Frederick County’s planners have begun working on a new document that has the potential to shape the future of the county for decades to come.
Even more so than with most of their undertakings, this project — called the South Frederick Corridors Plan — is important because it must seek to translate the ideas and dreams of the Livable Frederick Master Plan into concrete reality. Our community will get to see if that new style of planning document really will work.
The planning department lays out the challenge at the very beginning of the briefing book prepared for the planning process:
“In September 2019, Frederick County adopted the Livable Frederick Master Plan (LFMP), laying out a vivid framework for the future of the county centering around four themes: Our Economy, Our Environment, Our Health, and Our Community. Implementing this robust vision will require multi-faceted participation among a wide variety of members of the Frederick County community.”
The South Frederick area has been a major center of economic activity in the county in recent decades. It encompasses the section of Md. 355 from the Monocacy Battlefield park to the southern city limits and the portion of Md. 85 from just north of Buckeystown to Interstate 70.
Just as a reminder, this area includes the Francis Scott Key Mall, the Westview Promenade and every big box store, chain fast-food restaurant and smaller shopping center that line the two major roads.
As the briefing books noted, the area constitutes 20 percent of the county’s jobs and 15 percent of its businesses.
“In terms of economic significance in the county, this is second only to Frederick City,” the planners note.
In other words, we have to get this right.
County Councilman Jerry Donald told News-Post reporter Steve Bohnel that it is probably the most important small area plan that will come out of Livable Frederick.
"That one is going to be very complicated, and I really think people in [county] planning have their work cut out for them," Donald said.
John Dimitriou, the county's Livable Frederick Design Planner, said the area has been under discussion for possible redevelopment and rezoning since 2010.
And Denis Superczynski, the Livable Frederick Planning Manager, told our reporter in an email that market demands, overall infrastructure and land ownership make long-term planning in the area complex.
"The complexity, in this instance, is tied to the fact that this is not a 'blank slate', and that the 'slate' itself doesn't remain static for very long," Superczynski wrote. "The energy and complexity here create planning challenges, but also provide immense opportunities."
Planners will be looking at transportation, housing, biotech and other growing industries and green space, all goals outlined in the Livable Frederick Master Plan.
The greatest challenge for the planners, and also for the County Council which will eventually consider their work, is to come up with a way to redevelop that will preserve the functionality and usefulness of the current use.
As you can see from the numbers quoted above, a lot of people work and shop in the South Frederick area. There are a few eyesores, abandoned or disused shops, but in the main, the people of our community find it accessible and practical.
Livable Frederick envisions a new kind of community. That is all well and good, but planners must not lose sight of the good of South Frederick as they seek to address its failings.
County Executive Jan Gardner, at the midpoint of her second and final term, recognizes that the success of this plan and Livable Frederick generally will be a large part of her legacy.
"The whole concept of mixing in more residential in some of those areas ... takes some creativity," Gardner told our reporter. "… putting people in the same area as jobs, and retail and restaurants as well as the office jobs and research jobs, and all the other things that are there, is a way to make that area more vibrant and thriving.”
And that is the ultimate goal.