The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is taking a stand against the first major development project planned for the city’s airport overlay zone.

Mark Baker, AOPA president, submitted a letter to the mayor and Board of Aldermen in mid-August outlining his objections to changing the zoning of the Renn Farm.

The AOPA supports keeping the area zoned light industrial, but the proposed development requires mixed-use zoning to accommodate its residential component.

The correspondence suggested that a zoning change may threaten federal grant funding at the airport because the Federal Aviation Administration requires grant applicants to “zone and use other measures to restrict the use of land in the vicinity of the airport to activities and purposes compatible with normal aircraft operations.”

“The property is developed in such proximity to the airport that if you put residential property there it is a precursor to noise complaints at the airport,” said Adam Williams, AOPA manager for airport policy. “The place to put a stop to that slippery slope is at this stage.”

The airport relies heavily on federal funding for eligible projects. For example, the FAA provides 90 percent of the funding for runway extension.

An FAA spokeswoman said she was aware of the Renn Farm project but could not comment specifically about how it might affect the agency’s ability to provide grant funding to the airport.

“The FAA also requires an airport sponsor to control land use adjacent to the airport when possible,” spokeswoman Arlene Salac wrote in an email. “The FAA also evaluates ... airports’ compliance with grant assurances associated with land use issues.”

Push for progress

The Renn Farm development, as proposed by developer Matan Cos., calls for 1,050 multifamily buildings, town houses, cottages and houses, along with 105,000 square feet of nonresidential use and 24.1 acres of dedicated parkland.

Because the development is in the airport overlay zone, anything built over 100 feet tall would be subject to FAA evaluation.

Concerns raised by Airport Commission members and the AOPA target the residential portion of the development specifically. But several market studies and analyses of future opportunities for residential and nonresidential development of the land indicated that development of the 200-acre site could include more than the exclusively industrial business permitted under its current zoning, according to Karl Morris, director of development for Matan Cos.

“The studies on the property indicated that mixed-use was the best use for the property versus industrial uses, and therefore creates an opportunity to produce a mixed-use traditional neighborhood design,” Morris wrote in an email.

Project plans — residential use included — also fit with the development plans outlined by East Frederick Rising in its 2011 vision plan, Morris wrote.

Matan’s proposal includes less dense residential development of the property than the vision plan outlined, according to state Sen. Ron Young, an East Frederick Rising board member. In the five years since the plan was published, Young said he hadn’t heard any objections to residential development on the farm.

“This is kind of coming out of left field,” he said of the recent concerns voiced by airport groups.

As the volunteer group begins anew its efforts to bring development to the east side of the city, Young said setbacks to the Renn Farm project could paralyze efforts across the region.

“It would devastate it,” Young said of the possibility that the mayor and aldermen vote against the rezoning request and site plans. “It would have a lot of impacts on the whole area that I don’t think would be good.”

Competing interests

The final vote on the requested rezoning and site plans has not been set. City officials will vote to set conditions for the property's rezoning at their next public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 17. The developers have 90 days after the vote to accept or reject the conditions, with a final vote on the rezoning to follow. The meeting will include an opportunity for residents to give feedback and discussion among city officials before they vote.

Several aldermen expressed concern at an August workshop meeting about the potentially negative consequences of building houses and town houses so close to the airport.

Alderman Michael O’Connor said last week that he was still weighing the advantages and possible downsides to the project.

O’Connor said the best solution would be to craft rezoning requirements that would allow the project to move forward while establishing protections for the airport and future residents.

“If I’m going to vote to rezone, I have to believe those protections are adequate,” he said.

Alderman Phil Dacey, though, said he didn’t want to do anything that would derail the project from moving forward.

“I think the project Matan has put together will be a really positive thing for the city,” he said. “I’m still hopeful we can work out a solution that will satisfy everybody.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct details of the upcoming vote at the Sept. 17 city meeting.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(26) comments

elymus43

Too little and too late. Developers know how to work the system and this will probably get what they want. WHERE IS JAN. GARDNER (COUNTY EXECUTIVE) ON THIS ISSUE?????? Even thought the airport is a city issue, she could voice her opinion. The The low educated voters need to wake up and start getting educated on the issues before the next election. We to stop losing good farm land.

BstD59

It would be a mistake on Jan's part to try and voice her opinion. The mayor guards his authority very closely and would not welcome any comments from the county. Personally I think we have too many children trying to play as adults in local politics. Randy is another one who doesn't listen to the voices of the voters.

MCEDDE21

[thumbup]

flamingo

If they build it and they come, then they have no voice in complaining about airport noise. What a ridiculous thought to develop land in such close proximity of the Frederick Airport. Certainly, someone on the planning commission can see the disastrous results of this proposed development.

gabrielshorn2013

What a ridiculous plan! Ask the Gimmell family (what is left of them) of Gaithersburg what happens when an aircraft loses control on approach, as what happened to them last December. The Montgomery Airpark was in the middle of nowhere years ago, but suburban sprawl was able to swallow the airport, making it a hazard for those on the ground as well as in the air. That should never have been allowed to happen then, and should not be allowed to happen now.

ClareS

Who would want to live that close to an airport? Seriously? Enough development already.

matts853

Developers are yanking this county around like a bulldog on a bull.

Emandike

Wonder how many of our elected officials would like to live under the flight path of aircraft? Is there no common sense left on this planet? Perhaps those in favor of growing the east side of town should be the ones living in these homes.

jerseygrl42

moneybags Matan doesn't give a damned what anyone thinks...its all about the MONEY and he will sprinkle enough fairy dust around to get his way once again.....and the future buyers be damned ...how disgusting

MAVRICKinc7

BUT the lure of CHEAP HOUSING is the bait that the Matan group and development community are offering future invited high density populations willing to lower their mortage rates, even if the sound barrier is broken and will rattle ever window in their house.

Didn't Worman's accomplish the same end results in deveoping the Worman Mills project at the intersections of Monacacy Rd. and Liberty Road, selling in the area of $350,000 and a million dollars because the land aquisition was CHEAP to begin with, since the air flight patterns were over head and remain so to this day?

Introduce jet flights and Boeing 707s to the list and you have unforgiving NOISE, much the same as AP Hill Marine Base, Fredericksburg Va provides to its population who constantly complain, to the point the Government has to provide written warnings when cannons are going to go off and flight training is going on.

So, unless the public are given forwarnng and caused to WAIVE their rights to COMPLAIN, by deed and covenants to the land, cheap housing and lower mortgages will win out every time. Such is the nature of man and always looking for a bargain to suit his wallet and be damned with the NOISE or close proximity to air flight patterns over their housing districts.

Matan and the development community know this to be true. Otherwise, why so much stealth and PRESSURE are being used by Government and the Development Community being used to sell off all of Frederick and Frederick County to the highest bidders, whether they do business in Washington, D.C,, Houston Texas or New York City? Cheap land and major profit margines are what this discussion is more about.

Whether anyone has CONCERNS about this development proposal and changes in zoning designations are irrelevant. They certainly are valid warnings toward what's coming to Frederick and Frederick County, but WHO in the end will have the final say? Certainly, not the public, that rarely shows up at Council and Frederick City scheduled meetings, because MOST are of the impression that the decisions they are most concerned with have already been scripted and made BEFORE they even show up to ask hard questions that consistently are rejected by Government and the Development Community with "we don'r have that information available at this moment, but we promise to get back to YOU, after the public has forgotten what the question is/was in the first place.

Who wants to tell me this is NOT SO, with a straight face, and not be called a liar? At this point, this ADVERTISED warning is more about what has already been decided by government and development investors and their strategic manipulation of monied resources and the general public, looking fo a deal on a quarter acre of property they want so much to call HOME, while signing on to the bottom line, without ever turning to the next page, small print and caveats that will necessarily run with cheaper housing and the infringement and encroachment on air space.

SO, in man made REALITY, the buck always wins out eventually and all those things we were once worried about actually come true. Haven't we been doing this same thing, over and over again for decades (really centuries), to buy down against cheap property and selling it off at the going rate (guesswork) that's lower than our current mortgage? YOU should NOT be confused with the wording that's being scripted now. It's been around for a long time, and under the microscope civilization has been put under for centuries, aren't we anthing more than a foregone conclusion. What part of Capitalism don't you understand?

petersamuel

The airport may be abandoned at some point if taxpayers get fed up with covering its losses. Latest City accounts show it generated revenues of less than $0.9m, against expenses and debt service of $2.2m - for a loss of $1.3m. The City may at some point decide it has higher budgetary priorities than subsidizing corporate jets and weekend hobby flyers.

BstD59

Nothing like being put in print twice! Sorry for the double posting.

BstD59

I'm not against development but I am against nonsensical development. Allowing construction of residential homes near the airport is nonsensical.

Why is it our local governments always want to move forward without a thought for the negative impact some construction will have on our communities? It doesn't matter if it's overcrowded schools, lack of infrastructure, or broken infrastructure. We need to use common sense if we are to grow and expand our communities.

Aside from the usual problems facing new development building near the airport will just about guarantee that the new owners will be howling for the noise of planes flying overhead be stopped. They will quickly forget that the airport with its accompanying noise was there before they were and that they themselves chose to live there.

If the County and City have any hope of growing they also might want to remember that if the airport expands it can introduce larger planes that would make air travel more convenient for those in surrounding areas. It also will bring in more dollars to the local economy. Build residential near the airport and this will no longer be a possibility.

joelp77440

It makes no sense to put houses near the airport. When I use to fly, there was this dude from Spring Ridge who use to come over and bother us all the time saying we were flying to close to his property line. He would take airplane numbers down and make a stink. Spring Ridge is close but these houses will be closer and I am sure some neighbor(s) will eventually sue (because they were too stupid to know they moved next to a airport). Wait til they expand the airport and they get bigger jets flying in there.

The city has to know that if they approve this zone change, they will never be able to expand the runways (someone from these houses will sue) thus reducing the airports commercial uses(larger private jets, commercial jets, freight traffic) resulting in less revenue or more dependence on local government.

Dwasserba

[thumbup]
Dedicate this much concern to the efforts of those associated with rehabbing the Golden Mile area in our lifetime.

MCEDDE21

Alderman Phil Dacey, though, said he didn’t want to do anything that would derail the project from moving forward...

BstD59

I'm surprised Dacey said anything, he rarely shows up for meetings. He's nothing more than a name who does no work and gets paid for it to boot.

MAVRICKinc7

Dacey was bought before he ever showed up. He's a VOTE for GROWTH, no matter what the consequences are or will be. It's the nature of being a foregone conclusion where someone else has aready done his homework for him, whether he shows up at Frederick City scheduled meetings or not.

What Phil Dacey is, is nothing more than a VOTE for DEVELOPMENT interest. Is that so hard to imagine? He's just part of the FIX that development has devised to circumvent public inquiry and the next cattle call that Frederick City governance has already decided on.

We bought the LIE, even though it represents only a single vote against those who would have US believe they represent our best interest when they really don't. Want any EVIDENCE to this fact, all you have to do is dig about an inch of ground of political rhetoric to confirm it is so. Isn't that what "majorities" are made of? If you want to quibble the point, might I SUGGEST you look at the person you elected rather than his political affiliations. Otherwise, what is it about being bought you don't understand or comprehend?

BstD59

I'm not against development I'm against nonsensical development. We can grow our county and our city but we need to do it in a way that won't have a negative impact. We need to be concerned about rapid growth, growth that will affect our schools, roads, and other infrastructure.

Building near to the airport falls into the nonsensical category. One of the first thing owners who live near an airport is to complain about the noise of the planes. No thought is ever given that the airport was there first and that they chose to move there.

If one day we want to see Frederick airport become a place that will be able to accommodate larger planes and make air travel more convenient for those in the surrounding areas then we must not grant permission for any residential use.

FrederickVeteran

We must build, build and build to grow the economy in order to trickle down prosperity to fast food workers, gasoline station clerks and retail cashiers.

FrederickVeteran

Liberal pilots just stop whining and fly the plane.

DickD

What is more important, lives or profits for Matan? I will never move there, so whatever they do will not bother me, except the impact it has on roads, schools, etc.

sue1955

I love the statement by that manager about stopping the slippery slope.

Spot on, my fellow responders.

LeonardKeepers

i have to side with the piots organization on this one. people build houses etc near an airport and a plane comes down on their roof or whatever then they get all bent out of shape ready to sue someone because the plane hit their house. i certainly hope the pilots organization wins this one. i do not know where peoples thinking is now days,common sense needs to prevail here for this situation

MMFNP

I agree 100% with Leonard!

MMFNP

OH YES! Lets by all means build even more homes the roads, streets, utilities and schools cannot possibly support while some will face the same risk of planes or helecopters crashing into them while they're sleeping just like a few residents experienced in Montgomery County!! And by the way, your flood insurance might be quite excessive since much of this land may be at risk of flooding??

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