The Frederick County Council will set a course of action on the Monrovia Town Center at its meeting next week in response to a judge’s decision to put the issue back in its hands.
Council members heard three hours of public comment Tuesday on the impact of a letter from the Frederick Area Committee for Transportation read into the record at the end of the Monrovia Town Center hearings.
The public record was reopened at the behest of a Frederick County Circuit Court judge in order for the county to collect further testimony on the issue.
Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. had determined the letter, which included comments from then-Commissioner Paul Smith, was intended to have a great influence on the vote of the Board of County Commissioners.
That letter, coupled with Smith’s failure to disclose the communication with the chief administrative officer, led the judge to turn the issue back to the current council.
Smith, now the president of FACT, did not attend the council meeting, but said Monday he was “following that very closely.”
He said he had no personal comment on the hearing and added that FACT as an organization also had no comment.
Several county residents are putting pressure on the county to completely reopen the Monrovia Town Center hearings.
“MTC was sent back to you, a newly elected body, and it belongs to you,” said Amy Reyes, of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion.
Monrovia Town Center developers are hoping the county allows it to proceed as planned.
“We’ve done everything the law required. There should be predictability,” Town Center builder Howard Payne said. “One letter should not derail this whole thing.”
Nearly 50 residents offered comment Tuesday night. The majority of them spoke in opposition to the development with comments that centered on three themes: concerns that the letter from FACT is symptomatic of deeper procedural problems, questions about the validity of the Md. 75 traffic study, and the belief that the County Council should take this opportunity to “correct the mistakes” of the Board of County Commissioners.
“Please, open this up. Let it go through another set of hearings so that it can be done fairly,” Ed Rozzelle, of Ijamsville, told the council.
Several residents requested that councilmen Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter recuse themselves from the hearings because they were on the last Board of County Commissioners.
Developer Roy Stanley said that reopening the hearings would not change any of the facts or data in the studies presented to the last board, which determined that the Monrovia Town Center met all the requirements to go forward.
“We passed all those tests,” he said.
Former commissioners Blaine Young and David Gray offered affidavits stating that the FACT letter did not sway their decision.
Joe Caloggero, whose company did the traffic study, did not think the letter would have had more of an impact than the adequacy tests.
“It is my professional expert opinion that the FACT letter did not play a decisive role,” he said.
Some speakers said they believed the council members had made up their minds to support the development before the hearings, and the letter appeared to be a way to garner support for their decision.
Some speakers, including former Commissioner Gray, said the letter was a political move to justify the board’s approval of the development.
“It seemed very obvious to me, to tell you the truth, that this was to pad the record,” Gray said.