The new and revised Monocacy Gateway “Plan B” featuring industrial and commercial tenants on the city’s east side received its first major approvals this week.
To the disappointment of several neighbors concerned about traffic and safety, members of the city’s Planning Commission opted not to nix a connector road from the preliminary plans, among other conditions.
The project, which replaced a mixed use plan after developers failed to get a zoning change last year, is slated for 77 acres known as the Schley Farm at East Church Street and Schifferstadt Boulevard. Plans today — initially dubbed a “Plan B” — call for roughly 12,000 square feet of retail or commercial space and 852,000 square feet of industrial manufacturing and warehousing space.
Project developers and consultants first presented the plan for a preliminary subdivision, which creates lots and right-of-way dedication for road construction, and a forest conservation agreement at a workshop on Friday. They submitted a final plan with revisions before Monday’s public hearing, which commissioners spent about two hours hashing out.
“We are in discussions with a couple of different interested users and we need to just start advancing the engineering based on the approved preliminary plat,” said Mike Sponseller, a consultant for developer Clustered Spires Property Group, of the project’s status.
He said it is too early to name any specific tenants, and that the next step is submitting site plans for the individual parcels. Currently, Sponseller said developers are looking to create eight parcels, but that the final plans could include more or less depending on the tenants.
At Monday’s meeting, the biggest points of discussion included the landscape buffer and a connector road, which has been a source of concern for residents in the nearby Eastchurch development. The development, along East Church Street, encompasses homes on Lindley and Holden roads, and Jerez, Shiraz and Rhone alleys.
Residents submitted a petition with nearly 140 signatures before Monday’s meeting opposing the road’s construction. The road is set to connect Schifferstadt Boulevard to Lindley Road, which is an extension of East Seventh Street.
The neighbors expressed concerns over drivers using the road to cut through the future park, which they fear will create more traffic in their neighborhood.
Colin Parker, a resident of the Eastchurch development and one of the organizers of the petition, said in Monday’s meeting that drivers using the new road to get around traffic on East Church Street and other nearby congested areas will put the residents at risk.
“I understand they have to do what they have to do ... but I have a 3-year-old child. There are many children on this property,” Parker said.
Seven residents attended Monday’s meeting, but only Parker and one other resident spoke.
Residents also expressed similar concerns at a recent Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting. After that meeting, the developers drew up an alternative plan to build a more narrow road that only pedestrians, bicycles and emergency vehicles could use.
Gabrielle Collard, the city’s division manager of current planning, said the plans were not part of the official record but were simply a suggestion from the developers to try to ease the neighbors’ concerns.
In the end, the planning commissioners expressed sympathy for the concerns but opted to vote on the plans with the connector road included, as the road is part of the city’s comprehensive plan and the commissioners are tasked to follow those details of project planning. The plans do contain some elements to make the road safer and more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, but all traffic will still be able to drive on it.
Overall, Sponseller said he is encouraged by the approval received this week and looks forward to advancing the plans.
“It is a step forward, but there are still more steps involved,” he said. ”We’re just excited to be at this first stage of approvals and working to bring additional businesses into the city of Frederick.”