What is smart growth?


Smart growth is an important component of building a more sustainable Frederick.  According to county and city surveys between 2001 and 2008 County residents are taking a close look at our quality of life now and for future generations.  The building consensus is that a “smart growth” community is within our reach, but major changes are needed.  The challenges are minimizing sprawl, shifting to a society that is energy efficient and less auto-dependent, and preserving our rural character and agricultural heritages against the pressures of urbanization.

urban sprawlA report titled “Not So Smart: Land Consumption in Maryland after a Decade of Smart Growth” released by Environment Maryland in March 2009 points out that  almost 80% of Frederick County’s residential growth between 1998 and 2007 occurred outside priority funding areas, where it was mostly low density sprawl (averaging 2.1 acres/home). We lost over  6700 acres to development by approving low density sprawl versus the average .3 acres/home density that we find within PFAs, which would have been better but note – it would still be 3 homes/acre!

PFA’s were no match for the dizzying allure of sub prime loans and  rampant speculative development, That, plus the failure of the state to provide funding for agricultural preservation outside the PFAs and for schools, roads, water, sewer and libraries within them made the PFAs far less effective than they could have been.As a result, land that should be protecting our streams, providing habitat for our animals and used for growing healthy food is now permanently lost. Instead of benefiting county residents it is exacerbating school overcrowding, traffic jams, straining public services and polluting streams.

 Residential growth during the past three decades has had an impact on our quality of life.  Read our analyses:

Our Position

Friends of Frederick County believes that we can create a winning balance by guiding and supporting development within municipal growth areas  where there is existing infrastructure, job development and growth within those growth areas and supportive policy andpl planning for infill and development.   A winning balance is to ensure that we are not a bedroom community for jobs elsewhere. Balance and good planning works, and can ensure that we live in beautiful places, with necessary services – and have a good quality of life.  Carroll Creek is an example of an area retrofitted to fit our needs for housing, restaurants, employment and entertainment.   Residential cost for services within city limits is actually 12 cents less on the dollar than for those residences outside the growth areas.

In 2006 FRIENDS became the voice of a campaign for the citizens and their quality of life, and saw the election of “smart growth” leadership.  But even with new leadership we are still encumbered with legacy zoning that TODAY has over 1000 properties around the county (outside PFAs) with vested rights for development.

But we are hopeful.  The world is different now, and much has happened in Frederick County that will lay the groundwork for truly smarter growth at the local level.

  • Ethics reform legislation passed in 2007 so that Frederick County Commissioners (BOCC) can no longer accept campaign donations they can take the money, they just can’t vote on the issues effecting contributors from developers with pending rezoning applications.
  • In 2008 the County Commissioners announced a moratorium on major sub-division activity as well as several growth management initiatives to preserve and enhance the quality of life for Frederick County residents:  our County Comprehensive Plan, strengthening the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and addressing water resource and agricultural preservation requirements of recent state legislation.

As part of our comprehensive planning rewrite citizens voiced their concerns to our planning commission about growth lines.  Through the use of a CD and online presentation of aerial images Friends of Frederick County has been educating citizens about where growth lines are drawn and the green /open space that has been slated for development if those lines are not redrawn.  Much to our delight, our Planning Commission is currently proposing to redraw many of our growth lines, leaving hundreds of acres of farmland and open space outside them.    They have also prioritized redevelopment and infill over “greenfield” (farmland and open space) development.

After the infamous Terrapin Run ruling, we recognize that the county’s work with the comprehensive plan could be for naught if its language is unenforceable, especially if our county is led by commissioners with little consideration for the infrastructure demands and cost of sprawl.

As Maryland expects to house an additional 1 million people by the year 2030  we need to ensure that our development is the most efficient and cost effective – and looks at the true costs to taxpayers the environment, the true impacts on crime, health, schools, and children. This is not a future where there are no single family homes, but it is a future where our tax money benefits the public interest

Comprehensive Planning and Zoning

FoFC followed the comprehensive plan development and kept citizens informed of  decisions and plans. The Frederick County Comprehensive Plan “ Frederick County’s Future: Many Places, One Community”  and zoning map were ratified in April 2010.

In 2010 things changed…

We saw new leadership and zoning that followed property rights ideology.  Our friends around Frederick County and beyond have worked hard to educate and advocate for smart growth.  With much at stake FoFC turned to the courts.  Please read more about how FoFC has worked hard to protect the natural resources, water and culture of Frederick County.


How You Can Help

All development projects should preserve quality of life for existing and future residents and, whenever possible, make quality of life better. This checklist, prepared by the Community and Environmental Defense Services (CEDS), is intended to help citizens evaluate if a proposed development will preserve and enhance their quality of life, or not.   Utilize the checklist and do your own quick analysis of how the proposed development will help or harm your quality of life.  Let your elected officials know, as well as your friends and neighbors.  If you wait until the bulldozers are turning the earth you have waited way too long, the time to work for what you really want in your community is during the planning stage!

Also consider contacting us at friends@friendsoffrederickcounty.org.  We host a monthly Insiders FORUM, perhaps your issue could become a topic to discuss with an elected official and several citizens.  Let us know…