Aldermen not yet ready to rezone rest of Hargett Farm for a park

This aerial photo taken in July 2011 shows the Hargett Farm property. Officials are looking at the cost of a public indoor swimming pool or aquatic center on Hargett Farm.

Hargett Farm may eventually become the regional park that Frederick's elected officials want it to be, but they aren't ready to call it a park just yet.

The city of Frederick Board of Aldermen decided Thursday to leave residential zoning on about 100 acres of the 148-acre city-owned farm for now, instead of rezoning it to parkland. 

They voted 5-0 to rezone 35 acres on the farm to parkland, as the city was awarded a state grant to provide that amount of open space, and they voted to rezone 12 acres for a future elementary school.

Three of five aldermen said they didn't want to rezone the rest of the farm, along Butterfly Lane, to parkland, because although everyone wants a regional park, the city hasn't done any feasibility studies or created a master plan for the site yet, and that should come first.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak and Alderman Josh Bokee said they would have voted to rezone the rest of the farm.

Kuzemchak said that, by not doing so, it might send a message to the residents who live in the area that the aldermen aren't committed to the regional park.

"This part of Frederick deserves a very expensive park just like other areas of the city get," she said.

Alderwoman Kelly Russell said that it wasn't her intent to send that message. At this time, she said, the city doesn't have the data to show what is best on the site, and the officials should rezone only for what they know.

The city held community meetings this summer to show residents a draft plan of what could go in the park, which was based on feedback from past community surveys. The draft plan, estimated at $51.3 million, included an aquatic complex, turf fields, stadium, two playground areas, five large pavilions, a maintenance building, a track, an adventure park and a walking path.

But the city, already having spent $18 million purchasing the farm in 2009, doesn't have the money for the plan.

The board had discussed the rezoning at two workshops, on Feb. 12 and on Sept. 17.

In February, most aldermen seemed interested in rezoning the rest of the property as parkland, but in September, they started to rethink that plan.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, who got to the September meeting late, said she was dismayed at what she was hearing when she arrived.

She said at the time that she thought the consensus was to move forward with the parkland zoning.

While the city may not know the exact plan, she said, it should still move forward with its vision.

Bokee said Thursday that the city should create a master plan soon for the park to show its commitment.

The city sold 12 acres of the farm to the school system for $1 in December 2012. The city needed to rezone the land from residential use to institutional use before the school was built.

The new elementary school is meant to relieve overcrowding at Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools.

Construction on the new school is set to begin in 2016, and it is set to open in fall 2017.

Follow Jen Fifield on Twitter: @JenAFifield.

(2) comments

josephdavis

The nose of the developer-camel is now under the tent.

RPK21774

Never trust a politician regardless of party affiliation!!!

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