The Frederick County Council acted wisely last week in deciding to delay construction of up to 600 homes in the Lake Linganore area, pending the completion of an important road that will address worsening traffic.
Council members voted 6-1 to require Lake Linganore Boulevard be completely finished before a neighboring section of land is rezoned for the development. The new road would start from Meadow Road on the west, loop around Oakdale Elementary School and connect to the Linganore Town Center.
The developer, Elm Street Communities, is seeking the rezoning of just over 160 acres from agricultural land to a planned unit development (PUD), along with a possible site for a public library.
Councilman Jerry Donald summed up very well why it is essential to wait for the road to be built before the development goes forward:
“There’s not a single person who lives within 10 miles of that area that doesn’t want to see that road [Lake Linganore Boulevard] entirely completed before other people keep dumping on it,” Donald said.
He is absolutely correct.
The growth around Lake Linganore and the three Oakdale schools — elementary, middle and high schools — has been explosive over the past couple of years. Single-family homes, townhomes and apartments have sprouted like mushrooms after a summer storm.
The overall plans were approved by the last Board of County Commissioners, who have left quite a mess for the council and the Gardner administration to clean up. Getting the infrastructure built has been a thorny issue.
The Elm Street development proposal would add about 600 age-restricted homes and a continuing care retirement community. That is likely to have a smaller impact on traffic than developments that are built to attract working families, with commuters and school traffic. But it is not zero.
At an earlier meeting on the project, council members questioned representatives of the developer as well as Denis Superczynski, the county’s Livable Frederick Planning Manager, about increased traffic in the area.
Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, a music teacher at Oakdale Elementary, said traffic near the school is “extremely backed up” during arrival and dismissal times when schools are fully open, to the point teachers and school buses are sometimes late.
Superczynski told the council that most residents in the development would probably use Lake Linganore Boulevard to exit the development and then travel east or west along that road to get to Interstate 70.
“I think for development of this scale, Lake Linganore Boulevard is going to be the preferred choice for most folks,” he said at the earlier meeting, according to the article by News-Post reporter Steve Bohnel. “And as Linganore Town Center continues to develop, I think there will be more destinations and activities associated with that particular project that will usurp the need to move onto [Md.] 144 via Oakdale School Road.”
That reinforces the need for the boulevard to be built first.
If Elm Street is determined to proceed now with the project, the council could consider requiring the developer to complete the roadway as part of the approval. Developers in other communities have often built roads or other public improvements like schools, libraries and fire stations as part of winning approval for residential and commercial projects.
The council should not shy away from driving a hard bargain with developers who are impatient to begin their projects. Finishing Lake Linganore Boulevard is essential if this entire project is going to work well and enhance the livability of the eastern part of the county.