Beginning the work.
Below, I join a letter requesting a delay in a county vote on the purchase of 26 acres of land on the City's West End. Any residents with questions or thoughts about this issue are welcome to reach out at [email protected]
October 8, 2021
The Honorable Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer
12 E. Church St.
Frederick MD 21701
Re: 800 Oak Street
Dear County Council President Keegan-Ayer and Council Members,
I ask you to reconsider your hurried purchase of 800 Oak Street, 26 acres of land in the City of Frederick. I (and others) would prefer that we, as a community, repurpose larger properties such as this (growth corridor, infrastructure-supported) for creative redevelopment uses; as set forth in both the recently-adopted City and County master planning documents.
City of Frederick staff are at this moment, working diligently to implement the City of Frederick 2020 Comprehensive Plan. There are exciting changes on our horizon to enable us to boldly reimagine properties such as 800 Oak Street. In fact, the City has issued a Request for Proposal (Form-Based Code Consultant RFP 22-B) regarding the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan and the integration of form-based code (FBC). In the near term, the FBC will be integrated into the City of Frederick’s existing regulatory framework (zoning and land development regulations) and this will include overlay zones.
FBC will regulate development to ensure high-quality public spaces defined by a variety of building types and uses including housing, retail, and office space. The new code will incorporate a regulating plan, building form standards, street standards (plan and section), use regulations as needed, descriptive building or lot types (optional), and other elements needed to implement the principles of urbanism. Residents are asking for creativity and happily, this is the immediate direction the City of Frederick is headed with respect to our planning and zoning.
Similar to the City, Frederick County adopted the Livable Frederick Master Plan (Livable Frederick) - a fantastic document. The Plan highlights the City of Frederick as “a major regional center for business, institutions, residential living, and culture” and the Plan offers an assumption that the “growth potential of areas within and surrounding the city is maximized to create an even stronger urban center boasting walkable neighborhoods, historic character, and thriving commercial districts” (page 3). Recognizing that growth would occur along the I-270 corridor, Livable Frederick (and the talented team who worked to draft and approve the plan) smartly identified “the Interstate Corridor”. The map on page 45 of Livable Frederick seemingly includes 800 Oak Street within this corridor identified for growth and development along Interstate 270. The Plan clearly states that the Interstate Corridor “emphasizes transit oriented, mixed-use development… as a prime employment corridor enhanced by livable, mixed use neighborhoods between the City of Frederick and northern Montgomery County.” The Plan pointedly discusses the emphasis on walkable, mixed-use, higher density development for this corridor and articulates a broad community vision that we must be strategic in our redevelopment of sites. Also, while the County’s acquisition of 800 Oak Street will relocate existing County jobs to this location, we lose the opportunity to attract a new employer to this location (possibly within the growing biotech/life sciences industry - industries growing in neighboring jurisdictions). This should give us all pause and we should truly analyze the regional economic impact in making this decision.
If you will not pause your decision, I ask you to oppose the purchase as presented. Both planning documents were created for decision points such as these and the County’s specified possible plans for 800 Oak Street fail to meet the aspiration set forth in our adopted guidance. Talented members of our community worked to draft Livable Frederick and the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. As we learn and evolve to a post-pandemic economy, this is the perfect time to collaborate to redevelop large parcels such as this. Our residents want us to discard yesterday’s land use decision-making we know won’t help us meet our sustainability and equity mandates.
Our residents also want us to think differently and creatively, and act with transparency. More information, additional channels for public feedback, publishing data and analysis - we would all benefit from this work. I ask the members of the Frederick County Council to not only extend local courtesy to the municipality you serve, but additionally consider leveraging the talent within our community to “think big” and take action to embrace the adopted bold vision for this location.
1024 Dulaney Mill Drive, Frederick MD 21702
Cc: Mayor Michael O’Connor
County Council Members, Frederick County
President Pro Tem Kelly Russell
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak
Alderman Ben MacShane
Alderman Derek Shackelford
P.S. The City has requested information from the County - I ask that the County please provide the information that has been requested. That information, summarized from the October 5th letter, was:
- any analysis the County had made regarding consolidation and the short- and long-term impacts of this consolidation;
- the County’s Expression of Interest/contingent contract letter;
- minutes/notes from the County’s public tour of the facility;
- copies of any analysis from County staff or other entities regarding the property;
- any documentation that will provide clarification regarding the County’s intentions for the property;
- and any other information requested by City elected leaders.