With its winding trails and rural character, the land around Sugarloaf Mountain will be the first to be studied as part of the implementation of the county’s Livable Frederick master plan.
“We all value the history and the unique environmental resources of Sugarloaf and the surrounding area,” County Executive Jan Gardner said Monday in announcing the start of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Area Plan. “We want to make sure they are protected for the future.”
As part of Livable Frederick, areas around the county will be looked at from a planning perspective to determine the county’s future growth.
Small geographic areas, neighborhoods and villages will be studied to determine how they should change and grow.
Broader plans will also be incorporated to examine larger swaths of the county.
There will also be more thematic reviews of topics such as green and agricultural infrastructure.
Livable Frederick seeks to take a more comprehensive approach to planning and growth in the county.
“How and where we grow is and will continue to be a hot topic in Frederick County. And we really only get one chance to do it right,” Gardner said.
The size of Frederick County — the largest geographically in Maryland — makes the need to focus on small areas individually all the more important, she said.
Gardner said the Sugarloaf plan could also create a process that the county could use for Catoctin Mountain in the northern part of the county and for South Mountain to the west.
Sugarloaf Mountain and the nearby agricultural land highlight some of the distinctive and most scenic parts of the county, said Tim Goodfellow, the environmental planner for the county’s Livable Frederick team.
“Through sound policies, wise recommendations and actions, the Sugarloaf Area Plan can protect and enhance the natural and cultural assets and the overall health of the Sugarloaf planning area as we proceed through the 21st century,” he said.
The area around Sugarloaf is controlled by Stronghold Inc., a nonprofit group designed to protect and preserve the land. John Webster, the group’s president, declined to comment on Monday’s announcement.
The county’s original guide to implementing Livable Frederick had Sugarloaf near the top, said Denis Superczynski, planning manager for the Livable Frederick design team.
Surrounded by forests and farms, the Sugarloaf area represents a large part of the county, he said.
The area also has residents who had already been engaged with the county in recent years over a proposed gun range and then a wedding venue that was considered for the community, he said.
Once the small area plans get up and going, the county will have two or three in progress at any one time, Superczynski said.
Each will have a briefing book as a “conversation starter” available on the county’s website, with information on the challenges and opportunities it represents, information on the area’s background, a timetable and broad description of the planning process, a community profile, maps and other information, he said.
Each proposal will have an advisory group of property owners, citizen groups and others, as well as public outreach meetings to get feedback, he said.
The first outreach meeting for the Sugarloaf plan will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Urbana High School cafeteria.
The county’s next area plan is expected to be in the Md. 85/Md. 355 corridor, and will likely get underway in March or April, Superczynski said.
That corridor is a key economic development area for the county, Gardner said, and presents different challenges and opportunities than the Sugarloaf region.
But sometimes what the county does outside of its major growth areas is just as important as what it does in them, she said.
“I think it’s important that we do both,” she said.