Residents question plans to build 3,220 homes in southern Frederick County -- Gazette.Net


Some residents got their first look this week at plans to build 3,220 homes in southern Frederick County, leaving many of them surprised, concerned and unhappy.

The Frederick County Planning & Community Development Review Department held an open house on Monday night at Windsor Knolls Middle School in Ijamsville to inform residents of plans to build three major housing developments and a large-scale office complex in Monrovia and Urbana.

“Monrovia has about 5,000 [residents], and this will completely ruin their quality of life,” said Teddy Kroll of Monrovia. “Half the people that moved here wanted to get away from [the traffic and congestion in] Montgomery County and Gaithersburg. I live in Monrovia, and they want to build this hideous thing.”

The open house was the first opportunity for many residents to get a first-hand look at what is being planned for their own backyard.

“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback at various meetings from people that do not understand what is going on,” said Eric Soter, the department’s division director. “This is an open house for residents interested in getting the basic information.”

Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R), who did not attend the open house, said in an interview Tuesday that residents who attended were pleased with the amount of information that was provided by the county staff.

Young, who lives in Monrovia, said when he went to get coffee at a local 7-Eleven store Tuesday morning, people there thanked him for having the open house.

“I’ve heard feedback from people in the community who said their questions were answered, and many of their concerns were answered,’” he said. “I heard Eric and his staff did an outstanding job. People wanted to see what was being done with the roads and the schools, and they were impressed with the amount of planning being done.”

The development plans in the area include:

• The Monrovia Town Center on 457 acres of farmland on the east side of Ed McClain Road and west and east of Green Valley Road and Md. 75 in Monrovia. The development will include 1,510 homes, 280,000 square feet of commercial space, 4 acres for a new fire station, a 25-acre park and 51 acres for a new high school.

• The Landsdale Planned Unit Development, on the west side of McClain Road, north of Md. 80 in Monrovia, will include 1,100 homes on 396 acres. A 13-acre site will be set aside for a new elementary school.

• In Urbana, another 610 homes are slated for construction on 181 acres on the southwest side of Md. 355 adjacent to the Urbana Community Park on the western edge of the community. The development will also include 2 million square feet of business space.

• Additional development in Urbana includes 73,000 square feet of commercial space, 38,000 square feet of restaurant space, 35,000 square feet of retail and 2,110,000 square feet of office space.

Numerous maps detailing the development plans were displayed at the open house, with planning, transportation and school officials on hand to answer questions and concerns from residents.

Since it was an open house, residents came and went throughout the three-hour period, many expressing their opposition to the development plans.

“We don’t want it, and it’s the job of the [county] commissioners to serve the people of Frederick County,” Kroll said. “There just isn’t any recourse until the next election.”

But the county commissioners, none of whom attended the open house, have said that the new developments will bring jobs to the county, something they feel is needed.

The five commissioners in 2010 were elected as a “business-friendly” board with promises to bring new housing and jobs to the county. Their four-year term is up in 2014, when voter-approved charter government with a county executive and county council will begin.

Kroll, a member of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, or RALE , a group recently formed to fight the development plans, said she is concerned that more traffic will be added to the already congested state highways such as Md. 80, Md. 75 and Md. 355 in the Urbana and the Monrovia areas.

Currently, 10,000 vehicles travel daily on Md. 75 and Md. 80, said Ron Burns, the county’s traffic engineer.

Burns admitted to residents questioning the potential traffic congestion that Md. 75 needs improvement.

“My biggest concern is the safety on 75,” he said. “It is not a good road.”

Burns said he plans to ask the county commissioners at their meeting today to make Md. 75, a two-lane highway that runs through New Market, Monrovia and Ijamsville, a top priority for state funding.

Each year, the commissioners send the state its top three transportation priorities in the hopes of receiving money to make the improvements. Prior boards have included Md. 75 on the list, but the road has yet to receive state funding.

Ron Maier, a resident of Mount Airy, said he moved to Frederick County 13 years ago for the rural countryside. He does not want to see that change.

“I like the beauty of the area,” he said. “It’s very rural, and the roads are not congested. It’s very peaceful. I like the quiet community. The more people you bring into the area means the population will increase and so will the traffic. It will just decrease the value of my home.”

Maier said he has a saying that describes how he feels: “If you’re going to build a nuclear reactor, don’t build it in my backyard.”