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Real Estate Values and Frederick County’s Comprehensive Plan – Part 2

This should really be two posts, but since its my blog, I’m giving to you all at once. 

preparing for battle copy

The Frederick News Post (FNP) featured Round 3 of the Comprehensive Plan War of Words in this past Saturday”s paper on page A-10 with two OpEd”s from Jack Lynch and Krista McGowan.

Jack Lynch was given top billing with his article “”.  I got to know Jack when he asked me for advice as he contemplated launching his (what turned out to be short lived) mayoral campaign in the last City election.  Mr. Lynch is a very nice guy, but he took some hard ball swipes at both attorney Rand Weinberg and Blaine Young, questioning the sincerity of their statements in their recent FNP OpEd”s (which I have referenced in my blog post of May 6, 2010).  He stated that they “represent the pointy end of the spear in the political efforts to challenge and rewrite the county ordinances and zonings to the benefit of their own property and power interests.”  He goes on say that “we cannot proceed at our current pace of development [of] land and population impacts if our future is to accommodate our common interests … [verses] the efforts by these“defenders” to strangle our interests in favor of their own.”

Before I get to Saturday”s other article on the Comp Plan topic (Part 3), let me address Mr. Lynch”s assertions.  I am sure that when he refers to the italicized term “defenders”, he is referring to the now defunct organization known as “Defenders of Citizens Rights”, which rose up at lightning speed from hundreds of angry Frederick County citizens who rebelled against a series of down zoning and policy rewrite proposals made by Board of County Commissioners Jan Gardner, Lennie Thompson and David Gray back in 2001.  The community lost trust that our county government had its best interest at heart.  To the dismay of the BOCC trio, the efforts of the Defenders were successful in stopping what many – myself included – believed were ill conceived and, frankly, ill contrived approaches to planning and zoning.  A core reason being that practically no community input was allowed.  The Defenders were far from a “developers” club, as it included and had large support for the farming community and their supporting organizations.  Business leaders from across the spectrum joined into oppose what had some absolutely absurd proposals.  Car dealers for instance would be required to build a fifteen foot berm around their facilities to hide their car display lots, and farmers were required to obtain architectural design approval for any outbuildings they wished to build (we”re talking sheds here!) … and that only scratches the surface.

For the record I was a proud member of the Defenders, and as it turned out the voice they represented in the County spoke up at the polls and carried the day in the election.

I have been an active member of this community for nearly 40 years, and like me, many of these people  have given a tremendous amount of their time and money to its civic and community organizations to the betterment of this wonderful county.  The idea that any of the people that Mr. Lynch refers to don”t have the best interest of Frederick at heart is absurd.  The vision of having a vibrant city with grand open spaces is what everyone wants.

In the last county election even I was maligned by a local FNP columnist as a  ruthless ungrateful raper of the lands … and I have never been a candidate for public office!  So I understand how demonizing works.  Mr. Lynch and Ms. Wiles are setting the stage for the November election —  to pigeon hole all those they disagree with into the so-called evil developer group – a scare tactic that will not play this time.  Because although it”s still about preserving our wonderful quality of life here in Frederick County, but its more so about fairness and dealing with a government that we can trust.

As stated, Jack is a nice enough guy, but the fact of the matter is that with or without this new Comprehensive Plan, the world of out of control development in Frederick County has virtually no possibility to happen ever again.  Any new Board of County Commissioners would never be able to unravel the mountains of Federal, State and County regulations and fees that have created a maze and path of risky hurdles that fewer and fewer developers are willing to deal with, especially in the current economic climate.

Yesterday I enjoyed a friendly lunch with Commissioner Kai Hagan (a candidate that both Lynch and Wiles support), and even he did not dispute my assertion that this new plan does not provide enough zoned land for housing and light industrial uses to support the future population projections that the BOCC endorsed.

With all this said as the development process has become more regulated, land and commercial real estate values have been negatively impacted — way beyond what the economy has thrown at it.   Putting the maze and the hurdles aside, the real issue is the risk that anyone faces when they apply for a permit for a site plan.  Many times the rules are not clear or have changed during a process as simple as getting a site plan approved for their business or a plan for a new home.  The fact is that the business community and many others have once again lost trust in our county government.  Will the policies, procedures and the fees be the same at the end that of the application process that they were at the beginning?   What I often hear from these people is “Just let me know the rules, and I will dot every “i” and cross every “t”; but don”t change them on me in mid-stream”

So when the risk is high and the applicant cannot trust what they are getting themselves into, it is ultimately reflected in the value of the underlying land they are using.

This brings me to address the second article that was on page A-10 in last Saturday”s paper by local attorney Krista McGowan “,” which I will touch on in Thursdays post … Part 3.

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