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The Tentacle


June 19, 2008

The Death Toll for the DRRA

Joan Marie Aquilino

Well, it seems the Developers Rights and Responsibility Agreement (DRRA), is about to receive last rites. The county is trying to give it CPR but the family, Land Stewards, has said pull the plug, there are no signs of life. It’s heading to the incinerator; this isn’t recyclable.

 

The developer, Land Stewards, the Board of County Commissioners, and various other parties couldn’t find a middle ground for an agreement would give assurances to all parties and lead to completion of the Lake Linganore development. This development was started 30-plus years ago and likely won’t be finished for another 30 year – if ever.

 

I have trouble calling Linganore "just a development." We are talking about the final portions of this "development" being more housing units than the town of Thurmont, bigger than Walkersville by approximately 1,000 homes and equal to the size of Urbana. This will have a major growth impact.

 

Things happen and this development has taken many roads. The original concept back in the '60's was to set the standard by which all other Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) would be gauged. It was the blue print for PUDs. With each owner, every bankruptcy, things changed, and there isn't much of that original blue print left.

 

Who knows, it could have been a combination of politics, government and private business shooting themselves in the foot. Who am I kidding; of course, it was the politics, government and private business meeting at the corner of My Way or the Highway. No one would give the right-away and we see where that put us – at a dead stop.

 

I do believe that unless you have extremely deep pockets and can wait in limbo until government's moving target slows long enough for you to grab hold and actually build something and get it sold, many people are destined to fail. Just look at this development for a couple of examples. I can't even fathom the amounts of money one needs to put together a small development much less something the size of Linganore. It boggles the mind, in sheer dollar amounts.

 

I’m not totally blaming government by any means. It is their job to look out for the citizens’ best interests. Every developer should be asked and prepared to answer: “What’s in it for the county? What makes you a good fit for us?”

 

Each county commissioner had his/her own wish list. Some wanted land and trees; some wanted schools; others wanted roads; and one wanted to know why it even had to be completed at all. And, of course, money was asked for.

 

The Frederick County Planning Commission came up with its wish list and whittled it down to one huge item. It wants the Meadow Road interchange completed. A bit lofty but worth a shot and something its members think will actually solve problems.

 

The town of New Market feels put upon because it will get all the traffic but very little – if any – benefit from this "development type town" breathing down its necks. It seems odd that the majority of town residents voted against the annexation of a proposed 900 home development that would benefit the town. Yet none of them are saying much about four times that amount being built at their backdoor.

 

That part I don’t understand. If I lived in that town and didn't want anything built within my borders, I sure would be screaming about four times that amount being built in my backyard. I guess they don't have the NIMBY disease; backyard is okay, just stay out of my front yards? Either that or the leaders of that “no-growth-at-this-moment-in-this-place” movement are the ones pushing the Linganore completion. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my little mind wandering and wondering.

 

The present residents of Linganore want it finished. They want their roads and other amenities on board, hoping their dues will go down when they have more people to share the costs. Can’t say I blame them.

 

Many people outside New Market and Linganore are rightly concerned about roads, or rather the lack thereof. “Concerned” is too gentle a word; they are panicked about that many people on those roads. Once again, can’t say I blame them.

 

Land Steward listened patiently to all the desires, even though it's ultimately between the commissioners and it them. Its owners listened, adjusted, and then finally – after 18 or so months – threw up their hands and walked away. Politely, but never the less walked away. They gave as much as possible, but…

 

The bottom line is that it is a business and enough is enough. They tried and pretty much gave all that was asked for initially. The problem is that what was asked for initially didn't seem to meet the down and dirty needs of the county once everyone got their hands around it and started fully understanding it.

 

This process needed to be worked out between county staff and Land Stewards first. The staff knows exactly what the commissioners wanted and could have done an excellent job of weeding through many of the objections. Why have them if we aren’t going to let them do their jobs.

 

Had the roads been addressed to the satisfaction of those living in the area, 75% of the resistance would have disappeared.

 

After listening to it all for months, property owners along that travel corridor need to get together and give the county a proposal.

 

The DRRA needed to be tried. It could have been accomplished. But now it’s whether or not the developer has deep enough pockets to give it yet another try. Some may not care, but it’s only fair to note the developer has sunk a lot of energy and money into the process and is now walking away.

 

The process needs to be changed and vetted much like a text amendment but with the ability to make changes without having to hit the restart button each and every time.

 

Respect is a thing that works both ways. The county can’t expect what it might not be giving. It was a learning curve but an expensive one for both sides, in time, energy and money. Lake Linganore was our first PUD and hopefully our first DRRA, too.

 

 

’til next time…..

 



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