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County commissioners cut parkway against advice of county planners

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(3/6) The “on again, off again” industrial parkway for the north side of Thurmont is now off again. Two Frederick County Commissioners took advantage of the absence of two fellow commissioners to strike a number of projects from the Thurmont Regional Plan on Feb. 25.

Their efforts were stopped only when Commissioner Kai Hagen 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.

“I’m going to beg you to just hold off till all five of us are here,” Hagen asked repeatedly. “There’ no reason in causing more large gyrations and conniptions and shivers down people’s spines and what not in Thurmont over a decision we’re going to revisit in a week or two with all five of us.”

Gray replied, “It doesn’t seem like Thurmont’s too concerned today.” He referenced that no one from Thurmont attended the six-hour meeting.

Thompson moved to strike the parkway from the proposed regional plan because there was no funding.

“Roads that aren’t funded, I don’t like putting them in there [the plan] because it raises false expectations that somebody’s actually working on building a road when they aren’t.”

However, at that point John Kinnaird had given the town $100 to start a fund to pay for a feasibility study for the parkway. Since the vote, Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns has said he will be escrowing money to the parkway study in the town budget.

“You don’t get anywhere with the state if you don’t have it designated on the map,” Burns said during a recent town meeting.

County Planner Jim Gugel agrees with Burn’s perspective. 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.”

Hagen argued with Gray and Thompson that the county planning commission had left the parkway in the plan with clarifying language. Earlier in the meeting, Thompson wanted to remove a middle school symbol from Emmitsburg. In the end, he and Gray were satisfied leaving the symbol for the unfunded and far-future school in the plan as long as clarifying language was part of the plan text. They also accepted something similar thing for some of the bikeways in the plan that weren’t funded. However, they refused to allow the same thing for the industrial parkway.

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 agreed 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 March 17. At that time, it is expected that the issue of the parkway can be revisited.

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