Simmers Property Annexation file

The Simmers property, which Thurmont’s Board of Commissioners voted in September to annex

It’s official: Registered voters in Thurmont will make the final call on whether the town should annex 16.7 acres of farmland for high-density development.

At a town meeting on Tuesday, Mayor John Kinnaird signed a proclamation that suspended the resolution the Board of Commissioners narrowly approved in September, which gave the go-ahead for the annexation to happen.

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier

(58) comments

mrnatural1

Regarding the traffic studies, my understanding is that they were both funded by the developer, Cross.

Of course, that does not necessarily mean they are inaccurate, but any reasonable person would agree that it is naïve to blindly trust something that comes from one party in a conflict.

That's why in a trial both the prosecution and defense hire their own experts.

One thing is certain -- none of us are traffic analysts (AFAIK). That said, it stands to reason that adding hundreds of homes to a town like Thurmont would increase traffic congestion.

C.D.Reid

Exactly, mrnatural1, I agree 100%. Some people [obviously] just don't get it, though.

shiftless88

Why is it so difficult to actually refute the traffic studies with facts? Is it perhaps because 1) you do not understand them and/or 2) they are accurate? Or perhaps 3) you haven't even read them but dispute them anyway?

FNP-reader

More housing is needed and impact fees do contribute to housing costs, but the traffic study conclusion is obviously false. "a traffic study, which found that the project wouldn’t worsen traffic in the area," As a former manager of Environmental Impact Studies I know that conclusion is false. The project will contribute to significant cumulative traffic impacts. The Country should collect an impact fee from every project in that part of the County to go towards a fund for future upgrading of Highway 15. That stretch of highway from Frederick to Pennsylvania is already very dangerous and needs to be made into a limited access highway with crossings that go over or under the highway. A close friend of mind died at one of those crossings due to a driver making the mistake of crossing when she was approaching the crossing at highway speed. More development will certainly make the problem a bit worse. An appropriate impact fee is reasonable.

mrnatural1

Good point FNP. [thumbup]

Developers always claim that any traffic increases from their ugly box farm will be negligible. They say (in effect):

"Who are ya gonna believe, me, or your lyin' eyes?"

That's in reference to local traffic increases. Never is there any mention of increased congestion (and accidents and deaths) on area highways and interstates.

The fact is, most houses have at least one car, and one or two drivers -- often more if there are teenagers or young adults in the home -- and most of them are not going to limit their travel to local roads.

Of course my preferred solution is no more development, period. We are over capacity. More housing only lowers our quality of life further. That said, to the extent the county does continue to allow the destruction of prime farmland, then absolutely, impact fees should cover ALL expenses, including a portion of the cost of all area road improvements.

shiftless88

Typical low-information voters don't pay attention to their city council for four years and THEN rise up in protest

C.D.Reid

So? Better late than never. And, as I told fido, the petition drive and referendum are both perfectly legal, open, and above board. You have a problem with it, shift? What's your interest in the matter?

shiftless88

It is reactionary, CD. Lots of things are legal, but not particularly smart, useful or productive. Your whining about traffic despite two studies is a case in point.

C.D.Reid

Whining about traffic despite two studies, shift? No, I'm not "whining," I'm flat out saying the developer is lying about the additional traffic being negligible. That's all. Anyway, what does it all matter to you, do you live in Thurmont? Will you be affected by this proposed development? Or are you just armchair commenting on it from a safe distance?

shiftless88

CD; so you believe the traffic studies are false? Based on what; your extensive experience at analyzing traffic patterns? You made the claim so can you back it up or are you just going to whine?

all-that-glitters

Did you ever hear about common sense? Adding a large development WILL worsen traffic - no study needed.

shiftless88

ATG; well duh. But will it significantly impact it? Read the studies.

C.D.Reid

OK, shift, you appear to agree that the additional vehicles will worsen traffic in the area, but you don't believe that "worsening it" is "significantly impacting it?" Is that correct?

shiftless88

CD; as I stated below, one single new home will "worsen traffic". But to what extent? Will it take you 3'10" to get from one side of Thurmont to the other instead of 3'00"?

C.D.Reid

Seriously, shift? You think that one single new home will "worsen" traffic? I think it's safe to assume that you know the meaning of the word, so would you please explain how one or two cars from one house will make traffic worse, when it's not bad in the first place? You're really grasping for straws with that one, bud.

As far as anyone "whining" about the potential of traffic problems arising from a development of this nature, it's very, very easy for you to sit back and criticize from the comfort of a house that's not in Thurmont, isn't it? Your life wouldn't be affected, so we're all "whining," right? I would suggest you go back and read mrnatural1s comment posted at 4:57 yesterday afternoon. It make far more sense than what I've read you've posted to this article.

Also, it's been explained in these comments the process Thurmont residents had to go through to put the matter to a referendum, so why not quit your bit*hing about us not paying attention to what the town council does? We couldn't do anything until the resolution had been adopted, which was just recently, now we are.

phydeaux994

Mr. Reid, anybody across the Country that lives within commuting distance of a large metropolis has experienced development intruding on their country life. Everyplace I’ve lived in close in to D.C. Maryland I’ve experienced it. P.G., MoCo, Howard, Counties. Why should Thurmont be any different? Nobody likes it but if you live in a region that has lots of good paying jobs the people will come. It’s taken 60 years to come to Thurmont and as usual nobody there did anything to stop it until the bulldozers show up.

phydeaux994

That’s BS Mr. Reid. You could have done something about it 4 years ago when the planning for it started. Annexing land into a City or Town takes time and is well advertised when it is proposed. You and your neighbors dropped the ball as Frederick County is famous for. Bitchin’ after the Fact. Do better.

all-that-glitters

City Council members don't discuss major developments with citizens for 4 years and are THEN surprised when the citizens use their constitutional rights to petition to referendum. Yes, it is the public officials duty to have discussions with the citizens who elected them.

mrnatural1

Good point ATG. [thumbup]

It's easy to try to pin responsibility on the citizens. I don't know how the town of Thurmont does things, but I'd like to think that all local governments make a serious effort to let citizens know what's happening. For example, allow people to sign up for email announcements, and make sure the FNP covers all upcoming public meetings.

Of course, there is probably some bare legal minimum notification they can get away with -- perhaps some small grey print on a page that is difficult to navigate to -- but I would hope they do not play games like that.

On a related note -- not that I want to discourage citizen involvement, but a common refrain from local politicians (and union officers) is, "Were you at the meeting?". The implication being that if you were not, your opinion doesn't count. However, even if you (and 100 people who have the same opinion) do attend meetings, it almost never changes anything. The recent Sugarloaf Mountain Plan vote is a perfect example.

Meetings are almost always just a formality to satisfy legal requirements. The decision has already been made. Politicians have made up their minds how they will vote. Nothing anyone says will change that (with rare exceptions).

all-that-glitters

Ask yourself why voters didn't know about it and how this could be remedied in the future. Also ask yourself if you think that the town really wanted citizens to know about it or were they just hoping that now one would notice until it was too late.

shiftless88

We know why they didn't know about it; because they do not pay attention to their city council.

all-that-glitters

I wonder if in the 4 years this was in the works if any of the council members ever spoke about this to their neighbors or any of the hundreds of citizens they in the Town they were elected to represent?

EZRider

I don't know what they have to say

It makes no difference anyway

Whatever it is, I'm against it

No matter what it is or who commenced it

I'm against it

Your proposition may be good

But let's have one thing understood:

Whatever it is, I'm against it

And even when you've changed it or condensed it

I'm against it

Greg F

12 1 acre homes and the rest for a park and the streets it will need.

Greg F

194…how about no.

Jestusg

Editors - A map showing the location of the parcel would have been informative…

C.D.Reid

The parcel is located at the southern corner of the intersections of Apples Church, Eyler, and Roddy Roads. Bordered on the west by Apples Church Rd. on the northeast by Apples Church and Graceham Roads, and on the south by Luther Dr. and Easy Street.. It's a somewhat triangular shaped piece of unwooded property, easily seen on the satellite view of Google Maps.

C.D.Reid

Cross says he wants to hold a "nongovernmental" meeting with people opposed to the development to hear what sort of residential community they'd support.

I would support a R1 development and nothing else.

C.D.Reid

Cross is proposing "up to" 194 housing units. That's a minimum of 194 vehicles right there. Plus all the vehicles for an assisted living facility (residents, visitors, and employees,) and also the vehicles that would be related to a child day care. So this project has the potential to add hundreds of vehicles to a part of Thurmont that's about as far from Rt. 15 (the main thoroughfare for the area) as one could get, and for Cross to say that it won't "worsen traffic in the area" is nothing short of ludicrous. Just how stupid does he think we, or anyone else, for that matter, are? While there are additional reasons to vote this down, for that alone I hope it does.

shiftless88

There were two traffic studies. Did you do one on your own or do you imagine that you know more than experts on this topic?

C.D.Reid

You tell me, shift, how do you think the prospect of hundreds of more cars on these roads will affect the traffic in the area? Huh? Jeesh, you're starting to act as clueless as fido does.

shiftless88

CD; I do not believe that the claim is that it will have zero impact on traffic, but that it will not substantially increase congestion. A single new house has some impact on traffic, of course, but does it substantially increase congestion?

all-that-glitters

The residents that live in that area are the real experts. They actually care about the traffic conditions.

shiftless88

If I live next to a farm do I become an agriculture expert? Nope. Read the studies.

C.D.Reid

Apples to oranges, shift, and you know it.

all-that-glitters

Shift - "The field studies and analyses performed as part of this study reveal that the Simmers Property can develop as proposed without resulting in any adverse traffic impacts". This is a quote from page 25 of the traffic study under conclusions. Now, please tell us all again how you must be a traffic expert to understand the study and 194 housing units, a 88 child daycare and an assisted living facility won't have a negative impact. And then, please tell us why Cross is stating that he is funding road improvements (that he also says isn't needed) but the traffic study, nor any other document, doesn't state what improvements will be done.

C.D.Reid

Good points, a-t--g. And I believe shiftless is arguing just for the sake of arguing. He has yet to make what I would consider a valid, and logical, point.

shiftless88

ATG; "develop as proposed" clearly involves road improvements, right? There were two studies; did you read them both? Where are the inaccuracies?

shiftless88

CD; I am merely asking if you have anything factual to refute in the traffic studies. Yes or no? Have you seen an alternative study? Do you have expertise in this area? Yes or no?

mrnatural1

Quote:

"In a phone interview on Wednesday, Cross reiterated his frustration that the residents didn't participate in the process leading up to the annexation proposal earlier or more often."

That's similar to what he was quoted as saying in a previous article:

"...it’s a shame the residents opposed to the project didn’t attend town meetings over the last four years, when they could have “helped shape the future in a positive rather than negative fashion.”

A question for Mr. Cross might be: As a professional developer who knows that referendums can and do happen, why didn't *HE* make an honest attempt to gauge citizens' opinions of his proposal, earlier in the process? It seems negligent and presumptuous to proceed without getting a feel for public opinion.

The quote above comes across as snark from someone who would much prefer an oligarchy to democracy. No pesky voters to deal with.

"Shape the future"? That presupposes that the development would be approved. The residents of Thurmont would only be allowed to tweak some meaningless details.

There is nothing more democratic than a ballot referendum -- majority rule. Anyone who truly supports the American democratic process should approve.

There is absolutely nothing "negative" about preserving our agricultural heritage and our quality of life.

As for attending meetings, we've all seen over the years and decades how much good that does (Hint: typically *none*). The most recent example of the desires of the vast majority of Frederick County citizens being summarily swept aside, completely disregarded, was the vote against the Sugarloaf Plan (including the integral overlay). It's painfully obvious that under the usual process the opinion of citizens simply does not matter. Not to mention (in that case) 2-1/2 years of work -- which included many interested parties in both 'tribes' -- was unceremoniously tossed in the burn pile.

It's too bad that Jessica; MC; Blue and Dacey did not act more like Commissioner Wes Hamrick and abide by the will of those who elected them. Instead, they were more concerned with a powerful corporation (Stronghold) and appeasing its every whim. That was a disgusting, disheartening display from government officials who are supposed to represent the citizens of Frederick County. Instead, the council sided with Stronghold over a large majority of their constituents. We know that sort of thing happens in D.C., but local politics is supposed to be better.

Why in the world would anyone want to spend their time and effort working on and promoting something like the Sugarloaf Plan, when the the outcome is almost always preordained?

When wealth, power, and extortion can overrule the will of an overwhelming majority of the people, we no longer have a democracy. That's why referendums like this one are so vitally important.

That said, I'm afraid it's all but guaranteed that the commissioners, Cross, and Ms. Simmers will find a way to develop that land -- even if 90% of the votes are against it.

Greed almost always wins in the end. I hope I'm proven wrong.

phydeaux994

If they had petitioned for a referendum prior to the deal being approved as it was in this case it would have been fine. But the fact that it had already been approved by the Town Council gives the Developer and the owner ammunition to claim that the referendum was punitive. Especially when both of them will be losing a lot of money.

C.D.Reid

BS. There was nothing either improper or illegal about when the petition drive was held, or when the referendum is to take place. The developer was well aware this could be an issue and his frustration stems from the fact that he has no legal recourse. Everything is perfectly legitimate, open, and above board.

phydeaux994

Why didn’t the residents start the protest at the beginning four years ago? Was it done in secret? That seems to be the tradition in Frederick County, no protests until it’s a done deal.

C.D.Reid

Ummm, fido, it's not a "done deal" yet. As far as why there were no protests four years ago, I don't know. I do know that I didn't know about it until just this year. Maybe you should drive up to Thurmont and go door to door to ask people why they didn't protest earlier.

Cluck, cluck, cluck... [lol]

mrnatural1

[thumbup] C.D.

phydeaux994

Your own Town Council, who Thurmont Residents voted for, sealed a deal with the Developer and the owner. A legal Contract. Only then did the residents rise up and snatch the money right out of their hands. I still say there will be a lawsuit and the referendum will be negated. Just my opinion. Happy Thanksgiving Mr. Reid.

C.D.Reid

Fido, the deal was sealed contingent on any legal ramifications. The referendum is a legal ramification which the developer should have know about. If he didn't, that's his tough luck. How much you wanna bet on that lawsuit (with him winning,) and the referendum being negated, that you're so sure about?

all-that-glitters

The town residents did submit a petition with around 300 signatures at the Public Hearing before the Annexation Resolution was approved. As far as the Referendum Petition, the Resolution had to be approved before the voters could Petition for Referendum. That is the only way for it to be effective under Maryland Law.

mrnatural1

Good information ATG. [thumbup]

I was not aware of that (but it makes perfect sense) and apparently neither were others.

C.D.Reid

Thanks for posting those facts, a-t--g. I'd like to think that will shut fido up because he posts the same old comments every time this matter comes up. I like to think it will, but I doubt it.

TheLorax1

Correct.

Referendum is an action of last resort.

Interestingly, once you get the signatures the law you are seeking to change gets put on hold until the next election. This would be quite a sting for developers trying to jam through a project.

TheLorax1

“a disgusting, disheartening display from government officials who are supposed to represent the citizens of Frederick County”

Too true.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Sugarloaf region needs to follow the lead of thurmont.

mrnatural1

Good point Lorax.

When elected officials repeatedly vote AGAINST the will and best interest of the citizens of Frederick County, the more referendums the better.

FrederickFan

Oh when exactly do you think you know the will of the people? There is always a mix of opinion and many people have an opinion and don't share it.

TheLorax1

‘Will of the people”?

You measure it based on who ‘shows up’ … just like an election.

The Sugarloaf question was treated like a feudal meeting of the landed lords. Votes were in proportion to acres owned. It was a travesty.

Hiring a Baltimore PR firm (KO Public Affairs) to created the appearance of ‘lots of people’ is not the same as reality.

Time for the serfs to start researching Referendum … just in case.

phydeaux994

Are you kidding? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. And then there will be a lawsuit by the Developer who has a lot of money invested already and the landowner who will lose their retirement fund. The fight has just begun.

Plumbum

The lots are way too small. Make them two acre lots.

phydeaux994

I thought they were townhouses??

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