The County has Created a Mess at Sugarloaf
If you live in our District, you can't miss Sugarloaf Mountain. It is a national landmark and oddly enough privately owned. That's not really the issue. With a goal of preserving this area (and surrounding properties), County Executive Jan Gardner and the Frederick County Planning Commission have concocted a scheme that will basically restrict the owners rights to their property through some unique re-zoning.
While this is legal, is it smart policy? Stronghold has owned and operated the mountain for over 50 years. During this time, there has been very little development of this land. Consequently, there are no plans to develop this land. Stronghold and the surrounding property owners, have been a flawless steward of their lands and should need no intervention by the County Government. However, County Executive Jan Gardner and the Frederick County Planning and Zoning Commission believe otherwise.
Instead of rewarding responsible land stewardship, the County have chosen to 'take' land usage away from the property owners and severely restrict the owners rights on their land. Usually when the government restricts the owners right of usage on their land, there is compensation to the land owner. In this instance, that is not the case. The old carrot versus the stick. The County choses the 'stick'!
This is a violation of the land owners right to use and enjoyment of their land with little to no consent. While the County may argue that the Planning/Zoning Commission held public meetings, Zoom meetings held during the height of the pandemic are far from "public meetings". Residents complained on a number of occasions that the links or phone call-in numbers did not work properly. At the end of it all, there was a 150+ page document detailing the County's plan.
We are less than 80 days away from a general election. There is a possibility of six new County Council members and there will be a new County Executive. Why the rush to get this done now? This is nothing short of the county government taking action just for the sake of taking action. Professional 'planners' coming up with 'great ideas' without considering the consequences of their actions!
I had the opportunity to attend a public meeting. I listened to Hugh Gordon, the McIntosh family, and several other stakeholders in this area and one common denominator was the County didn't listen to them!
Now, the County faces a showdown between Stronghold and themselves over this layout. Some opine that Stronghold should 'compromise' their position and acquiesce to the County's will. To this I ask, why? Why should Stronghold (or anyone else in the protective overlay) give away property rights without due compensation. It is not like the County is issuing a tax credit or paying for the property they are taking away.
Stronghold has issued the County a very fair warning. Scrap this plan or send it back to the drawing board or it will close the mountain off to the public. My opponent believes the Board of Stronghold are bluffing. I assure you, they mean what they say Mr. Donald.
Is the current County Council this short-sighted? We shall see soon enough. I encourage everyone to show up at the public meeting at Winchester Hall on September 27th and you will see first hand!