Plans for a new technology park, which could bring an additional 825 homes and 1 million square feet of research and development space to the U.S. Route 340 and Md. Route 180 corridor, are under way.
In a 4-1 vote on Thursday, the Frederick County Board of Commissioners approved a proposal to help finance the $40-million in county-issued bonds to pay for road, bridge and sewer improvements needed to accommodate the technology park.
To pay off some of the bond debt, commissioners voted to create a community development authority that is similar to the special tax district created for development along Monocacy Boulevard, Brunswick Crossing, Lake Linganore and in the Villages of Urbana.
Under the community development authority, people buying homes and businesses in the Jefferson Technology Park will pay hundreds of dollars each year to the county. The tax amount collected will vary depending on the size of the property, and will be separate from the property taxes owners will also be paying.
Commissioners President Blaine R. Young (R), along with commissioners Kirby Delauter (R), Billy Shreve (R) and C. Paul Smith (R) voted to approve the plan. Commissioner David P. Gray (R) voted against it.
The technology park is now slated to break ground in October.
“We do want to let Frederick County taxpayers know that this is not unusual and has been done before,” Young said of the financing deal. “This is very similar to what was done in Urbana.”
People living in the Villages of Urbana pay a community development tax of between $900 and $1,800 annually, Young said.
The 173-acre technology park — expected to cost about $135 million —would include homes, a 250-bed hotel and 225,000 square feet of retail, in addition to space for research and development.
“We’re talking about jobs, we’re talking about opportunities to get people employed here,” he said. “All I hear about is jobs, jobs, jobs. If you don’t have one, you want one and if do have one, you want one [in Frederick County].”
The developers — JTPI Investments, LLC and Jefferson Park Development, LLC, both of Potomac — have estimated since 2005 that the park will generate 7,100 jobs.
Progress on the project over the last seven years has been slow, because of a state requirement to construct a bridge over U.S. Route 340 and U.S. Route 15.
Jim Cumble, of Venable LLP, bond counsel to Frederick County, told commissioners that anyone purchasing property at the park will be given an information packet detailing the special tax.
“Every Realtor will be educated on this,” Cumble said. “This is a way to have growth pay for growth.”
However, Gray argued that people are unclear what the park is and how the bonds will be paid back. Gray, who noted he did not read the county staff report detailing how the community development authority tax will work, said there should be more study done.
Young said the site plan for the project has remained the same since it was approved in 2005.
“Obviously, some people haven’t done their research,” he said.
Former Commissioner John “Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R), who was a member of the previous board that debated the building of the technology park, criticized the current commissioners for getting involved in a multimillion dollar project when they claim to want smaller government.
“It’s hypocrisy for this board of county commissioners to say, ‘If it’s in the phone book, government shouldn’t be doing it,’” Thompson said. “I don’t mind people getting elected that I don’t agree with, and then do exactly what they said they would do. But when they do the exact opposite, then ... it’s total hypocrisy.”
Thompson was referring to the current commissioners’ efforts to privatize county services to cut the size of government, something they promised to do during the 2010 election.
But Young repeatedly said that the board’s support of the project is about bringing jobs to the county, something they also promised to do during the election.
“People need to know how important this is,” he said.