1. UPDATE: County Council Votes on Sugarloaf Plan
Tuesday night, 10/25, the County Council took several actions:
They discussed and rejected Mr. Hagen’s proposed compromise to take RC zoning out of the Overlay. The purpose of the compromise was to address recent objections centered around Stronghold’s threat to close the mountain. Mr. Hagen's proposal was intended to satisfy Stronghold; Sugarloaf Mountain is all RC. The proposal also would have taken another 7,000 acres out of the Overlay (mostly around the mountain and along the Monocacy River), but RC already is the most restrictive zoning in the County, so Sugarloaf Alliance reluctantly supported the compromise. The compromise failed 3-4. Members Hagen, McKay and Donald voted for, Members Keegan-Ayers, Fitzwater, Blue and Dacey voted against.
Council Member Fitzwater proposed eliminating the Overlay language from the Sugarloaf Plan. This proposal passed 4-3. Members Fitzwater, Keegan-Ayers, Blue and Dacey voted in favor. Members Hagen, McKay and Donald voted against.
Council Member Fitzwater moved to adopt the Sugarloaf Plan without the Overlay language. The motion passed; all Members voted in favor.
County Executive Jan Gardner spoke during public comment at the beginning of the meeting, setting the stage for the compromise to be rejected and the Overlay language deleted from the Plan. Members of the Sugarloaf Alliance found Ms. Gardner’s arguments (repeated by Ms. Fitzwater and Ms. Keegan-Ayers) to be circular, at best. [FYI, we were going to attach a link to the meeting video so you could hear it for yourself, but the County site says that meeting videos are currently unavailable. We’ll try again soon.]
2. Thanks for all you’ve done to support preservation.
You collaborated, you did research, you testified before the Planning Commission and the County Council, you called and emailed and signed petitions, you shared on social media, you wrote letters to the editor, you distributed flyers and took photos of our beautiful landscape, you wore green and showed up at meetings over and over again…. And we made a powerful case. We have much to be proud of!
We now have a Sugarloaf Plan with the I-270 boundary.
3. ACTION: What We Can Do Going Forward
The Plan is one step forward, but with the failure to pass the Overlay, we learned that our powerful case for preservation, made by multitudes of citizens, still does not overcome the influence of moneyed interests and large landowners in the Frederick County political arena.
The Sugarloaf Alliance already is working in the legal arena to unearth the backroom maneuvering, the conversations and agreements, that have been part of the Plan’s development all along. We are offended that county government isn’t operating with transparency. Using Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests, we revealed Natelli Properties held briefings to the Secretaries of the Maryland Departments of Commerce and Planning prior to those agencies issuing their Plan advice letters to Frederick County. We also have filed MPIA requests with Frederick County seeking the communications around the boundary cut-outs in the 2021 version of the Plan, including the closed meetings with Amazon Web Services. We’ve received some information, but Frederick County has been resistant and even unresponsive in some cases (which is not legal), and we are in court.
The information we are seeking will be important as we move ahead with a new County Executive and with new Council Members. Sugarloaf Alliance has retained a top-notch MPIA attorney and a top-notch land-use attorney.
In addition, it’s useful to keep a bigger picture in mind: The Sugarloaf Plan is the first of ten small area plans under Livable Frederick. The same transparency issues are in play. Areas adjacent to the Sugarloaf Plan will be addressed. The way the Sugarloaf Plan was left with no “teeth,” we fully expect development pressure to gear up. So, sadly, we aren’t done.
What would be most helpful now is donations to help with Sugarloaf Alliance legal fees. Your donation is tax deductible. Please click here to go to the donations page at our website, sugarloaf-alliance.org. Just a reminder, Sugarloaf-Alliance is all-volunteer. We aren’t engaged in advocacy for a living or even as a hobby. Sugarloaf Alliance has no membership fee. Our only interest is to join with like-minded folks to preserve this treasured landscape.