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The Real Estate Recession and Ms. Wiles

While the sky has fallen over the real estate industry, it seems the relevance of anti-growth voices have met the same fate.

Real Estate Recession and Janice WilesMaybe it’s an expression of some repressed childhood anger, or is it about trying to remain relevant after an embarrassing defeat in the last election?

Whatever it is, the local wanna-be mover and shaker named Janice Wiles has been shaking her angry fist at anything that has the finger prints of her victorious former opponents – more notably the Honorable Blaine R. Young, President of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners.

Now, she probably would not refer to Mr. Young as “honorable”, but that is how one is supposed to refer to an elected official who has earned that capacity.

What would this have to do with a world that has suffered from a catastrophic economic recession, where real estate values have been in a tail spin and land development has come to a screeching halt?

There is an irony here. It seems that the relevance of the Executive Director of the Friends of Frederick Countyand her organization is directly related to the waves of the real estate economic cycle.

This not only holds true for her, but also her conspiring collaborator former County Commissioner Kai Hagen, who now heads the recently formed “non-profit, non-partisan organization” known as Envision Frederick.

Ironically, it was back at the peak of the real estate boom in 2006 that Mr. Hagen rose to a position of power with a victory in that year’s county commissioner election.  Much of his platform was bolstered by the ruckus that Wiles and her “friends” rose over what they claimed as poor County Commissioner comprehensive planning in New Market, among other regions.

The fear that was cast into the electorate at the time was that “the county’s rapid growth during the past decade was not inevitable, but instead was caused by approvals for far more houses than the market demanded during that time period,” according to Wiles.

In other words, she claimed that by building houses, land developers create demand. In fact, what really happens in a real estate economic cycle is that buyers create demand.

As it turned out at the time, Frederick County was issuing permits in the early 2000’s at an annual rate of about two-thirds of what occurred over the previous 20 years.

Even still the irony was that demand for developed real estate was strong.

With the victory of achieving a pro-no-growth board of commissioners under her belt and law suits being filed against anything having to do with real estate development in Frederick County, Maryland, Wiles and her friends threw their anger at a number of annexations that the City of Frederick approved.

Her friends in Winchester Hall at the time, supported her with an extremely rare reversal of city-county government etiquette by opposing the annexations.  Meanwhile, Hagen supported Wiles in her unsuccessful petition drive to overturn the City’s decision.

Ironically, that was 2009 and the housing market was in full decline mode.

In keeping with evaporating real estate values, the relevance of the “not so friendly” Ms. Wiles waned as well.

Just prior to the 2010 county elections, a new comprehensive plan was passed by the Honorable Jan Gardner, President of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, and her pro-no-growth majority that included Mr. Hagen.

The plan down-zoned nearly 500 properties throughout the county with what the Board believed was just cause.  In addition, using their own version of “Fuzzy Math”, the Commissioners figured out how the county would be able to meet the State’s mandate of providing for about 34,000 housing units for the next twenty years.  This is a task that is unlikely to be fulfilled when one considers what is proving to be a very slow housing recovery.

In her effort to remain relevant with the next election around the corner, Wiles climbed on board of the Kai Hagen Express. The anticipated unbeatable slate laid out a goal “to continue to fight against costly sprawl development, tax increases, traffic jams, a strained school system and the degraded environment that come with it.”

Ironically, with the real estate market in the tank, it seemed that voters are more concerned with getting rid of wasteful government actions, finding jobs and preserving what equity they had in their real estate.

Not surprisingly, the Hagen Express was not the “Little Engine that Could.”  It was stopped in its tracks with a load of angry poultry that renewed their rants that the Young Board will make the sky fall over Frederick.

Behind the scenes, refusing involvement in the petition drive to overturn the Commissioner appointed Charter Board, Wiles and Hagen threw their anger into authoring fear-mongering and intellectually dishonest statements in material claiming the group is heavily tied to land developer interests.

Their controversial approach to garnering signatures ended in rejection and another law suit, which will likely die like the others- thereby wasting taxpayer money.

With all her defeats mounting, the real estate market remains stagnate.

Unrelenting, there is yet another battle to wage for Wiles.

The latest is over Young’s desire to fulfill a campaign promise allowing those 500 land owners to have their down zoned property “reconsidered” by the new board.

Her fight comes at the same time the Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley formally introduced his version of a “Dream Act.”  Known affectionately as Plan Maryland, it stakes out a goal to have all land use decisions stripped from local jurisdictions and placed in the hands of the State.

And who said we don’t need a Big Brother?

Pulling out her “Fuzzy Math” calculator and her experience at being intellectually dishonest, Wiles and more of her Friends recently sent a plea to Mr. O’Malley to use his powers to stop Young, who “vowed to reclassify and rezone thousands of acres of farmland and open space …”

Ironically, while she continues to claim that the sky is falling, residential real estate values continue to fall as well.

Based upon the current state of the real estate market, it’s a safe bet that the only place that the sky will fall with this effort is wherever Wiles is standing.

Maybe someday the sky will really fall on Frederick, but likely not in her lifetime.  If it does, Ms. Wiles can raise her angry fist from the grave and claim “I told you so.”

The irony is that Janice Wiles only seems to have relevance when everything she is angry about — the real estate development market — is in a boom cycle.

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Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He is an appointed member of the Frederick County Charter Board. He also writes

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