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County commissioners cut proposed interchanges and bypass

James Rada Jr.
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(3/6) Two Frederick County Commissioners took advantage of the absence of two fellow commissioners to strike three proposed interchanges and a proposed parkway in Emmitsburg from the Thurmont Regional Plan on Feb. 25.

During the last hour of a six-hour meeting of the Frederick County Commissioners reviewing the Thurmont Regional Plan, Commissioners John Thompson and David Gray voted to strike the road improvements from the plan.

Thompson also stated he was ready to vote to rezone land needed for the parkway to make it more difficult to build the parkway until Commissioner Kai Hagen when left the meeting. “Well, you are done for today because you won’t have a quorum to make anymore votes,” Hagen said before leaving the meeting after asking Commissioners John Thompson Jr. and David Gray a dozen times in a 45-minute period not to make decisions on the plan without all of the commissioners present.

Thompson said the road improvements should be taken off the plan because they wouldn’t be funded within the life of the comprehensive plan. “That’s why I generally…roads that aren’t funded, I don’t like putting them in there [the plan] because it raises false expectations that’s somebody’s actually working on building a road when they aren’t,” Thompson said.

However, County Planner Jim Gugel sees a use for having the symbol on the map even if it isn’t funded.. During the county commissioners’ meeting, he told the commissioners, “Funding shouldn’t matter when you’re looking at a 20-year plan. I mean we need to have the ability to play for it to support getting funding at some later point. If we remove that plan symbol, we lose that support to even try to get funding for it in the first place.”

He also said having the symbol on the planning maps allows the county or municipality the ability to reserve rights of way for the improvements.

Planning Director Eric Soter told the commissioners that by linking the planning maps to funding, they would essentially create a map that illustrated their capital improvement program, and even then, the only projects that were certain in the CIP are those for the next year.

The commissioners still voted 2-1 to remove the interchanges and the bypass. When Hagen threatened to leave the commissioners without a quorum, Gray called his actions “childish.” Hagen told Gray and Thompson he would only stay if they would agree to stop making motions to change the plan without the full board present. Neither one would agree to that and so Hagen left.

The county commissioners will examine the regional plan again on Mar. 17. At that time, it is expected that the issue of the interchanges and bypass can be revisited.

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