Opponents of a proposed 1,510-home project in Monrovia are raising questions about campaign contributions that Commissioners President Blaine Young has accepted from companies linked to the developers.
Donations totaling $28,000 poured into Young’s campaign coffers Oct. 29, 2012, from seven companies whose resident agent is helping head up the Monrovia Town Center project.
The same day, the campaign received an additional $3,000 from 75-80 Dragway Inc., a company that owns some of the property slated for development.
As county officials prepare to hold an Oct. 23 hearing on the project, residents around the 457-acre site are crying foul.
“I think it’s a gross conflict of interests, and it’s been one since that donation took place,” said Steve McKay, president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, a citizens group that has vocally protested the town center plans.
McKay’s group argues the town center would destroy Monrovia’s rural character and says the local roads and schools cannot support hundreds of new homes.
While the donations to Young’s campaign were legal, McKay noted that they came a couple of weeks before town center developers, 75-80 Properties LLC and Payne Investments LLC, turned in the rezoning applications for their project.
Young said he is not influenced by the money he received from the seven companies established by Roy Stanley, who also founded 75-80 Properties. Each of Stanley’s companies contributed $4,000, the maximum allowable under campaign finance law.
Young said he doesn’t keep track of how many donations he has gotten from those involved in the town center project. During the time he was considering a run for Maryland governor, he raised more than $500,000 for a potential campaign, he said.
His stance on growth issues and specific projects doesn’t ebb and flow depending on campaign contributions, he said; his voting record while in office is consistent with his platform during the 2010 race.
“I can’t be bought,” he said.
Young checks his campaign donations to make sure they are in accordance with the law and with ethical standards, he said, and he is comfortable accepting funds from companies with ties to the town center project.
“If it wasn’t ethical, they’d make it illegal,” he said of state lawmakers.
He said he has a track record of supporting development in the Monrovia area, a region he has long thought ideal for residential expansion.
The town center project, initially envisioned as an active adult community, was first rezoned for development in 2006. Several years later, it became mired in disagreements between developers and local officials and stalled after the county set up a subdivision moratorium. Amid the conflicts, town center developers smacked the county with a $50 million lawsuit that claimed officials had “abruptly decided to make the project impossible.”
Young said he and three fellow commissioners ran on pledges to restore growth rights lost under the prior board. They followed through last year by amending the county’s comprehensive plan, a long-range blueprint for local development, he said.
The changes have allowed town center developers to resurrect their project plans. But this time around, the proposals do not include an age restriction.
In the past, residents near the proposed town center took comfort in the fact that an older adult community wouldn’t bring an influx of cars or students, McKay and fellow RALE members said. But Monrovia’s infrastructure can’t handle a town center open to all ages, they argue.
“One developer and one developer’s property right does not outweigh an entire community,” said Amy Reyes, vice president of RALE.
Young says funds generated by development will provide money for school construction and road expansion.
Later this month, the Frederick County Planning Commission will review the town center developer’s request for planned unit development zoning. The commission will also consider a development rights and responsibilities agreement between the county and developers. The outcome of these discussions could lead to the resolution of the developers’ lawsuit, said Kathy Mitchell, assistant county attorney.
In the lead-up to the public hearing, RALE representatives will continue their public awareness campaign, they said. They are organizing a community meeting Saturday at Urbana Regional Library and have gathered more than 1,000 signatures as part of an online petition drive.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.