After months of delays, Frederick County Council members heard a proposal to rezone about 161 acres to add up to 600 age-restricted homes and a continuing care retirement community in the Lake Linganore area.
Tuesday's hearing lasted more than three hours, and will extend into another hearing scheduled for Thursday. Council members questioned Jason Wiley, an executive with Elm Street Communities, along with Eric Soter and other members of the development team about issues ranging from traffic impact, environmental impact and a new library site.
Wiley said the community provides an opportunity for more senior housing, something desperately needed in the county as its population continues to age. Forty percent of people countywide are 55 or older, but less than five percent of the county's housing stock is designed for seniors.
"It's an unfortunate reality that many people leave Maryland for places like Florida or even Delaware or Pennsylvania when they reach retirement age," Wiley said. "It’s hard to change things like winter weather and tax rates, but it’s important Frederick County consider what can be done to keep our 55-plus population from leaving the county."
Some council members questioned Wiley and others, including Denis Superczynski, the county's Livable Frederick Planning Manager, mostly about increased traffic in the area.
Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, a music teacher at Oakdale Elementary School, said traffic near the school is "extremely backed up" during arrival and dismissal times when schools are fully open, to the point teachers and school buses are sometimes late.
Fitzwater expressed concerns about increased traffic in the area, even though the proposal is meant for older residents and Lake Linganore Boulevard, a stretch of road designed to wind traffic behind the school and toward Linganore Town Center, is planned.
"Even though Lake Linganore Boulevard will be there, depending on which direction you're coming from, to me it seems like there will be people using Oakdale School Road to enter into this [development]," Fitzwater said.
Superczynski said most residents in the development will hopefully use Lake Linganore Boulevard to exit the development and then travel east or west along that road to get to Interstate 70.
"I think for development of this scale, Lake Linganore Boulevard is going to be the preferred choice for most folks," he said. "And as Linganore Town Center continues to develop, I think there will be more destinations and activities associated with that particular project that will usurp the need to move onto [Md.] 144 via Oakdale School Road."
Steve Horn, director of the county's Division of Planning and Permitting, also noted that road adequacy and Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) testing would happen in later development phases, if the council approves the rezoning of the 160.87 acres from agricultural use to a planned use development (PUD).
Superczynski said the developer could build up to 600 units and a continuing care retirement community, or any combination of units and the continuing care retirement community. The latter needs to be included in Phase 1, because otherwise the proposed facility would need to be added through an amendment process, he added.
Council Vice President Michael Blue said he was somewhat worried that parts of Lake Linganore Boulevard were being negotiated in separate pieces with different contractors.
"Conceptually, I think it's a great development, I think it fits there ... [but] unless all these four pieces are constructed ... it doesn't look like it's going to fit with the amount of traffic," Blue said.
"If one of these pieces doesn't come about, I think the whole plan is flawed," he added.
Joe Caloggero, a traffic consultant with the development team, said age-restricted communities like the planned development typically produce fewer daily car trips than market-rate housing, probably "to the tune of 70 to 80 percent less, based on national statistics."
The council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the rezoning at a meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 15.