Development interests back Frederick commissioner’s gubernatorial bid -- Gazette.Net


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Developers and land-use attorneys are spending money to get Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young elected governor of Maryland.

Young has raised $446,951 between May and January, a sizeable chunk of which has come from many well-known developers and land-use attorneys mostly in Frederick County, according to his campaign finance report filed Jan. 16 with the Maryland Board of Elections.

Young also has received donations from sources in Montgomery County and other parts of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, but it is unclear whether those donors are also developers and builders.

Young (R) defends his financial support from the building community, saying it backed him when he ran for county commissioner in 2010 and for alderman for the city of Frederick. Young served as alderman from 1997 to 2001.

“I’ve always had contributions from the development community,” he said. “It’s no secret. I’m very pro-business, and pro-property rights.”

But Young stressed he does not make deals with developers to receive campaign contributions.

“I have vetted every donation, and I absolutely make sure it is within the letter of the law,” he said. “ I don’t make agreements and deals.”

When Young ran for commissioner in 2010, he promised the board would be more business-friendly than the previous board. He has kept that promise, making it easier for developers to build in Frederick County.

Land-use attorneys and developers are frequently seen walking the halls of Winchester Hall, the seat of county government in downtown Frederick, and in the audience at many commissioner meetings.

In 2011, the commissioners took their first steps to ease regulations and fees required to build in the county.

Young even publicly apologized to the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, builders and land-use attorneys for comments made by former commissioners who had spoken out previously against business development.

That same year, Young and the five-member board approved a “School Construction Fee,” which allows developers to pay so they can build homes near overcrowded schools. The money generated by the fee is put toward school construction projects.

Young and his board have also entered into six binding pacts — known as “Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreements” — with builders that are slated to bring new homes and businesses to the county over the next several years.

Young has said he predicts that in total, 25 agreements will be signed and under way at the end of the board’s four-year term in 2014.

The agreement gives a developer the right to build homes and businesses that cannot be undone for 25 years but also stipulates what infrastructure improvements — schools, roads, water and sewer service — the builder must make to accommodate the new growth.

In the wake of an atmosphere more conducive to growth, developers are putting their money behind Young’s bid for governor.

For example, Rand Weinberg, a Frederick attorney representing the developers of the planned Westview South Mixed Use Development — a 615-home development and 122,480-square-foot business space planned for 200.7 acres east of New Design Road and west of Md. 85 in Frederick — contributed to Young’s campaign, according to the finance report.

Weinberg contributed one check for $500 on June 4, and another one for $2,750 on Nov. 19.

And Pamela Weinberg, listed at the same address as Rand Weinberg, also contributed one check for $500 on June 4 and another check for $2,750 on Nov. 19.

Under state guidelines, donors can contribute up to $4,000 to a single candidate or political committee in a four-year election cycle, and no more than a total of $10,000 to political committees during the same time, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Rand Weinberg would not comment on the specific donations or the development projects he represents.

But in an email Weinberg explained why he is supporting Young.

“...I have known him for many years, and I very much like his views on government, particularly from a fiscal standpoint,” he said. “He wants government to function more like a private business would, with a close eye on receipts and expenditures. If we could get someone in Annapolis who would watch out for state taxpayers the way Blaine watches out for county taxpayers, I think we would all be better off. Every year we pay more and more state taxes and get less for them. Blaine would do his best to reverse that trend.”

Other contributions listed in the report included a $3,000 check from 75-80 Dragway Inc at Fingerboard Road in Monrovia; $3,500 from 85 South LLC in Frederick; $3,200 from Cloverview LLC in Frederick; $4,000 from the Core Development Group, Inc., in Clarksburg; $1,000 from Morgan-Keller Inc., $99 from Monrovia builder Howard Payne; and $500 from Frederick attorney Thomas Lynch.

Lynch said he would not comment on his donation.

“I don’t comment on political donations,” he said. “I think it’s personal contribution I make on my own.”

Other developers and attorneys contributing to Young’s campaign did not return calls for comment.

Builders and developers contributing to a political campaign is nothing new in Frederick County.

In 2002 and 2006, developers donated thousands of dollars to the campaigns of former county Commissioners Mike Cady (R), John Lovell (R) and Bruce Reeder (D). All three men won election in 2002 but lost in 2006.

In 2010, Cady was elected to the Frederick County Orphans Court, but died in April after battling cancer.

sgreenfield@gazette.net