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Balanced Growth = Economic Development

Mike Cady
Frederick County Commissioner

Since the Linton Farm rezoning decision to convert 138.7 acres from Agriculture to Planned Unit Development (PUD), much was stated in the media that condemns growth and those who support it. I voted to rezone the land because it was consistent with the Adamstown Region Plan and it met all of the conditions stated in Phase I of the approval process. Phase I does not include Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) testing for schools and roads. That is part of Phase II. As an aside, the 763 planned dwelling units will be built at a maximum rate of 150 per year over a six-year period that cannot possibly begin until 2009. To keep our County on the path of economic development, approval of this rezoning case was the right decision.

For a county to enjoy a healthy economy, it must wed a number of initiatives into a balanced growth plan at a pace the community can financially support and is politically acceptable. This is not an easy task, especially for the largest geographic county in Maryland and one whose population grew as fast as any county east of the Mississippi River since 1984. Residential growth combined with business development, preservation of our agricultural industry and retention of open space are primary considerations. Of late, most who are out spoken, have said, “no more residential growth.”

So what would happen if new homes were a thing of the past? First of all, thousands of hard working people in the home building and real estate industry would either loose their jobs or move out of the County for work. Second, existing employers would not expand their operations in our County (i.e., Bechtel, who just announced plans to close offices elsewhere in the US and bring hundreds of high paid positions to Frederick). Third, new enterprises would not locate in Frederick (i.e., Fannie Mae, who is building a facility in Urbana that will initially employ approximately 250 people).

Did you know that Frederick County lead the State in new jobs in 2002, and was second to Montgomery County as of June, 2003? With companies like Bechtel and Fannie Mae expanding and locating in our County, Frederick is likely to lead the State for new jobs once again in 2004. Businesses locate in communities where they can find an educated and skilled workforce.

Speaking of education, last year the Board of County Commissioners adopted a new debt affordability model that increased by 30% the funds available for school construction. With this new borrowing model, the Commissioners adopted a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that would bring all schools to a 90% capacity level by the end of this decade. These very acceptable capacity levels come at a time when class sizes are being reduced to 25 for middle and high schools and 23 for elementary schools. Also, the CIP includes expansion of nearly every elementary school to provide for full day kindergarten. While the State is cutting back funding for school construction, the County is forward funding all construction projects that have either the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) or Board of Public Works (BPW) approval.

The number of new residential units built in Frederick County remained amazingly constant over the past twenty years. From 1984 to 1993, the average was 2,002 units per year and the same number held true from 1994 to 2003. Approximately 43% of the 40,040 dwelling units built in Frederick County since 1984 were in municipalities where the County has little influence. With this growth, the County maintains a very balanced economic development plan.

Our County consists of 664 square miles or 425,047 acres. In 2000, the land use was as follows: Agriculture, Woodlands, Forests, Parks and Open Space - 84.1%; Residential - 11%; and Commercial, Industrial, Government and Utilities – 4.9%. If the rate of residential and business growth continues to occur at the same pace in the next twenty years as the past twenty years, the first group would be reduced by 6.6% to 77.5%. Thus, more than three-fourths of our County will be beautiful farmland, parks and forests for all to enjoy while our economy thrives.