News of county officials’ surprise redrawing of the Sugarloaf area protection overlay to exclude a 490-acre parcel because they now “felt it didn’t align with other elements of the proposal” reminded us of a scene from the movie “Spotlight.” It takes place in a cozy bar between the editor of a Boston Globe investigative team and a likable acquaintance who’s been sent to persuade him to keep the paper from publishing the team’s findings.

Editor Robbie (smiling ruefully, ignoring his drink): Has anyone ever said no to a drink with you, Pete?

Acquaintance Pete (also smiling and ignoring his drink): Well, sure. But the trick is to keep asking...

Robbie: This is how it happens, isn’t it, Pete?

Pete: What’s that, Robbie?

Robbie: A guy leans on a guy, and the whole town looks the other way.

Pete (wincing, leaning in) Robbie ... Robbie ...

Thankfully, the whole town, Boston, doesn’t ultimately look away, and thankfully that doesn’t seem to be happening here either. And while it might be wrong to equate longtime indifference to child sex abuse, the film’s subject, with longtime indifference to galloping environmental degradation, we have the sense there’s a common denominator: what Robert Reich, in his book and companion documentary Saving Capitalism: For the Many. Not the Few, calls disastrous “cronyism.”

It might also be wrong to ignore the possibility that the proposed amendment was a good-faith afterthought intended to merge the vision of a livable, sustainable county with an economically booming one. After all, the two aims don’t have to be mutually exclusive — some developers and land owners are genuinely committed to environmental and community sustainability, and even remediation. One problem here, though, is that the owner and would-be developer of the disputed acreage isn’t among them. His company is much better known for commitment to profitability than to sustainability or stewardship. (Letter writer Johanna Springston, who lives in an area already developed by the company, suggests that one of many negative consequences of allowing commercial or residential development of those 490 acres would be to “turn ... Hopehill, one of the oldest African American communities in the county, into just a memory.”

For us, among many others, the question now is whether enough of our county planners and council members — the council makes the final decision — will stay focused on and committed to a livable, sustainable Frederick to make the needed difference. Or will they look the other way and go back to doing — or at least enabling — business as usual.

Bob Horrall and Jo Harte

Frederick

(6) comments

FrederickFan

Read the Sugarloaf Plan. It is all about preserving and conserving this area of the county. Three cheers to the county for such an excellent plan.

AHHAPROD

The original Sugarloaf area preservation plan is beautiful and practical, yes. And we know how much care and effort and nonpartisanship must have gone into creating it, and the wonderful Livable Frederick plan it’s a central part of. But now comes the proposed exemption, the carve-out for potential development partly or mainly by the developer who owns a majority of the disputed acreage—we were mistaken in saying he owns it all—and whose company has had to settle a lawsuit for discriminatory advertising and routinely partners with builders who have more Better Business Bureau complaints against them than any other home building company. It’s confusing that you don’t seem concerned about that, or may feel it’s irrelevant. b&jh

FrederickFan

I think you are misinformed. The area around the Urbana interchange was excluded from the planning area. It was not proposed for development. It is not proposed for a change in zoning. I have no idea about the lawsuit you reference. That is not in the Sugarloaf Plan. Sounds like you have a personal issue with someone not a concern about the plan.

AHHAPROD

Not sure which of us is misinformed, but we’ll do our best to determine if it’s us, and if it is, acknowledge our mistake. We have no personal issue or experience with the developer or builders mentioned in our letter and comment, and understand that “the lawsuit [we referenced] . . . Is not in the Sugarloaf Plan.” b&jh

Greg F

Some developer will find a way to usurp the regulations and Sugarloaf, along with the rest of the county, will be denuded of forest and cookie cutter crap Ryan homes will be up in place of greenery eventually. It starts with this little parcel, and it will end with every last blade of grass bulldozed and looking like Urbana.

mrnatural1

Sadly, Greg is correct. That is the path we are on.

America, and the D.C. area, is overpopulated. 11,000 climate scientists stated that the sustainable population of the U.S. is about 150-175,000,000 people.

Until we slowly, voluntarily stop and then reverse population growth, this area will become more and more impacted.

At the end of the day, money talks. There is a 'ratchet effect' whereby land is developed but never reclaimed. Although the current board is relatively sensible, the next one may be a bulldozer board that allows more destruction.

Piece by piece the county is paved over -- forever.

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