In this newsletter:
1. Tuesday, 10/18: The Overlay Hearing
ALERT: Please be there!
2. County Council to Vote on the Sugarloaf Plan 10/18
ALERT: We can’t yet count 4 votes for the Plan.
3. Donate Button at the Sugarloaf Website!
4. If You Can’t Be at Council Meetings in Person
Thanks to everyone who came to the 10/11 hearing! We didn’t have another ’sea of green,’ but there were a lot of green shirts, and commenters offered new and insightful perspectives for the Council to consider.
1. Tuesday 10/18: The Overlay Hearing
ALERT: It’s important to be there! Wear green.
On Tuesday, the County Council will hold its final hearings on Sugarloaf Plan related zoning legislation. A critical piece of the preservation mechanism for the Sugarloaf area is the Overlay District.
The Overlay District (Bill 22.25) is zoning legislation that would establish some legal requirements to support the Plan’s vision. As a practical matter, the Overlay doesn’t change current land uses, but it does add some prohibitions (such as gun ranges and rubble fills) and some environmentally protective steps that folks have to go through when applying for some new land uses (not agricultural or residential within current zoning). (Link note: To get to the legislation text, click on the 10/18 agenda. In the downloaded agenda, go to XIIIb and click the link there.)
We can’t yet count four votes for the Overlay preservation zoning. Why? Stronghold (Sugarloaf Mountain) is opposing this legislation. They want to be cut out of the Plan and Overlay - and they are threatening to close - but their concerns are misplaced. Again, neither the Plan nor the Overlay change current land uses. Other opposition comes from developers, builders, and realtors, who have expressed opposition to the Plan. Their interests aren’t in preservation; they want access to do more business on the west side of I-270.
In a bid to find “middle ground,” a majority on the Council could opt to pass the Plan but reject the Overlay, which would significantly decrease the Plan’s preservation power. If we’re going to succeed in both votes, the Council again needs to hear from the multitudes of residents who support preservation.
Your presence and your voice are still needed!
We expect the hearing on this bill and on Bill 22.24 (the establishment of a Private Park land use designation) to take place beginning around 7pm. If you would like to speak, the sign-up sheet is accessible at 5pm in the Winchester Hall lobby. It’s ok to sign up, go get dinner, and come back at 7pm. (Link note: To get to the legislation text, click on the 10/18 agenda. In the downloaded agenda, go to XIIIa and click the link there.)
We know you’ve already done a lot, but this is the last hearing and it’s a crucial one. This is a vote we could lose. If you can possibly make it, please show your support for the Overlay by attending the hearing. If you can’t be there in person, please call in with your comments (after 5:30pm on the 18th, as below). In either case, write to the County Council now supporting the Overlay District.
Here are some talking points in support of the Overlay District:
- Stronghold concerns about the Plan and Overlay are misplaced: County planning staff confirm that no current Stronghold activities will be affected by the Overlay.
- Without the Overlay enacted in legislation, the Sugarloaf Plan becomes merely another restating of visionary county plans that go back a half-century. "Vision" plans do not have the force of law. The Overlay legislation can provide meaningful protection for the Sugarloaf area.
- Having spent 2 1/2 years to get to this point, if this detailed area plan fails, don't expect success in creating other area plans called for by the Livable Frederick Master Plan. The LFMP may become just another "dead letter," an unfulfilled promise to the citizens of Frederick County.
2. Also on 10/18: County Council to Vote on the Sugarloaf Plan
Also on Tuesday, 10/18 the County Council will vote on the amended Sugarloaf Plan (which is separate from the zoning legislation). Looking at the Council’s agenda, the Plan vote is slipped in between other things; a time guesstimate might be 6:30ish, give or take. At 7:00pm, following their break, the Council will hold hearings amended Sugarloaf Plan-related zoning legislation [see #1 above].
The Sugarloaf Plan has been two-and-a-half years in the making, but finally, on Tuesday, the County Council will vote. The Plan includes the primary points for which you advocated:
-The boundary is drawn at I-270.
-The page 54 invitation to reopen the Plan soon is gone.
While significant compromises have been made, and the Sugarloaf Alliance has some reservations about these compromises, we believe the County Council should move forward and vote for the Plan.
Still, we can’t yet count four votes in favor of the Plan - some Council members are not signaling their intentions. Stronghold continues to say they will close Sugarloaf Mountain unless they are excluded from the Plan. In election season, one might imagine that Council Members are afraid they’ll be blamed at the polls for closing Sugarloaf.
Once again, please send your email comments to the Council now (see contact details below), and tell them:
- This is not a last-minute decision. The process of developing and considering the Sugarloaf Plan has taken two-and-a-half years.
- Stronghold has had participatory access from the start. In the beginning, Stronghold had three members on the Citizens Advisory Group. Everyone has had access to the County Planning Staff and the County Executive’s office. The Planning Commission and now the County Council hold their televised meetings in public, and there is always public comment time and opportunity to send written comments which are included in the public record.
- Not getting their way doesn’t mean Stronghold’s point of view wasn’t heard. It means their point of view hasn't convinced the county land use planning officials. Planning staff repeatedly have reassured everyone that the Plan and Overlay zoning do not affect Stronghold’s current operations.
- The Council should not succumb to coercive “or else” threats in creating land use policy. As the Sugarloaf Alliance said last week, “[P]olicy through extortion has no place in public affairs." If Stronghold actually attempts to follow through on their threat and close the mountain, Stronghold will be at fault for closing Sugarloaf, not Council Members. Read the full Sugarloaf Alliance statement.
Please encourage Council Members to demonstrate their leadership in smart, County land-use planning and vote for the Sugarloaf Plan and the Overlay.
3. Donations to Sugarloaf Alliance
A number of you have asked about donating to the Sugarloaf Alliance. After jumping through many, many “hoops” (in between meetings, writing comments and testifying…) we finally have a “donate” button at our website! You can use your credit card to make your tax deductible contributions. Every little bit helps.
Our organizational efforts will continue beyond the current consideration of the Sugarloaf Plan. There are other small area plans adjacent to this one. We have bills for our legal efforts pressing for transparency in Frederick County government, an effort that will continue. We also have normal “business” expenses for insurance, our website and flyers. We’re all volunteers doing this “business," working hard with you to preserve our beautiful Sugarloaf area. If you’d care to donate, please visit sugarloaf-alliance.org or send a check - payable to Sugarloaf Alliance - to our Treasurer, Nick Carrera, 2602 Thurston Road, Frederick, MD 21704. Thank you!
4. If You Can’t Be At Council Meetings in Person… or If You Have To Arrive Late or Leave Early….
The County Council will take phone calls. We recommend that you call in and record your comments AFTER the meeting begins at 5:30: Call 855-925-2801 and enter code 8365. You will be prompted to press * for more options. Press 2 to record a voicemail message that will be played during the meeting.
Watch the meeting online: https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/1225/FCG-TV
Email your comments to the County Council at firstname.lastname@example.org
Email or call your Council Member, the At-Large Members, and County Executive Candidate Fitzwater:
Steve McKay (District 2), SMcKay@frederickcountymd.gov, 301-600-1034
Michael Blue (VP, District 5) MBlue@FrederickCountyMD.gov, 301-600-1034
Jerry Donald* (District 1), JDonald@FrederickCountyMD.gov, 301-600-2336
Jessica Fitzwater (District 4), JFitzwater@FrederickCountyMD.gov, 301-600-2336
M.C. Keegan-Ayer (Pres., District 3), MCKeegan-Ayer@FrederickCountyMD.gov, 301-600-1101
Kai Hagen (At Large), KHagen@FrederickCountyMD.gov, 301-600-2336
Phil Dacey (at Large), PDacey@FrederickCountyMD.gov, 301-600-1034
* The Sugarloaf Plan area is within Councilman Donald’s district.
It takes all of us!
The Sugarloaf Alliance represents over 400 stakeholders in the Sugarloaf region. The Alliance’s mission is to protect the unique natural and historical aspects of the Sugarloaf Mountain area and its environment through education and initiatives in support of watersheds, streams, meadows, forests, and historic sites. Working with volunteers, civic groups, and local, state, and federal agencies, the organization’s primary goal is to preserve the unique character and serenity of the area for future generations. Sugarloaf Alliance is a 501(c)(3) organization. Sugarloaf-Alliance.org
Steve Black, President
Sue Trainor, Vice President
Nick Carrera, Treasurer
Johanna Springston, Secretary