The Frederick News Post editorial board is almost always spot on in my opinion. However, I have to take issue with the May 10 “Our View" ("County Council's rezoning denial ignores imminent change").
The board expressed its view that the County Council’s denial of the Windridge Properties rezoning request for a change from “agricultural use” to “general industrial use” was wrong.
It stated that the crux of the issue — the applicant failing to prove a current “change in the neighborhood” – was more or less splitting hairs since the Quantum Loophole/Eastalco property right next door and the southwestern end of the county certainly will be filled with data centers.
There are several issues here.
First, the “change in the neighborhood” criterion for exceptions to the Livable Frederick master plan is a critical element of county control over excessive development — industrial, residential, commercial, or otherwise.
To violate it based on a future possible change is absurd. Exceptions to the master plan are exceedingly rare and must stay that way.
Councilman Steve McKay was right to hold the line.
Second, there is nothing inevitable about future data center development at all.
In fact, County Executive Jessica Fitzwater campaigned on a number of themes that are incompatible with multiple data centers.
They are major reasons I and plenty of Frederick Countians voted for her.
The board seems to think that data centers are a “low burden land use.”
Are they kidding? Data centers use obscene amounts of energy — something that, together with impervious surfaces, contributes to climate change.
Water usage, although ostensibly environmentally beneficial if using wastewater, is still questionable given the unknown effects on the water bodies receiving the discharge.
There is also the nuisance noise that may lower residential property values in the nearby neighborhoods.
Third, certain developers, including those on the county’s Affordable Housing Council, believe that development is inevitable and that those of us trying to put the brakes on excessive or impractical development are yokels “who just don’t get it.”
In fact, it’s the developers who don’t get it.
They, through our elected officials, answer to us, the taxpaying, voting residents of this county. Elected officials and developers of all stripes would be wise to remember that.
With sincere respect, I hope the editorial board will re-think its positions on rezoning denials and data centers. Increases in the tax base and these other issues are hardly good reasons to object to the County Council’s wise decision.
Ms Gourley: Agreed development in Fred Co is not inevitable, But development can only be thwarted at a very high cost. Located as we are on the edge of a growing 6 million population metro area our land is worth far more in housing and other urban uses than it is in agriculture. So the economic incentives for development are very strong. We've always had development here and every government plan ever adopted -- whether City or County or metro area or state -- provides for population growth and the accompanying development. Plans may attempt to shape development, channel it into certain areas, impose fees... whatever, but every longterm plan endorsed by elected representatives accommodates population growth and development. Why? Because there are major benefits from development: a larger number of people to work with, to serve us, to befriend, to lead, to engage in hobbies, sports etc. More development means more jobs, more services, more competition, greater choice etc. If government becomes hostile to development we lose those benefits. Housing becomes more expensive, and development pressures are transferred to neighboring counties. We become more a drive-through county. If living here becomes more expensive as development is thwarted by government then we will become more a county for the rich. Others will have trouble affording to stay. So, I say, we're best off accepting and supporting development, while focussing on ways to allow it to be better quality and better value for people.
As a member of the Affordable Housing Council, I'm not sure why the writer felt compelled to mention us. Advocating for additional commercial development is not part of our mission and the council, to my knowledge, has not stated an opinion on this issue. We advocate for all citizens to have safe, stable and affordable housing. Most Frederick County citizens believe in that. I’m not sure what the complaint is for the writer. Government worked the way it is supposed to work. Who cares what the editorial writer of this paper thinks. He will not sway anyone. I have not heard the quote she attributed to our one and only developer on the council, and I cannot find it in any recent minutes. But, if he said it, he is right -- growth is inevitable. We can only hope to manage it as wisely as possible. And that is in the hands of our elected representatives where it should be.
Hi Gary: Julia Gourley here. Just wanted to respond to some of your points.
The reason I brought up the AHC developers (just the one I guess) is that my understanding of how affordable housing requirements are met by developers is that they simply pay the "fine" (whatever the technical term is) for NOT building affordable units and consider the "fine" a cost if doing business that they calculate into their overall plans. No idea what happens to the "fine" but it absolutely does not go into affordable housing construction. So the desperately-needed and required affordable units never get built. This is an enormous problem that needs to be changed.
I used the AHC as an example only. I know, of course, that the AHC has nothing to do with the data center buildout. The point of using the example was for developers writ large. They simply do not care about what the populace wants nor the quality of life in this county. They solely and only exist to make money.
Also, I'm not sure why you think no one cares about FNP (or any newspaper) editorials and question why anyone would oppose them. Of course they matter and carry a lot of weight with politicians and the public! That's why newspapers - thru editorials - endorse political candidates among other things. Newspapers exert influence. That's part of their reason for existing.
Finally, I reiterate that development is NOT inevitable. It's that attitude that keeps developers paving over places like Montgomery and Loudon Counties. Government controls development and we elect people who will exercise that control.
Anyway, thanks for responding to my LTE. Public debate is good and healthy.
Well said Julia! [thumbup][thumbup]
In particular, your point that development is not inevitable.
First of all, world and U.S. population growth is projected to STOP in a few decades. That's VERY good news.
In the near term, the primary reason people move to FredCo is to be within commuting distance of their job in D.C. or the immediate suburbs. Many major employers continue to locate away from large metro areas like ours. The South is a popular business location. Cheap land, low taxes, fewer regulations, and lower cost of living. There's a lot to like. The longer that trend continues, the less development pressure we'll face.
The negative consequences of development FAR outweigh any potential positives. As developments continue to be built, and the population of FredCo continues to explode, our quality of life decreases. That is patently obvious to any reasonably objective person.
Infinite growth on a finite planet with finite resources is impossible. The out of control development in FredCo WILL stop -- it's just a matter of when, and whether it will be controlled or not. If it's not, we'll end up with hundreds of empty houses -- like the Las Vegas suburbs after the 2006 housing market crash -- and all home values will take a big hit.
Julie Gourley here again. I failed to mention that some great examples of why development is NOT inevitable are Thurmont, Walkersville, and to some extent New Market. Developments were turned down or radically changed by the citizens of those towns. Also look at all the public outcry to the Sugarloaf Overlay secretive carve-out by Developer Natelli. The carve-out is 100% about commercial/industrial development, and the opposition by the Sugarloaf Alliance if you think development is inevitable.
Excellent examples Julie! [thumbup][thumbup] (BTW, I apologize for writing "Julia" in my other comment above).
People are clearly fed up and want development to stop. They have been effective.
We hear from many sources that "growth is inevitable".
Certainly when looking backwards there has been a lot of ugly, soul deadening, residential sprawl in FredCo. No question about that -- but as they say in the financial world, "Past performance is no guarantee of future results."
The county council and executive could, and should, enact a moratorium on all future growth, at least for the time being. We are clearly "over our skis'' at this point, with obscene school overcrowding; horribly congested roads; and an overall lower quality of life.
Absent a moratorium, the county really should establish impact fees that cover *ALL* expenses from development -- now, and into the future. Doing so is the right, ethical, thing to do, and might have the same effect as a moratorium. There is absolutely no reason why existing residents, who do not want further destruction of the county, should be forced (under penalty of law) to pay expenses that should be borne by the developers. None.
Finally, large employers who are eyeing this area (and other impacted urban areas) should be encouraged to follow the example set by the many highly successful corporations that have chosen to locate in rural/semi-rural areas of America. They enjoy: cheaper land; less expensive housing; lower taxes; and fewer regulations. Sure, some businesses must be based in major cities, but many do not have to be.
Eliminate (or reduce) the employers and we reduce the pressure to pave the entire county.
In theory a growth plan should account for all of this. Are there specifics in the FredCo growth plan with which you disagree?
Julia is wrong about one thing. Development IS inevitable. We live in the suburbs of a large and growing city. Our population is increasing. We have a culture of wanting to be spread out rather than congregating in cities like many other cultures. More development will be required.
We understand your position. But offer one thought - that can be restrained or even shut off for a while to absorb what's been ok'd. This letter was on point - McKay and Fitzwater get it. It's time for a time out.
Sure, but don't pretend that development will not come. I trust McKay on these issues and have no problem with this decision.
Great letter. Thank you Julia.
people against these data centers always talk about how much energy they use. Do they use more than say what would be required by a development of 100 or more houses which is happening in the county? More water? More traffic?
more energy, not sure about water, less traffic
LOTS and LOTS more power.
And right now there is no requirement for renewable power sources. So they will buy the cheapest electricity available.
How do we think that will impact Frederick County GHG goals ???
Take a look at cryto mining energy costs. Which is a massive use of energy. For a ponzi scam, these days.
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