From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner
(2/2017) The proposed Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan, as drafted by the Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board, has raised concerns among property owners along the river as to how this plan might impact the use and value of their properties.
The Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board (River Board) consists of five citizen members from Frederick County and five citizen members from Carroll County. The River Board has existed for many years and held its first meeting in 1978. In fact, a citizen board has been involved with planning and advocating for the Monocacy River since 1949, when it was then called
the Monocacy Watershed Council.
For over 60 years, there has been a coordinated and collaborative effort to protect the watershed and preserve its natural resources. The River Board does work that virtually no one opposes such as conducting an annual litter and tire removal clean-up effort along the River.
A proposed updated draft River Management Plan was released in October of 2016. The draft Plan is a revision and update to the 1990 Monocacy River Study and Management Plan, created by the River Board and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The plan describes the river, inventories its environmental attributes, and makes 77 recommendations – some to Frederick and Carroll Counties, some to the City of Frederick, and some to the town of Walkersville. Multiple public meetings about the plan were held in November, December and January, and a copy of the plan was available in local libraries and on-line.
The River Board heard from numerous property owners opposing the plan, primarily due to the proposed Resource Protection Area. While 77% of the area is in the 100-year FEMA flood plain, the boundary does extend beyond the flood plain in a number of areas. Property owners have expressed concern that their ability to use their property beyond the flood plain would be
regulated and restricted in the future.
Concerns have also been expressed that the plan would allow public access to private property or would create a public trail through private property. The proposed plan does not include anything about public access to private property or a trail or bike system. If either Frederick County or Carroll County wanted to provide additional access points to the Monocacy River for
recreational use, it would need to be on public land.
The River Board is holding its next regular monthly meeting on February 1, 2017 at 7 pm in Winchester Hall in downtown Frederick. Some River Board members have said they expect to modify the draft plan based on public input received.
It is important to note that the River Board is an advisory committee. Thus, they can only make suggestions or recommendations to the elected officials in both counties. Nothing that has been proposed is legally binding or regulatory. For any of the proposed recommendations to become local law, it would require a separate public process and approval by the local
legislative bodies in each county. In Frederick County, the legislative body is the County Council.
This plan was developed entirely by the River Board with no input from me or other elected officials. It is a citizen-recommended plan.
Once the River Board approves its recommended plan, it will be forwarded to the elected officials in both counties for their consideration and adoption. In Frederick County, this will go to the County Council for their review, consideration and approval. If approved by the County Council, it will then come to the County Executive for my consideration.
The District 5 Council Member has suggested that I can issue an Executive Order to stop the public hearing process for the plan. This is not true. This advisory board is created under state law, and the Secretary of Natural Resources administers the program. Since this is a State program, I do not have authority to stop the work of the River Board.
The Council Member is suggesting the county squash public input and end a public process that disagrees with his point of view. This would simply be un-American. Silencing a viewpoint one disagrees with violates the public process and violates our U.S. Constitution. I will always uphold people’s right to free speech, including the right to dissent.
An open, transparent, and public process is happening. There is opposition focused on one or two recommendations out of the 77 made by the River Board.
Civil discourse is fundamental to our democratic processes. I appreciate the concerns and the participation of the public in the development of this plan update. This public process has existed for many decades and does work. I trust that public participation will make a difference to the outcome.
You can find more information and updates about the plan on the county webpage at www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/monocacyriverplan2016
I welcome public input on any topic. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 301-600-3190.
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