comprehensive Plan.

At the time a very restrictive Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) was imposed that left many zoned properties locked in a development no-man’s land … not to mention the fact that the nation had just been introduced to one of the worst economic recessions in 70 years.  With all that said many did not take notice of the inadequacy of the 2010 plan.  

Once the change over to the Young administration took place, a different view was taken of the comprehensive plan.  The APFO was reformed to provide a “pay-go” provision for development projects and many of those properties that were down zoned were revisited and restored the zoning that was taken away just a few years earlier.

At the end of the day as the dust is settling on the last Board of County Commissioners in the Frederick County, there appear to be about 21,000 qualifiable future housing units* now in the development pipeline. 

With historical absorption rates (building permits issued per year) of between 1,000 and 2,000 units per year not expecting to change over the next 16 years, it is very realistic to expect that the county will still fall short of the state’s 36,000 housing unit target.

Some believe that the personal leadership styles of both Gardner and Young have burned bridges on both sides of the debate over growth in Frederick County … and now with both throwing their hats in the ring as candidates for this coming November’s race for the first ever County Executive position, we can all be assured that the topic of growth will still be on the table.

So I suggest a bit of Caveat Emptor to all Frederick County voters as this election season heats up!

The authors: Rocky Mackintosh is President of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for TheTentacle.com.

* according to statistics supplied by Rodgers Consulting.

Building on the Foundation of Charter Home Rule

A forum of panelists urge a strong and unified effort by the first county executive and council to build a sturdy structure upon the new county charter.

So the framers of Frederick’s new charter constitution completed their job, and the voters approved it by a wide margin, but how will the processes of comprehensive land use planning, zoning text amendments and other real estate development approval matters be addressed by our new government?

Well, the answers sure aren’t in that 23 page document!

This was the focus of the forum offered to members of the Frederick County Building Industry Association on Wednesday, March 11, 2014 at Dutch’s Daughter Restuarant. Also invited were all candidates for the county’s upcoming first primary election for county council and county executive seats.

The program was hosted by the local office of Linowes and Blocher, LLP, a regional real estate and general practice law firm.

The panel of speakers consisted of Bruce Dean, C. Robert Dalrymple and Lisa L. Graditor representing the firm. In addition Frederick County Government attorneys John Mathias and Kathy Mitchell were available to provide their perspective on county staff preparation for the transition.

Invited guest panelists included yours truly (Rocky Mackintosh) and Howard County Executive Kenneth Ulman, who is running for Lieutenant Governor on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket with Anthony Brown, Maryland’s current Lieutenant Governor.

While more unanswered questions came from the gathering than were raised, the majority of attendees found the discussion very worthwhile.

The opening discussion centered on how and why Frederick County chose to switch from the existing Board of County Commissioner structure to that of Charter Home Rule.

Ed Waters of the Frederick News Post provided a good narrative of the core principles of the transition to charter in his March 12, 2014 article.

Being the panelist who served as an appointed member of the Charter Board, I explained that the general concensus of the members of the Charter Board was that the legislative and executive functions of the current commissioner form needed to be separated. In addition due to the fact that with a majority of the current board being only three votes, history has shown that there have been very severe swings in policy from one administration to another. This issue, in and of itself, seems to have brought predictable inconsistency to county regulations, which has caused a lack of confidence in government by the business community and other constituents.

County Executive Ulman provided critical insight into how important it is for all of the candidates, who are eventually elected to their respective offices, need to recognize that while they each will come to office with their own agenda, it is important to realize that they will be the first charter elected body … and with that comes a significantly higher responsibility.

What could that be, you may ask?

Well, consider that the Frederick County Charter Board, like “Ben and the Boys” who drafted a similar document for the fledgling “U S of A” some 238 years ago, authored a constitution that only served as a framework from which policies and procedures for the operations of government are to evolve from responsible elected officials.

And without a strong willingness of collaboration among the eight (one county executive and seven council members), who will fill those sacred seats, to develop a smooth set of policies, our fragile new government could very well set a precedent for a mega “Cluster #?!#” that may continue for decades to come. Lack of cooperation from this first group of elected officials could create the unnecessary expansion of the size of a government bureaucracy that has risen in some other counties in Maryland, such as Montgomery and Prince George’s.  Mr. Ulman expressed great pride in Howard County, as he believes it was able to avoid this problem.

I’d like to think that with all the polarization that Frederick County has experienced over growth (an issue that is worthy of a special MacRo Report White Paper for our Spring/Summer newsletter) our community is still small enough that our newly elected officials can put our differences aside for a while to focus on the primary task at hand … bringing order to our new form of government.

The hosts of Linowes and Blocher raised a number of specific land use and real estate related issues that will require cooperation among the newly elected executive and council.

For example, for those who follow the technical side of site plan, zoning and land use planning processes, consider the following questions raised by M. Dalrymple:

1.  How will zoning text amendments be initiated? With the separation of powers, the County Executive can only recommend a change, leaving sponsorship to any one of the seven council members.

2.  How will work programs be established for master plan (comprehensive plan and region plan) updates? Will it be through the budget that the County Executive sends over (funding specific region plans) or will the Council propose in its budget funding for staffing based upon which plans are up for review?

3.  How will local map amendments be made? The charter states that the Council will be the ultimate decision maker, but without having any allocated staff to delegate the public hearing and assembling the record functions to, they could be spending countless hours considering very complex zoning matters. Dalrymple stated that “having a seven-member council perform this zoning function seems to me to be overwhelming and a train-wreck waiting to happen.”

4.  With the County Executive controlling all of the staff that would be analyzing zoning matters such as text amendments along with public water and sewer issues — to name a few, how will the Council, being the body that approves/enacts, be able to evaluate all of these matters?

5.  Can the County Executive veto a master plan (region plan) action by Council? How about a veto of a zoning text amendment? Will the executive have the power to veto a piecemeal rezoning?

Challenging questions for sure! And there will be many more as things unfold.

As scary as all this may appear, it was the sage wisdom of County Executive Ulman who made it clear that the citizens of Frederick County did in fact make the right decision to make the switch to Charter Home Rule.

At the end of the day all these issues will be worked out, he said. The degree to which a smooth transition occurs depends on who the citizens of the county select in November.

So as you consider the candidates who knock on your door this spring, please realize that this time the election will be more about selecting a collaborative body that can draft smooth and efficient policy, than one of worrying about the typical issues that polarize and divide our community.

Stay tuned, my fellow Frederick Countians!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He served as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012.  Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

MacRo Ltd. Sells 7.16 Acre Lot at the Manor at Holly Hills

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the sale of lot 204 at the Manor at Holly Hills.  This 7.16 acre lot is open with expansive views looking eastward and is located at 9765 Ormonds Terrace, Ijamsville, MD 21754.

The sale closed on December 9, 2013.

The Manor at Holly Hills is a one-of-kind community situated on 185 idyllic acres just east of Frederick City.  Careful planning went into preserving the beautiful organic features of the land, including rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hillsides, and mature forests.

Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd., was the agent who coordinated the transaction between the seller, the Manor at Holly Hills, LLC and the Buyer.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or acquisition of land, and/or the sale or leasing of your commercial or industrial property, contact Rocky Mackintosh at 301-748-5655 or rocky@macroltd.com

 

MacRo, Ltd. Sells 6.47 Acre Lot at the Manor at Holly Hills

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the sale of lot 104 at the Manor at Holly Hills.  This 6.47 acre lot is open with great views looking eastward and is located at 9774 Ormonds Terrace, Ijamsville, MD 21754.

The sale closed on December 9, 2013.  

The Manor at Holly Hills is a one-of-kind community situated on 185 idyllic acres just east of Frederick City.  Careful planning went into preserving the beautiful organic features of the land, including rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hillsides, and mature forests.

Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd., was the agent who coordinated the transaction for the seller, the Manor at Holly Hills,  LLC.   The buyer was represented by Tom Rozynek, Frederick Land Company. 

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or acquisition of land, and/or the sale or leasing of your commercial or industrial property, contact Rocky Mackintosh at 301-748-5655 or rocky@macroltd.com

 

Frederick’s Top Five Commercial Real Estate Deals of Third Quarter 2013

Commercial real estate sales in Frederick are up more than 40% year-to-date over 2012 as the market continues a slow but steady improvement.

There is Christmas music wafting on the airwaves again, which means either we are back-to-school shopping in Costco or it’s that time of year to review the third quarter performance of Frederick’s commercial real estate market.

Miles & Stockbridge hosted a real estate forum at Dutch’s Daughter last week, and invited everybody’s favorite real estate economist - Anirban Basu - to give an overview of global and national economic health.

So here it is, in a nutshell:  at a projected GDP growth of 1.6% for the year, the United States is “among the least worst” of the advanced economies.  If U.S. economic growth isn’t stalled again by congressional budget issues early next year, Basu predicts that the U.S. economy will continue to grow a rate between 1.6-2% during 2014.

(Looking for a booming market to invest in?  Try the continent of Africa, where economies are not so much emerging as they are catapulting.  The GDP of the East Sudan, for instance, is targeted to grow at a 24% clip this year.)

If you’ve never heard the pleasure of hearing Mr. Basu speak, you are missing out, because his keynote speeches have more one-liners than a Seinfeld episode.  For instance:

“Throughout much of the United States, farmers are revered for being forthright, honorable, hard-working, and integral to society.  What do we call them in Maryland?  Polluters.”

I paraphrased the first sentence a bit, but the essence of his point  remains.  A perfect joke is funny, sad, and true all at the same time–and Basu nailed that one.

That topic alone is another blog post, so I’ll move on to the local commercial real estate market.

Year-to-date, sales of commercial properties in Frederick rose 43% over the first three quarters of 2012, totaling over $205 million.  Quarterly sales dropped from $77 million during the third quarter of 2012 to $47 million during the third quarter of 2013, not unexpected given that during the time many of the Q3 2013 sales were being generated there was mounting anxiety about the possible effects of sequestration on the economy.

Most segments of the commercial market were well represented in the 3rd quarter sales statistics, with the exception of warehouse and industrial properties, of which not much inventory remains on the Frederick market.

Following are the top five commercial real estate sales in Frederick for the third quarter of 2013, ranked by sales price:

1.  $12,350,000   Hampton Inn – 5311 Buckeystown Pike

Prince William Hospitality Investors, LLC sold the Hampton Inn to RockBridge Capital, LLC in a debt assumption deal in September.  The hotel, which is nearly 90,000 square feet, sold for $76,708 per room.

2.  $4,250,000   Prospect Hall – 889 Butterfly Lane

St. John’s Literary Institution sold Prospect Hall and the surrounding 31.7 acres to the Matan Companies in August.  Matan will be developing the land into a 13-building garden apartment complex totaling 376 units.  Prospect Hall will remain intact on the property.

3.   $4,240,000   USPS Distribution Facility – 1550 Tilco Drive

Chuck Roberts of Wonder Book purchased the former USPS distribution facility on Tilco Drive.  The building totals 109,350 square feet in size and sits on nearly 14 acres; it sold for $37.19/SF, or $303,943/acre.  Wonder Book will be expanding its warehouse book business at the site. Chris Kline of Kline Scott Visco brought the purchaser to the table.

4.   $4,050,000   Dairy Maid Dairy – 201 East Seventh Street

Dairy Farmers of America purchased the Dairy Maid Dairy operations and facility in September.  The real estate transaction totaled over $4 million and included about 120,000 square feet of buildings and a little over 13 acres of land.  The facility will continue to operate as a Dairy with the existing staff in place.

5.  $3,900,000   Columbia Bank – 5211 Presidents Court

Frall Developers purchased Columbia Bank in the Westview Corner Shopping Center from JCR Companies (a regional developer headquartered in Virginia) in September.  The building is 3,631 square feet in size and sits on 1.27 acres.  The sale netted a 6.87% cap rate, or $1,074.08/SF.

The author:  Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.

MacRo Sells 6.76 Acre Lot at the Manor at Holly Hills

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the sale of lot 105 at the Manor at Holly Hills. This open 6.76 acre lot has expansive views looking north to the Catoctin Mountains and is located at 9770 Ormonds Terrace, Ijamsville, MD 21754.

The sale closed on July 19, 2013.

The Manor at Holly Hills is a one-of-kind community situated on 185 idyllic acres just east of Frederick City.  Careful planning went into preserving the beautiful organic features of the land, including rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hillsides, and mature forests.

Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd. was the agent who coordinated the transaction between the seller, the Manor at Holly Hills and the buyers, Robert and Patricia Russell.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or acquisition of land, and/or the sale or leasing of your commercial or industrial property, contact Rocky Mackintosh at 301-748-5655 or rocky@macroltd.com.

MacRo Sells 2.73 Acre Lot at the Manor at Holly Hills

MacRo, Ltd. is  pleased to announce the sale of lot 202 at the Manor at Holly Hills.  This open 2.73 acre lot has expansive views and is located at 9749 Ormonds Terrace, Ijamsville, MD 21754.

The sale closed on October 11, 2013.

The Manor at Holly Hills is a one-of-kind community situated on 185 idyllic acres just east of Frederick City.  Careful planning went into preserving the beautiful organic features of the land, including rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hillsides, and mature forests.

Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd. was the agent who coordinated the transaction between the seller, the Manor at Holly Hills and the buyers. John and Julie Marcoux.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or acquisition of land, and/or the sale or leasing of your commercial or industrial property, contact Rocky Mackintosh at 301-748-5655 or rocky@macroltd.com.

Tax Tempest in a Teapot

It may only be raining pennies, but Frederick County is doing its share to Save the Bay.

We often hear local politicians complain that Frederick is treated like a redheaded stepchild in Annapolis.

It doesn’t help being a county that stands out red in a sea of blue come election time, or that Frederick’s conservatively-leaning political leaders don’t hesitate to wage war against the seemingly endless regulations and taxes raining down from a governor with his eye on the White House.

The Rain Tax is a prime example of a negative perception of Frederick County cultivated through political posturing and brinkmanship of both sides.

If you aren’t familiar with Maryland’s Storm Water Remediation Fee (or “rain tax” as the development community has affectionately dubbed it), you can read the MacRo Report post “Rain, Rain, Go Away–Before O’Malley Taxes Us Another Way.”

In brief, the State of Maryland passed a bill last year that requires 10 of Maryland’s most populated counties to establish a “fee” to fund storm water mitigation retrofits.  These retrofits are one of a number of strategies adopted by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to meet the unfunded mandate set forth by the EPA to clean up pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding watershed.

It should come as no surprise that Maryland is the only state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to pass legislation establishing mandatory fees to fund unfunded EPA mandates.

Frederick’s Board of County Commissioners struck back at what they felt was an unnecessary piece of legislation when they set Frederick’s storm water remediation “fee” at one penny per eligible taxpayer per year.  The BoCC made their point (and garnered a good deal of publicity) but created a storm of controversy in the process.  Frederick County has since been falsely accused of being anti-environmental and of putting it’s water quality–and by extension the Chesapeake Bay–in jeopardy.

The truth is, Frederick County is in fact contributing a great deal of effort and money toward keeping local streams and watersheds clean.

Frederick County’s Department of Business Development & Retention recently gathered the real estate and development community for a Rain Tax Forecast.  A panel of three presenters gave an overview of how taxpayers and developers alike will be impacted by Maryland’s implementation of the unfunded mandate sent downstream by the EPA.

Panelist Shannon Moore made some very interesting points during her presentation at the Rain Tax Forecast.  Moore is the manager of the Frederick County Office of Sustainability & Environmental Resources.  This department is charged with executing “practical solutions for protecting the environment, conserving energy, and living sustainably in Frederick County, Maryland.”

First, and most importantly, Moore highlighted the fact that while Frederick’s penny fee will generate only about $490 per year, Frederick County has in fact spent $2.5 million per year on storm water permit compliance and retrofits during the past 10 years (a total of $25 million), allocated from the county’s general fund.  In fiscal year 2014, the county increased that allocation to $3.5 million per year (or about $73 per eligible tax account).

In other words, instead of raising taxes to fund water quality improvement and protection measures, Frederick County has been allocating money currently in the budget.  This approach is similar to that adopted by Carroll County , as well as by other states impacted by the EPA mandates to clean up the bay.

Moore also explained the MDE has multiple goals–the MDE’s Watershed Improvement Plan calls for nutrient pollution reduction, whereas its Stormwater Permit program goal is impervious surface area reduction–and these goals don’t align.  In fact, impervious surface area reduction has evolved into a program of retrofitting urban properties that lack stormwater treatment systems, or have systems installed prior to 2002 (which was the year stormwater management systems were required to filter out pollutants and sediment as well as decrease runoff).

Moore broke down the costs per tax account of MDE goals to mitigate pollution from nutrient pollution and stormwater runoff.  If Frederick County were to pay for these goals through a stormwater utility fee, these charges would amount to:

  • Annual Cost of Frederick County’s current MS4 Stormwater Permits:  $72.96
  • Estimated annual Cost of Frederick County’s next MS4 Stormwater Permit (draft): $524.12
  • Estimated annual Cost of including all MDE 2017 Watershed Improvement Plan goals (including nutrient pollution reduction) in the next permit:  $1,678.45

Retrofitting existing urban development to meet EPA/MDE goals for runoff and water quality is VERY expensive.  According to Moore, “Maryland has set the bar higher than any other state in the country.  No where else are we seeing the same amount of urban retrofitting that Maryland is requiring because of the bay.”

Here’s another fun fact: new development projects with Maryland’s required state-of-the-art stormwater management systems in place actually generate LESS pollutants than raw land, an outcome that the State of Maryland did not anticipate, nor quite knows how to deal with.

Frederick’s cost to meet the 2017 stormwater requirements in the MDE’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) is $342,938,004.  If that cost were to be placed squarely on the shoulders of Frederick’s eligible property tax payers, each would pay an additional $1,678.45 extra per year.  The total for Frederick to meet the MDE’s stormwater WIP goals for ALL permit holders by 2025?  A shocking $1.5 billion.

It quickly becomes clear that whether the county is collecting $0.01 per taxpayer, or like Baltimore City levies $144 per taxpayer (the highest stormwater fee levied to date), these “fees” are a mere drop in the bucket towards meeting the lofty goals of the EPA and the MDE.

All of this tempest in a teapot over Frederick County’s stubborn refusal to toe the line on the rain tax has served to camouflage a far more urgent concern:  Maryland’s governor may look like a hero in Washington for his environmentally friendly stance, but he has passed the buck to the counties and municipalities he serves.  How will Maryland’s taxpayers ever begin to shoulder the burden of saving the bay?

The author: Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.

Builder Open House October 12th

Roads are now paved at the Manor at Holly Hills!

Come to view the lots in this exclusive one-of-a-kind community.

Meet some of our recommended Builders!

With only 11 lots remaining, be first in line before this one of a kind community is sold out.

Join Us October 12th from 12 to 3pm 

  • Tours of new roads and lots
  • Meet our Custom Builders
  • Pumpkin Patch for kids
  • Refreshments

5630 Ijamsville Rd, Frederick, MD 21704

Learn more & get directions

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