Now that County Executive Gardner’s plan has been revealed, is it really A NEW KIND OF PLAN to masterplan Frederick into 2040, or just an old idea rewrapped in a new PR package?
It has been about a month since the new Livable Frederick Master Plan was released to the public with lots of fanfare, cool and clean logo, slick video’s and impressive graphics.
Before I begin with this post, I offer a full disclosure on my part that I have only scanned this 164-page document, and more than likely it will only be fully digested after several readings.
As noted, it comes with a couple of very well produced videos with convincing pitches from key crafters of the plan, an impressive website, and within the document are included some photos of beautiful county scenery, very slick graphics, a detailed explanation of the plan and how it evolved since its convening meeting in January 2016.
While in the very early stages of its development, this Jan Gardner visionary idea was pitched more as a supplementary tool to assist in the county’s comprehensive planning process. Now, however, it's very clear that it is proposed to be the foundational document for that process.
That is a HUGE difference!
As I perused the Acknowledgements on pages vi and vii, I noted that the plan, which draws from four key core components -- Community, Health, Economy and Environment – was developed by a number of workgroups tasked to tackle each.
In reviewing the members of each workgroup, I was somewhat surprised to see that many appear to be long time or wannabe disciples of the county executive. Put another way I have to ask, who were the contrarians within the groups? … and for those who know her, Ms. Gardner does not like contrarians!
For example, under the Economic Futures and Education Workgroup, not a single executive from any major employer or an executive from the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce is listed. For that matter, it appears that the broad scope of our business community as a whole was severely underrepresented.
The plan touts that a tremendous amount of community input was gathered from a wide spectrum of county residents through surveys and other means. I do recall getting a survey, but frankly I was unimpressed with what I took as leading questions, such as (I’m paraphrasing here): “Do you want clean water in your community? Yes or No."
With all due respect, that’s not a challenging question.
How can a foundational document that is supposed to be the master planning platform for all future comprehensive planning in the county truly be what it is said to be when key movers and shakers of our very diverse business community were not embedded in its drafting?
Maybe as I dig deeper into the Master Plan, all my concerns will be dashed, but my initial take is those individuals and businesses who have played a significant role in making Frederick County the vibrant economic and livable community that it is today may have been left out of the process altogether.
The planning process for Livable Frederick began two years (or over 700 days) ago; it was released to the public on January 3, 2018. The last “Outreach Meeting” for the public to learn about the plan is next week on February 15th. Seven hundred days to develop and less than 45 days for the public to learn about it? Then, it’s off to public hearings for public feedback.
Is that enough time? On the surface, I don’t think so.
I am so hopeful that this plan is not another attempt by our County Executive, who, 17 years ago, as a member of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, spearheaded a county-wide rewrite of an unbelievable level county governmental control over not only zoning, but also many other traditional private property rights, including but not limited to architectural guidelines for structures as simple as a farmer’s barn.
This bizarre plan spurred a county-wide revolt from the business and agricultural community against the plan, the likes of which this county has not seen since.
That 2001 Gardner idea went up in smoke. I pray that the speediness of the public review process in this case was not structured to avoid our county executive’s fear that such a thing might happen again.
There is so much for every county resident to learn, including me. Please pay close attention!
Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades. He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012. He currently serves as chairman of the board of Frederick Mutual Insurance Company. Established in 1843, it is one of the longest enduring businesses in Frederick County.