The Overlay Boundary, Piecemeal Zoning, and the Q-Loop
1. The Overlay Boundary: 4/19 Discussion at the Planning Commission
The most important question still before the Planning Commission is: Where will the Overlay District regulations appy?
Status: At their March meeting, the Planning Commission discussed details of several Overlay provisions, including lighting and building size. They voted to limit the maximum non-agricultural, non-residential building size to 7500 square feet (15,000 sq. ft. had been proposed). Planning staff suggested removing the Forestry section from the Overlay, but Commissioners wanted to discuss it more. We expect that to come up in April’s meeting as well as the boundary question.
Commissioners remarked that they had received many emails from the public (give yourselves a pat on the back), and we are pleased to say that “this is a preservation plan, not a development plan” was repeated several times by Commissioners during their discussion.
We expect the Overlay boundary to be discussed on 4/19. The developer still would like to see the Rt. 80 boundary and the Thurston Road cut-out applied to the Overlay. Please keep those emails rolling in! Use your own words, but your message to the Planning Commission can be short and direct:
We believe the Overlay District boundary should be the same as the Sugarloaf Plan boundary. Please hold the line at I-270.
We support retaining the forestry language in the Overlay legislation.
Please see #4 below for email addresses and other connection info.
2. Other Important April Dates
4/11 Sugarloaf Alliance v. Frederick County in Circuit Court
Sugarloaf Alliance has been filing Public Information Access (PIA) requests to achieve transparency in Sugarloaf Plan-relevant decision-making processes. Our PIAs have focused particularly on the county’s decision to propose the Rt. 80 boundary and the Thurston Road cut-out to the Planning Commission in 2021. That boundary would exclude developer-owned property from the preservation plan. We could see from what was publicly available that Amazon Web Services was involved (click here to read more).
Long-story-short, the county was unresponsive to our PIAs, repeatedly, in ways that violated state law, and so Sugarloaf Alliance sued the county. The trial date was Tuesday, 4/11. The presiding judge has given himself six weeks to consider his decision.
4/18 SA Opposes the Precedent-Setting Rezoning Before the County Council
Sugarloaf Alliance is concerned about an upcoming Council decision that ultimately could make it easier for development dominos to fall in the Sugarloaf area.
At issue is the Windridge property, adjacent to the Quantum Loophole site in Adamstown. The owners have applied to be rezoned from agricultural to industrial, citing a change in the neighborhood. Planning staff recommended against this piecemeal rezoning request, because it would set a precedent that undermines comprehensive zoning decisions. At the end of an already long long difficult day, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the rezoning to the County Council. On Tuesday, 4/18, the County Council will begin their consideration.
Here’s the problem: Generally, properties are rezoned in “big picture,” comprehensive processes - not one by one. The exception is "a change in the neighborhood." In this case, the adjacent property already was industrial - EastAlco. The planning staff recommended against rezoning because, at this time, there is no change in the neighborhood.
Sugarloaf Alliance is recommending that the County Council vote against the Windridge piecemeal zoning request. Historically, piecemeal zoning is rare, because it undermines the principle of comprehensive zoning. Once a precedent is set, however, we can expect that a parade of piecemeal rezoning requests will follow. Guess where.
4/27 Quantum Loophole (Data Centers) Special Exception at the Board of Zoning Appeals
We’ll say more about this as the date gets closer, but what we’ve learned is that Quantum Loophole, the company that says they’re developing the world's largest data center complex in Adamstown, is out of compliance as regards permits for drilling in flood plain areas. They are drilling to bury the Qloop. According to their website, "QLoop network is a massive a 40± mile hyperscale fiber ring connecting Quantum Loophole’s 2,100+ acre Quantum Frederick data center development in Maryland to Northern Virginia’s Data Center Alley” (quantumloophole.com). Our research shows that there is a stop-work order in place.
The Alliance is not opposed to data centers in the county, sited in appropriate locations. We are supporting best practices legislation so that we don’t suffer the unfortunate consequences we hear about in northern Virginia. We will be asking you to send your comments to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Stay tuned.
3. More Results from Sugarloaf Alliance Public Information Access Requests
And, yes, there’s more! Unlike Frederick County, the state government is cooperative about PIAs. The Hogan administration was deeply involved in the Amazon data center plans. We have received from the state the draft Conceptual Site Plan that explains the Thurston Road property replatting Natelli filed with the county in March 2021. Yes, data centers.
Another interesting piece of information associated with the plat has to do with pollutants: In MD, any facility is permitted to release up to 25 tons per year of NOx (nitrogen oxides). If you have “co-located facilities" you are required to keep the total release for the entire 'campus' under 25 tons. Amazon Web Services wanted to raise that limit by saying that the two sets of data centers were separated by land owned by a third party. This effectively doubled the level of pollutant they were allowed to release. It’s not clear if MDE was going to accept this.
4. You Make a Difference!
Please write to the Planning Commission before 4/19 to reaffirm your support for the I-270 boundary. The Overlay District should cover the full area of the Sugarloaf Plan.
Write to the Planning Commission at this email address: email@example.com
Please also copy the County Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also copy the County Executive: email@example.com
The meeting begins at 9:30am. You can call into the meeting and make your comments live (during the comment period) or record them:
855-925-2801, Enter Code: 8768
Press * for meeting options.
Press 1 to listen to the meeting.
If you would like to make a live comment on a particular agenda item, please use option 1 until the Planning Commission specifically calls for comment on a particular agenda item, at which time press *3 to be placed in a muted queue to speak during the Planning Commission meeting. Do not press *3 until comment is called for by the Planning Commission for the agenda item on which you would like to comment.
Press 2 to record a comment.
Please clearly indicate on which agenda item you are commenting. Also, please state your name and address but do not say your phone number as your message will be played during the live meeting.
You can attend the 4/19 meeting, 9:30am, in person (see the agenda here) at Winchester Hall, 12 E Church St, Frederick. You also can watch the proceedings on the Frederick government TV channel at https://frederick.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=59
5. Sugarloaf Alliance Makes a Difference!
As you can see from all of the above, members of the Sugarloaf Alliance have been working tirelessly to support preservation in our county’s Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape AND to inform you about what’s going on.
Sugarloaf Alliance volunteers work for free, but we do have some organizational expenses and substantial legal bills. We DO need your help!
It’s easy to donate to Sugarloaf Alliance. Here’s a link to our website donation button.
Another way to donate: If you can volunteer some time to help in this effort, we’d love to hear from you! Please respond to this email.
The Sugarloaf Alliance represents over 450 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