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As Long as We Remember...

Wanted: A New Approach

December 20, 2007

A recent story in the Gazette (Developer close to YMCA deal for Urbana) about the Natelli Corp./Urbana helping to bring a YMCA with indoor pool, ball fields, etc., to Urbana stirred me up. Say what you want about too much development, too few developers caring about this county, but when it comes to this one, you are just plain wrong.

Tom Natelli now, and his father Tony before him, do and did care about the quality of the product they were bringing to Frederick: donations of many acres of parkland, school funding plus land for schools, road improvements, sheriff's office, etc., and now land for a new YMCA.

The article just shows how outdated our development rules are in the county. Many of us on the planning commission have argued for years that we need an update; yet we continue to piece-meal amendments and follow what I consider a divide and conquer recipe.

We'd rather point the finger at evil developers and greedy landowners than to actually sit down and fix problems within our reach. We have the tools and the ability to fix many of the issues facing us today. Yet we don't do it. It's going to take sacrifice to do the work needed, sacrifice on both sides of the fence. But we have the needed tools in our hands right now.

Say what you want about big development and its impact on the county, but what we are faced with now are the approvals that have already been given.

We had an opportunity to lessen that impact by lengthening the approval rate; but no, we pushed it. Instead of a steady, slower stream, we will have it all at once: in the schools, on the roads, everywhere. The alternative would be to walk away and leave things half finished. That would benefit no one. So, what if he is a business man; so what if he makes money; so what? Being successful is not, (at least not yet) a crime. Those that say it is a crime normally are those who are jealous and would prefer to see failure rather than success.

Frederick County, be careful what you ask for because you got it. Despite not getting what Mr. Natelli asked for (extension in permitting), he is still not shoving an apartment complex down our throats between two schools, which, by the way, he had every right to do, because we (the county) zoned that piece of land wrong, and he caught us with our pants down.

Had he not been the one who bought that land we could very well be seeing apartments going up as we speak. We learned from that mistake and changed zoning so – hopefully – we won't be faced with a similar situation in the future. This is one time we actually did learn from our mistakes.

I know the argument is coming that just says “shut down all development.” Well, that is all fine if you can provide the alternative. My argument would be then to stop funding everything else this county "wants" and needs...parkland, ball fields, schools, roads, police, fire rescue, conveniences of all kinds.

I'm not some outsider just talking off the top of my head, I live in the mist of this and had nothing but open beautiful land for 20 years to enjoy, knowing that it wouldn't be forever. During the days of open farm land, I constantly heard complaints about the smells of the farms, the tractors blocking traffic and going to slow, cows getting loose, etc. With some you just can't win no matter what you do.

I'm also realistic enough to know that the growth in this particular area is far better for our county as a whole than on the other side of the county and having the traffic on all our roads instead of at the southern end heading toward D.C., where we all know the commuting is still headed.

All I can say is thank you, Mr. Natelli, for doing the right thing despite what the county did. You've made your father proud. This county will now get some much needed activity for our youth. Idle hands and all that, maybe we won't need the sheriff’s office much longer. Wouldn't that be a nice byproduct?

Don't say Urbana is getting everything because that's just not so. Once again I lived here for 20+ years and raised children with absolutely nothing out here; and now my children are too old to benefit from this. But others will. It's not that far a drive from other parts of the county either.

I drove my girls 60 miles one way for indoor swimming during their school years. I'm glad other parents now won't need to do that. Yet another step towards the live/work concept. The Urbana swim team did their practices at Middletown which is upward of 30 miles away – and during the winter to boot. Just to add to that is the very real reality of inexperienced new teenager drivers carpooling across the county to get to practice. Buses were not provided. To add a little humor to this very serious subject I'll end by saying the ride to Middletown was up hill both ways. Okay, okay, so it was only one way, but it reads better for those of us over 40 to say both.

I hope after reading this and truly thinking it through before coming to a snap response that we see that the extremes of both directions are not a good thing for anyone and that measured, thoughtful, and yes, logical decisions need to be made for our future. Developers, county officials and voting citizens need a more holistic approach.

Joan McIntyre Monrovia

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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