This past week, we held a community meeting to inform neighbors about concerns with Frederick County’s recently issued Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan.

As stated in the county’s briefing book, “The purpose of the Plan is to steward the Sugarloaf Area’s unique and iconic assets, maintain its rural character and scenic attributes, protect environmental resources, and enhance the quality of the landscape.”

The concern of the community has been the change in the protected area from the February 2020 briefing book to the one shown in the July 2021 plan. In the plan that was released, 490 acres had been eliminated, of which 380 acres are owned by Thomas Natelli’s (developer of Urbana) company. If this change remains in the plan, it will result in environmental damage, an increase in traffic that would necessitate the widening of Thurston Road and destruction of the tranquility and beauty of the Sugarloaf area. Additional zoning changes would likely follow.

To our surprise, County Executive Jan Gardner attended and asked if she could speak to the group. After our presentation and questions and comments by those in attendance, we asked the group to decide if they wanted to hear from the County Executive, and two options were discussed. The first, letting her speak without group participation and the second option, which was overwhelmingly chosen, was to ask her to respond to individual questions.

The audience was not reassured by her comments. One example centered around zoning. At the meeting, she insisted that the plan did not include zoning changes. This is an accurate statement; however, zoning changes are not usually in this type of plan. It does set the stage for those owning this property to request a zoning change through the county process and to use the fact that the property was not included in the plan as substantiation that the county always intended for this property to be changed from agricultural to industrial or commercial. If this property is included in the protected area, it will make it far more difficult to obtain a zoning change.

A major concern of the community has been a lack of transparency throughout the process. This position was substantiated on Sept. 15 when the county’s Planning Commission members spoke about the removal of the 490 acres from the plan. To mitigate this issue, they are including the acreage in their deliberations but made it clear that this was not a final decision, and the cut-out could still be included in final approval.

The only recent county meetings on the plan have been virtual, and thus, there was limited participation by the community. Jan Gardner had no problem attending and requesting time to address our in-person meeting. If she believes in an open and transparent process, we challenge her to hold her own in-person community meeting and to announce the meeting by sending postcards to the 800 homes in the planning area. She would then have her own opportunity to present her position to the public and hopefully leave time to answer our questions.

Doug and Peggy Kaplan write from the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. Doug was past president and Peggy was past secretary of Sugarloaf Conservancy. Doug was a former member of the Sugarloaf Area Stakeholders Advisory Group, and both have been community activists for the past 13 years. They can be reached at Peg.Kaplan@comcast.net.

(15) comments

rb789

It's disgraceful the way some are falsely smearing the Kaplan's and others they don't agree with. The Kaplan's deserve enormous applause and praise for all the good things they've done for our local communities. They're the ones who've taken the time over the years to deeply research various community issues and present the much needed facts on isssues - so the truth can be heard! The Kaplans have integrity, intelligence, and keen insights on issues. Everyone who knows them, respects them. Blessings to the Kaplans for their good work.

shiftless88

I share the sentiment that basically they should not carve out that acreage to the west of I-270. However one needs to remember that no one constituency every gets everything they want. It doesn't help your case to criticize things like virtual meetings that do not deserve criticism. And it doesn't help to criticize an accurate answer; if the answer was accurate but not what was important then I would suggest that perhaps the question was not posed correctly. Saying that people were not mollified by her comments again makes me suspect that the questions were poor, given that no incorrect or shady responses were called out. The way you approach this is an important aspect of achieving your goal. Demonizing Jan does not help your cause. You mention 800 post cards; how did YOU announce your meeting?

shiftless88

Should the Kaplans list their equities in this area? What land do they own?

MD1756

Don Henley was right when he said in a 1987 Rolling Stone interview "We have mortgaged our future for gain and greed." For a sobering audio visual watch: https://vimeo.com/376002898
To see the $30+ million house "where the pretty people play" see: https://www.zillow.com/homes/9199-Thrasher-Avenue,-Los-Angeles,-CA_rb/67405738_zpid/

mrnatural1

"The Last Resort" is (IMHO) one of the best songs ever recorded. Even after all these years it still hits hard.

The video is excellent, I'd never seen it before. I will definitely share it.

The home on Thrasher Ave. is just a tad over the top. I'm sure my wife and I could get by with 7 bedrooms instead of 9. The decorator has, um, 'interesting' taste.

MD1756

I would change one word in the song to make it more appropriate. I would change "..and brought the white man's reign..." to "and brought the white man's rain" as in acid rain.

mrnatural1

I shared the video with my 88 y.o. father and step-mother. They both thought it was great!

MD1756

[thumbup] mrnatural

gjthuro

message to the Kaplans; thanks so much for setting the record straight and many of us have watched Natelli and others have their way with Gardner and others before and unless the public rises up it will be the same this time ...lest we forget , who was it that told us the garbage incinerator was a great idea and then signed the contracts ...you guessed it...Jan Gardner!....its ALL about the MONEY! and Natelli haas plenty of it . Once ones integrity has been sold it can never be recovered

FrederickFan

Yeah, that incinerator is terrible! Oops. Wait a minute. There is no incinerator in Frederick County.

CE Gardner has an unblemished 25 year record of integrity in public service in Frederick County. Meanwhile the Kaplans have a long, ugly history of hyperbolic complaints whenever they feel threatened by anything, even this magnificent plan that seeks to protect 17,000 acres from future development in Frederick County.

You are right about integrity. The Kaplans have none.

Dwasserba

“… and to announce the meeting by sending postcards…” because I know I go on high alert getting one listing recent home sales or wanting to flip my home or sell me insurance or siding.

gabrielshorn2013

The last paragraph gets to the crux of their issue:

"The only recent county meetings on the plan have been virtual, and thus, there was limited participation by the community. Jan Gardner had no problem attending and requesting time to address our in-person meeting. If she believes in an open and transparent process, we challenge her to hold her own in-person community meeting and to announce the meeting by sending postcards to the 800 homes in the planning area. She would then have her own opportunity to present her position to the public and hopefully leave time to answer our questions."

The first sentence is strange. Virtual meetings allow greater participation in public meetings, because anyone may participate from the comfort of their own home. No need to travel to Frederick. Jan Gardner actually took the time to attend your meeting, knowing its importance to your community. I call that a plus. Finally, send postcards to all of the residents? No. Public notices of meetings are posted on the County website. That is about as transparent as it gets folks, especially if a record of the meeting is kept. They are. As advocates for your cause, I would thing that you would be paying attention to those. Guess not.

FrederickFan

I would believe Jan Gardner over the Kaplan's any day. I am sure she showed up to set the record straight and should be applauded for doing so. If people want to know what's in the plan, it's available on the county webpage. Can't be more transparent than that!

gjthuro

the problem with your statement is she NEVER set the record straight

phydeaux994

The problem with your statement is it was Frederick County Republicans who sold out to Developers for the last 20 years.

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