Sugarloaf Overlay on the County Council Agenda
Tuesday, 11/14, Meeting begins at 5:30pm
Winchester Hall, 12 E. Church St, Frederick
The Frederick County Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the Sugarloaf Overlay District on Tuesday, 11/14. This session begins the Council’s reconsideration of the Sugarloaf Plan’s legislative preservation regulations. At this meeting, we are told, the Council also will set a timetable leading to their vote. (Because this is legislation, the Council is required to have three scheduled “readings” and a public hearing prior to taking a vote.)
County Council meetings begin at 5:30pm in Winchester Hall, 12 East Church Street, Frederick. Remote viewing and participation options are detailed at the Council’s web page here.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW to Support the Overlay:
Please write an email ASAP to County Council Members encouraging them to support the Overlay District as recommended by the Frederick County Planning Commission. Find County Council contact info here.
The Sugarloaf Alliance Supports:
The Overlay’s I-270 boundary from Montgomery County to the Monocacy.
The Overlay and the Plan’s preservation goals for the Sugarloaf area, which include the following:
- “To address the scale and visual impact of land uses and developments that can degrade rural qualities, excessively burden the transportation network, and overwhelm the scenic and rural nature of the Sugarloaf Planning area
- “To minimize adverse impacts of land development activities on forestlands and natural habitats
- “To regulate the amount of impervious surfaces to control the volume of stormwater runoff and stream bank erosion, maintain levels of groundwater infiltration, and retain as many of the functions provided by natural land as possible”.
CONTEXT: One year ago, the County Council voted to pass an amended version of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan (the small area plan that describes preservation intent in this area), approving the I-270 boundary and eliminating the Thurston Road cut-out. However - in response to objections by developers, other commercial entities, and Stronghold - the Council sent the Overlay legislation (the Plan’s regulatory “teeth”) back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration.
Here’s what the Planning Commission had to say on 10/11/23 when they voted to approve the Overlay District (for the second time) and send it back to the Council:
- Commissioner White: "We listened to an awful lot of people and a lot of thoughts on all sides and still came to the same kind of conclusions…. This was considered almost from scratch….”
- Commissioner Hicks: “I want to make it clear that, from my perspective and I believe the Planning Commission’s perspective, it was indeed Stronghold who opted out of this process and decided to discontinue the dialog that we wished to have with them.”
- Commissioner Rensberger: “I think we also uncovered… that there was bad information - disinformation - out there about the Plan.” (Regarding the portable sawmill) - “Someone scared him; I don’t know who." (Regarding the auto repair shop) - "Somebody, peddling misinformation, put fear in him.”
- Commissioner White, adding to the “approve” motion: “Do pass!”
- Commissioner Rensberger: “We mean it!”
See for yourself: The Planning Commission meeting video is available at the county website. It’s useful to watch from about 5 hours, 8 minutes into the meeting and listen to the strength of the PC emphasis directed at the County Council toward passing the Overlay. https://frederick.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=10&clip_id=9554
ARE THERE STILL OBJECTIONS TO APPROVING THE OVERLAY? Yes. We observe that opposition comes primarily from folks who want to develop here or want to retain an option to develop by rezoning from ag to industrial, commercial, and/or higher density residential. The Overlay does not affect current uses. The focus of the Overlay’s preservation language is to limit future development into non-ag, industrial, commercial, or more dense residential land use that would be inconsistent with the goals of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan approved last year.
The properties most at-risk for development are on the west side of I-270, along Rt. 80 and along Thurston Road. These properties currently are included in the preservation area of the Sugarloaf Plan and are within the proposed Overlay boundary. These properties were included on the County-produced draft Data Center Floating Zone map, which outlines 9,400 acres targeted for data centers in southern Frederick County.
The Sugarloaf Alliance will continue to advocate for the Overlay’s I-270 boundary. We encourage you to do so as well.
The Livable Frederick Master Plan’s “Making Our Environment Vision A Reality” includes “Category: Land: Goal: …The natural environment and its habitat provision and ecosystem services are critical to our quality of life, and so they should be the primary consideration in all land planning and governmental decision-making processes.”