The Secret
Amazon Data Center Project
at Sugarloaf

The following was submitted to the Frederick County Council by the Sugarloaf Alliance on 9/26/22

The Sugarloaf Alliance has obtained information indicating that Amazon Web Services intends
to build one or more data center complex(s) on the West side of I-270, within the current
boundaries of the draft Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan. We believe that
current efforts to move the plan boundary away from I-270 (the Dacey Amendment) are related
to this secret Amazon project.


In its efforts to understand the process used to draft the Sugarloaf Plan and to uncover the facts
behind non-public, backroom changes to the draft plan in spring 2021, the Sugarloaf Alliance
filed Public Information Act requests with various state and local government offices. In
reaction to a lawsuit by Sugarloaf Alliance, Frederick County has belatedly started the process
of releasing relevant documents and summaries of documents. By using the information
released by Frederick County, local and national press reports, and other sources, the Sugarloaf
Alliance is now able to describe the Amazon Web Service plan to build data center complexes in
the Sugarloaf region.


In the summer of 2021 news began to break of a secret Amazon Web Services (AWS) project to
build Data Centers in southern Frederick County.1 At the time the potential locations of these
sites were only vaguely described.


“Frederick County officials said realtors, on behalf of Amazon, spoke with landowners in
Urbana, Brunswick and Adamstown about selling their property.”(2)


Critical Digital Infrastructure Floating Zone


We now know that the AWS plan for Frederick County, known as Project Holiday, dates to at
least early 2021 and likely began in 2020.(3,4) The development of a “Critical Digital
Infrastructure Floating Zone (CDI-FZ)” was central to the Amazon plan. Development of the
proposed CDI-FZ zoning text and related map involved most if not all of the senior staff of the
Department of Planning. Senior members of the Office of Economic development were also
involved in the development of the CDI-FZ.(5)


The Amazon Project was treated as a confidential project within Frederick County
Government.(6) Even now, Frederick County Government is withholding documents related to
Project Holiday and the Critical Digital Infrastructure Floating Zone.(7, 2)


Despite its secrecy, select people outside Frederick County Government were aware of and
involved with the Amazon Data Centers project.8 Bruce Dean, a Frederick attorney and
registered lobbyist for Natelli Communities, not only submitted draft language for the CDI
zoning text amendment but also received copies of draft CDI-FZ language and maps.(9, 10, 11)
In one March 2021 email to county officials concerning the CDI issue Mr. Dean copied Mr.
Natelli, his client.(12) At that time Mr. Natelli owned or otherwise controlled about 500 acres of
agricultural and resource conservation land along the West side of I-270 in the Sugarloaf region.


The March 2021 Cutout


By late February 2021 the planning staff’s work on the draft Sugarloaf plan had reached a point
where it could be released to the public.(13, 14) Planning staff scheduled a briefing for the County
Council and planned a series of Planning Commission workshops to start on April 14, 2021.(15)
On March 2, 2021, Steve Horn, Director of Planning met with Jan Gardner, County Executive.
The Sugarloaf Plan was discussed.(16) That day a senior staff member wrote in an email to Horn,
“Hopefully after tomorrow’s discussion, our path forward with Sugarloaf will be clear.”(17) It is
not yet known who participated in this staff meeting.


After March 3, 2021, preparation for release of the draft Sugarloaf plan ceased. The updated
draft plan, scheduled for distribution to members of the citizen Advisory Board was withheld.
Briefings to the County Council were postponed.(18) Following the March 3 staff meeting the
draft plan began a period of renewed editing and modification.(19)


By the end of April staff had settled on a new boundary for the Sugarloaf Plan area.
Comparison of the March 2, 2021 internal staff draft and the July 2021 publicly released draft
shows that the primary change in the Plan is the removal of a large swath of land along the
West side of I-270 from the plan area.(20, 21) Other changes to the document all seem to be a
result of this boundary change (for example changes in total acreage of the Plan area). (22) Also,
text is added to explain and justify the boundary change. The source of this new language
remains unknown.


While the Sugarloaf plan was being changed, before the public was aware of the new plan
boundary, Mr. Natelli began preparing his property for a non-agricultural use. The July 2021
draft Sugarloaf Plan was released to the public on July 30, 2021.(23) Well in advance of the public
release of the draft plan Natelli Holdings II, LLC began preparations to file a “Plat Addition” (a
change in the property lines of multiple contiguous parcels with the same owner).


 

On July 28, 2021, Rodgers Consulting, on behalf of Natelli Holdings II, LLC, filed a replating of
“Natelli South.”24 This set of parcels totaling several hundred acres are located South of the Rt
80 / I-270 interchange. This is the region removed from the draft March 2021 Sugarloaf Plan.
The new property lines do not suggest a residential or agricultural use. The new property
layout shows a probable entrance from Thurston Rd, a curved area, and two parcels separated by a

corridor, suggesting a commercial / industrial use having two installations. Two of the three new parcels

do not have road access.


Personnel from Rodgers Consulting, including its President and CEO Mr. Dusty Rood, were also
directly involved in the creation of the Critical Digital Infrastructure Floating Zone.(25)
On July 30, 2021, the first “public” draft of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management
Plan was released. When compared with the February 2021 internal staff draft of the plan
some 490 acres are “cut out” of the plan boundary, including the 381 acres of “Natelli South.”(26)
Figures 1 through 3 show the evolution of the Sugarloaf Plan boundary and the area proposed
for replating by Natelli Holdings.


CDI and the Sugarloaf Cutout

 

 


The link between the county’s secret work on the Amazon-driven Critical Digital Infrastructure
Floating Zone and the Sugarloaf plan modification is made clear in a pair of emails from a
planning staffer to the principal author of the Sugarloaf Plan.(27, 28) By the end of April 2021,
significant work had been completed on the CDI-FZ. Also, the County had retracted the March
version of the Sugarloaf plan and was in the process of reworking the plan to address its new
boundaries.(29, 30) A staff member wrote two emails asking a simple question:
“cdi? What is it stand for re Sugarloaf” [sic]


The emails themselves are being withheld by the County and their full content has not been
released. The County’s summary of the email states “This record discusses questions related to
the description of CDI and its implementation within the County.”(31)


The Amazon Meetings


On August 16 and 24, 2021 the Frederick County Council met in closed sessions to discuss “…a
matter that concerns the proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand, or
remain in the State.”(32)
In addition to the County Council members and nine other county officials,

nine senior personnel representing Amazon Web Services attended the closed meetings.


The following AWS personnel attended the August 16 closed meeting:
Michael Punke, Vice President of Public Policy for Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Shannon Kellogg, Vice President of Public Policy at Amazon
Tony Burkart, Principal, Economic Development · AWS
Sarah Sheehan, Public Policy, AWS
Becky Ford, Manager, AWS Economic Development - Global Infrastructure
Keith Klein, Managing Principal-Americas-AWS Real Estate Acquisition and Development(4)
Amy Vetal, Senior Real Estate Transaction Manager at AWS.
Garrett Jansma, Environmental Policy Manager · AWS
Matt Mincieli, Manager, AWS Public Policy - Northeast


One of the Amazon participants, Tony Burkart, describes his job this way: “As Principal of
Economic Development, within the Global Public Policy organization, I oversee and manage,
site selection, infrastructure development and credits & incentives projects, state and local
government affairs with global scope. I lead discussions with state and local government
agencies, regulatory, planning, permitting, and taxing authorities in support of our
infrastructure development teams.”(33)


Also, in attendance at the closed meeting on August 16 were:
Bruce Dean, a land-use and real estate development lawyer, Frederick
Eric Soter, Principal and Director of Research & Analytics at Rodgers Consulting,
Maryland. Soter is also the former Director of Planning for Frederick County


Both Mr. Dean and Mr. Soter are employed by Natelli Communities and perform professional
service for a range of Natelli projects. Dean and Soter are both, as of July 2022, registered as
Lobbyists for various Natelli entities.(34) Mr. Dean and Mr. and Soter were directly involved in the
development of the proposed Critical Digital Infrastructure Floating Zone.(35)


According to statements from participants in the closed meetings, the discussions were
“informational.”(36) The County Council discussed “all the possible requirements” of the Amazon
proposal.(37) Participants described the meetings as extensive discussion of “changes to various

  • areas of the County Code” and revisions to “prior Resolutions.”(38

Amazon Sugarloaf Project


This wealth of new information allows us to draw several important conclusions.

- Properties owned by a developer along the west side of I-270 were part of the AmazonWeb Service

plan to establish a series of Data Center complexes in southern Frederick County.


-The draft Sugarloaf Plan was modified in March and April of 2021 for the purpose of excluding these

properties from the preservation goals of the Sugarloaf Plan so that they would be available for

Amazon use. The draft plan boundary shown in the July 2021 version of the Sugarloaf Plan depicts this exclusion.


-All aspects of the Amazon Web Service plan for Frederick County Data Center sites were
discussed in a pair of closed County Council meetings in August 2021. These discussions
would have necessarily included full details of the proposed Data Center sites, including
those planned for the Sugarloaf region.(5)


As the Sugarloaf Alliance receives more information on connections between Amazon and the
Sugarloaf Plan development process, we will share them with the Council and public as quickly
as possible.


Sincerely,
The Sugarloaf Alliance

 


Attachments:
Figure 1: March 2, 2021, staff draft Sugarloaf Plan.
Figure 2: Natelli properties July 28, 2021, replating.
Figure 3: July 30, 2021, first publicly released draft Sugarloaf Plan.
6
1 Hogan, J., “Amazon sought to invest billions, bring data centers to Frederick County.”

Frederick News Post, 2/8/22.
2 Hogan, J., “Amazon sought to invest billions, bring data centers to Frederick County.”

Frederick News Post, 2/8/22.
3 Kim, Eugene, et al. “Secret Amazon Projects Try to Mitigate Outage-Prone AWS Cloud Region.”

Business Insider, 12/10/21.
4 Email 2/3/21, Subject: final draft- critical digital infrastructure, From: Wilkins, Michael. To: Brandt,

Kimberly G., Superczynski, Denis, Moore, Ashley, DeSa, Tolson. This record discusses an internal draft

copy of proposed language relating to CDI Text Amendments by County Employees, including Planning

Staff.
5 Email 4/11/21, Subject: Re: Project Holiday, From: Brandt, Kimberly G., To: Gardner, Jan, Wilkins,

Michael, CC: Horn, Steve. This record discusses an upcoming meeting with the County Executive relating

to an [sic] potential Office of Economic Development (OED) Project, and related topics, and includes notes related to that meeting. This email includes the phrase “Critical Digital Infrastructure.”
6 Email 3/18/21, Subject: Re: the plan..., From: Horn, Steve, To: Brandt, Kimberly G. This email discusses updates to the Sugarloaf Area Plan as it moved through the drafting process. This is part of a confidential internal discussion within a County Department.
7 See Frederick County MPIA response file “Bryon Black - All Results__Vaughn Sheet.pdf” dated August 31, 2022. This file, or Vaughn index, lists all of the files related to the Sugarloaf Alliance PIA requests that are

being witheld.
8 Email 3/12/21, Subject: Draft CDI Zoning Language, From: Propheter, Helen, To: [REDACTED], Bruce

Dean, CC: Gardner, Jan, Wilkins, Michael, Brandt, Kimberly G. This record contains draft language of the proposed CDI Zoning Bill.
9 Email: 3/23/21, Subject: [REDACTED] From: Bruce Dean, To: Brandt, Kimberly G., Wilkins, Michael, Hessong, Gary, CC: Tom Natelli, [REDACTED], Eric Soter, Dusty Rood, Lisa Graditor. This record

contains information received from a person outside of Frederick County Government, and the

information contained within is commercial in nature, and was provided to the County under an assurance

of privacy. This email contains the phrase “Critical Digital Infrastructure.”
10 Email 4/6/21, Subject: CDI – Bruce Dean Comments, From: Brandt, Kimberly G. To: Gardner, Jan. This

email contains a draft copy of proposed language relating to CDI Text Amendments provided by an outside person.
11 Email 4/11/21, Subject: Fw: CDI – Bruce Dean Comments, From: Brandt, Kimberly G. To: Gardner, Jan.

CC: Horn, Steve ,Wilkins, Michael. This email contains a draft copy of proposed language relating to CDI

Text Amendments provided by an outside person.
12 Email: 3/23/21, Subject: [REDACTED] From: Bruce Dean, To: Brandt, Kimberly G., Wilkins, Michael, Hessong, Gary, CC: Tom Natelli, [REDACTED], Eric Soter, Dusty Rood, Lisa Graditor. This record contains information received from a person outside of Frederick County Government, and the information contained within is commercial in nature, and was provided to the County under an assurance of privacy. This email contains the phrase “Critical Digital Infrastructure.”
13 Email 2/20/22. Subject: Draft Sugarloaf Plan. From: Brandt, Kimberly G, To: Brandt, Kimberly G., Bradley, Anne, DeSa, Tolson, Wilkins, Michael, Sinton, Thomas, Mitchell, Kathy (Legal), CC: Hessong, Gary, Horn, Steve. This email distributes a draft copy of the Sugarloaf Plan for review by other County Employees,

including Planning Staff and Legal Staff. The record includes the copy of the Sugarloaf Plan draft as an attachment, reflecting changes requested by other staff members. Horn Vaughn – 1.
14 “March 2021 DRAFT Sugarloaf Plan” PDF file created 3/2/21. Sugarloaf Alliance obtained this file via an October 5, 2021 Public Information Act request. Frederick County PIA #72896.
15 Email 3/2/21. Subject: Extra PC Meetings for Sugarloaf Workshops, From: Brandt, Kimberly G, To: Horn, Steve, Wilkins, Michael, CC: Wolfgang, Patricia. Horn – 11.
16 Email 2/25/21. Subject: Meeting with CE Gardner.3.2.21, From: Horn, Steve, To: Gardner, Jan, CC: Harcum, Rick, Spiegel, Janice, Edsall, Athena, Barlet, Lori. This record contains thoughts and topics of discussion for an upcoming meeting with the County Executive. This is an internal communication, sent by Mr. Horn to the Executive and related parties, concerning items to be discussed during an upcoming meeting. This email contains the phrase “Sugarloaf”.
17 Email 3/2/21. Subject: Extra PC Meetings for Sugarloaf Workshops, From: Brandt, Kimberly G, To: Horn, Steve, Wilkins, Michael, CC: Wolfgang, Patricia. Horn – 11.
18 Email 4/6/21, Subject: Fwd: Reschedule. From: Horn, Steve, To: Brandt, Kimberly G. Horn-45.
19 Email 3/18/21, Subject: Re: the plan.... From: Horn, Steve, To: Brandt, Kimberly G. This email discusses updates to the Sugarloaf Area Plan as it moved through the drafting process. Horn Vaughn – 39.
20 Email 4/27/21. Subject: Revised Sugarloaf Planning Area, From: Brandt, Kimberly G. To: Horn, Steve.

This email discussed, and contains an attachment of, the Sugarloaf Planning Area. Horn Vaughn – 35.
21 Email 4/30/21. Subject: Re: Revised Sugarloaf Planning Area, From: Brandt, Kimberly G. To: Gardner,

Jan, Horn, Steve. This email discussed, and contains an attachment of, the Sugarloaf Planning Area. Horn Vaughn – 37.
22 “March 2021 DRAFT Sugarloaf Plan” PDF file created 3/2/21. Sugarloaf Alliance obtained this file via an October 5, 2021, Public Information Act request. Frederick County PIA #72896.
23 Frederick County News Release, “Livable Frederick Releases Draft Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Managment Plan.” July 30, 2021. Available at https://frederickcountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/333102/Press-Release-Sugarloaf--Planning
24 Rodgers Consulting Inc. “Addition Plat. Part of the Lands of Natelli Holdings II, LLC to Natelli

Holdings II, LLC. July 28, 2021. RCI Job No. 1341A. Available at https://planningandpermitting.frederickcountymd.gov/delegate/civicsapi/
api/core/attachments/c9b8f7c04e9a4bdcb1528b8ec8f544bd/stream?fname=Natelli%20Holdings%20Addition
%20Plat%201%20(2021-07-28).pdf
25 Email: 3/23/21, Subject: [REDACTED] From: Bruce Dean, To: Brandt, Kimberly G., Wilkins, Michael, Hessong, Gary, CC: Tom Natelli, [REDACTED], Eric Soter, Dusty Rood, Lisa Graditor. This record contains information received from a person outside of Frederick County Government, and the information contained within is commercial in nature, and was provided to the County under an assurance of privacy. This email contains the phrase “Critical Digital Infrastructure.”
26 “March 2021 DRAFT Sugarloaf Plan” PDF file created 3/2/21. Sugarloaf Alliance obtained this file via an October 5, 2021, Public Information Act request. Frederick County PIA #72896.
27 Email 4/22/21. Subject: Re: cdi? What is it stand for re Sugarloaf?, From: Keju, Dail, To: Goodfellow,

Tim. This email discusses questions related to the description of CDI and its implementation within the County. Phrases Vaughn – 88.8.

28 Email 4/22/21. Subject: Re: cdi? What is it stand for re Sugarloaf?, From: Keju, Dail, To: Goodfellow, Tim.

This email discusses questions related to the description of CDI and its implementation within the County. Phrases, Vaughn – 89.
29 Email 4/27/21. Subject: Revised Sugarloaf Planning Area, From: Brandt, Kimberly G., To: Horn, Steve.

This email discussed, and contains an attachment of, the Sugarloaf Planning Area. Horn Vaughn – 35.
30 Email 4/30/21. Subject: Re: Revised Sugarloaf Planning Area, From: Brandt, Kimberly G., To: Gardner,

Jan, Horn, Steve. This email discussed, and contains an attachment of, the Sugarloaf Planning Area. Horn Vaughn – 37.
31 Email 4/27/21. Subject: Revised Sugarloaf Planning Area, From: Brandt, Kimberly G., To: Horn, Steve.

This email discussed, and contains an attachment of, the Sugarloaf Planning Area. Horn Vaughn – 35.
32 COUNTY COUNCIL OF FREDERICK COUNTY MEETING MINUTES Monday, August 16 & 17,

2021.
33 LinkedIn page for “Tony Burkart”.
34 https://frederickcountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4247/Lobbyists-Currently-Registered?bidId=.
35 Email: 3/23/21, Subject: [REDACTED] From: Bruce Dean, To: Brandt, Kimberly G., Wilkins, Michael, Hessong, Gary, CC: Tom Natelli, [REDACTED], Eric Soter, Dusty Rood, Lisa Graditor. This record contains information received from a person outside of Frederick County Government, and the information contained within is commercial in nature, and was provided to the County under an assurance of privacy. This email contains the phrase “Critical Digital Infrastructure.”
36 Hogan, J. “Maryland board finds Frederick County Council violated Open Meetings Act” Frederick News Post, 11/30/21.
37 Frederick County Council Statement on the OMCB Opinion 11/29/21 Issued 12/21/21.
38 Frederick County Council Statement on the OMCB Opinion 11/29/21 Issued 12/21/21

Fig 1.jpeg
Fig 2 NatelliPlatAddition.jpeg
Fig 3.jpeg