Campaign Diary – Testy Discussion
April 13 – Joint County Commissioners/Frederick City Meeting
Today was the day when the Board of County Commissioners met with the mayor and aldermen of Frederick City. I watched it this evening at home, and then re-watched it online later in the week, and it was great television.*
Where else would you hear one of the county commissioners refer to three municipal leaders in Frederick County as “knuckleheads?”
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Municipal Growth Plan, which is the follow-up to the discussions regarding the city’s adoption of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. After previous discussions, the Planning Commission developed a tiered-growth approach:
Tier One is the existing growth boundaries;
Tier Two comprises the Potomac River Water Supply Agreement;
Tier Three is the area of future interest for the City of Frederick
The challenge is to find water and sewer service in the Tier Three areas. Commissioner John L. “Lennie” Thompson expressed concerns that if a developer came in and asked the city if they could develop the land and be annexed into the city, the current mayor and board, based on the past city mayor and board, would grant the petition that the area be annexed.
“Would you vote for an annexation in that area,” asked Commissioner Thompson.
Mayor Randy McClement responded by saying: “How could we, if we don’t know the details?”
Then Commissioner Thompson asked if the city would go on record and say that they would not annex the land during their term because a Tier Three area is so far into the future. It was an example of the current board asking a hypothetical situation, then asking for a commitment from the city on the spot.
Regarding the “pipeline of properties,” when factoring in the potential at the Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, there are 11,028 potential units, as follows: 5,200 projects within the city with approvals; 1,500 vacant lots within the city; 2,028 from the 2009 annexations; and 2,300 from areas within Urban Growth Boundary/ Potomac River Water Supply Agreement.
Thus, there are 11,028 dwelling units in the pipeline, with a potential population increase of 26,700, and nine million square feet of non-residential space. It is important to note that the estimated build-out would take 22.1 years if 500 units a year were built, 15.8 years if 700 units per year were built, and 36.8 years if 300 units per year were built. The city averages about 500 units per year. The build-out doesn’t take into account phase-ins, new annexations, etc.
One interesting discussion occurred later in the meeting when Alderman Shelly Aloi asked that a focus on sewer be reviewed, especially with regard to the McKinney Plant. Commissioner Jan Gardner wanted to know how the city would provide the schools, the funding for emergency medical services and fire, and the roads. She said that she was afraid that the county would provide water and sewer, and then it becomes the county’s problem to provide schools, roads, fire, etc.
Alderman Aloi stated that she did not mean to use sewer at the exclusion of the other infrastructure needs, but before being allowed to explain, Commissioner Gardner interrupted and said: “I’m not going to talk about sewer until you guys do the rest of it.”
Mayor McClement took Commissioner Gardner to task, saying that it was rude of her to say that. Commissioner Gardner obviously misheard what Alderman Aloi said, and didn’t allow her to clarify. Commissioner Kai Hagen said that sewer is a sensitive issue, and a catch point on the northern annexations. He rightly stated that sewer is a point of leverage in the annexation issue.
If only Alderman Aloi had been given a chance to clarify and finish her thoughts.
Later, Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Gardner reiterated that it is within the power of the current city administration to remove the judicial review now pending in court and adopt an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for schools to protect schools from being overcrowded. Mayor McClement essentially said that he and the aldermen would discuss it.
Commissioner Gardner stated that it seems that the current Board of County Commissioners is under assault by some of the municipalities, and that’s when Commissioner Thompson remarked that “it’s only three knuckleheads,” not all of them.
Listen to the meeting on line, because I’m not making it up, and people wonder why there’s such animosity between governing bodies. Name-calling should not happen, as it’s a reflection on the character of the speaker, and doesn’t get anyone anywhere
April 15 – Tea Party and Tax Day
I understand that there were about 200 people who went to the tea party in Frederick at Barley & Hops. I didn’t go. I ended up with a “Coffee with the Candidate” in Thurmont, real estate work, and then coaching a soccer practice. I set up meetings and sent our emails requesting information on public and private partnerships when it comes to school construction.
There will be a joint meeting next week between the commissioners and the Frederick County Board of Education, and one of the items will be school construction. Should be interesting.
[Tomorrow I relate an experience that caught me by surprise and took the assistance of my wife, my daughter, and a dedicated firefighter to resolve.]