In Support of the Sugarloaf Plan Overlay

June 8, 2022

Dear Planning Commission Members:

            The Sugarloaf Alliance was pleased to see such a large turnout at the May 18th public hearing for the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan.  It was nice to see the residents of the Sugarloaf area take such an interest and pride in their community.  It also was nice to hear so many residents comment not only on their love for their property but for the Sugarloaf area as a whole.  There seemed to be great unity among the residents that this area is unique in its beauty, natural resources, and history with a desire to keep it that way.  We heard most of the residents strongly affirm the Plan’s purpose of preservation.

            While residents appeared to be unified in their desire to preserve the Sugarloaf area, there was some disagreement in how to accomplish that goal.  Some who spoke did not understand why the County is proposing to rezone parts of their properties from agricultural to resource conservation.  There were concerns that they could no longer use the rezoned land for agricultural purposes.  This assumption is not true.  We are hopeful that the County can clear up these misunderstandings in order to help affected property owners better understand the necessity of rezoning certain sensitive areas to avoid environmental degradation.   

            The majority of residents spoke in favor of the Preservation Overlay Zoning District.  Those who opposed it mostly seemed concerned about a reduction in their property rights.  While we understand these concerns, the Sugarloaf Alliance believes that the extraordinary development pressures that currently exist in southern Frederick County merit extra protection for this small area of land.  The Sugarloaf Plan area comprises less than 5% of the area of Frederick County; yet, as we write this letter, there are developers who own agricultural land within this area who are claiming a right to rezone and develop.  Additionally, on the east side of I-270, there has been and will continue to be tremendous growth—making it more imperative than ever that the County fully protect this treasured landscape.

            In the State of Maryland’s comments, there are concerns stated regarding the Plan’s consistency with the Livable Frederick Master Plan (LFMP).  We see the Sugarloaf Plan as wholly consistent with the LFMP.  With its preservation focus, the Sugarloaf Plan advances one of the LFMP’s primary goals to “ensure that the places, buildings, and environments that exemplify the distinct identity of Frederick County continue to thrive as important elements of our community.”  Within this broad goal are supporting initiatives that emphasize maintaining our agricultural and historic identity and preserving our natural landscapes. 

The State of Maryland also raises concerns about future economic development along the I-270 corridor.   As Mr. Goodfellow documented, there is a long history in Frederick County that I-270 is the boundary between development to the east and preservation to the west. All development, heretofore, has been concentrated along I-270 on the east side where the infrastructure exists or will exist in the future to support it.  Any development on the west side of I-270 increases the threat to the Sugarloaf Plan area’s stated goals of environmental and rural character preservation.

The State of Maryland has no concrete plans to add lane capacity to I-270 nor extend transit from Montgomery County.Without these transportation improvements, any development along the I-270 corridor in Frederick County is severely limited. Currently, LFMP does designate commercial development opportunities in the Urbana Growth Area on the east side of I-270 for any developer who wishes to pursue them, but, due to a lack of commercial interest, one developer has transferred a large east-side commercial tract from employment to residential.

 

We agree with the State’s assessment that the “Sugarloaf area is an important part of the State’s tourism and outdoor recreation sectors.”As such, it merits protection from development which would not only harm it’s fragile environment, but would render it less attractive to visitors.

The Sugarloaf Alliance wishes to thank Planning Commission members for your careful consideration of the many aspects of this complex preservation plan.  We look forward to continuing our participation in the process of adopting a Sugarloaf Treasured Landscape Management Plan that will “protect and enhance the Sugarloaf area’s natural resources and environmental assets” for all residents and visitors for years to come.

Sincerely,

The Sugarloaf Alliance