It was waaay back in 2009 when MCA and other stakeholders became aware of the fast tracked proposal to construct a massive institutional facility in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. The mega (138,000 sq. ft.) -complex (located in both Montgomery’s Ag Reserve and Frederick’s ag zone) was well on its way to easy approval by Frederick County when we became involved and began to raise questions about how this development would affect ground and stream water, historic resources, agricultural lands and forest. With our partners at Sugarloaf Citizens’ Association (SCA), staff at MC Park and Planning members of of State Delegation and County Council members – we sought answers and meetings with Global Mission Church representatives.
Now 5 years later… Various twists and turns, a revised site plan proposal with tiny downsizing to 118,000 sq. ft – zoning changes by FC and approval by FC. MCA, SCA and adjacent neighbors have expended significant resources toward litigation aimed at ensuring that any project built at the site adhere to the longstanding preservation goals of both counties. The suit filed by to challenge the required secondary access road which violates a homeowner covenant was successful. Global Mission has appealed and oral arguments in that case will take place on Court of Special Appeals on December 10, 2014. SCA and MCA v. Global Mission – our suit challenging the FC Board of Appeals dismissal of our challenge to the site plan approval has been briefed. Oral arguments will take place at the Court of Special Appeals on December 5, 2014.
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On August 28 the re-scheduled hearing took place at Winchester hall in Frederick. At one point there were two overflow rooms for the residents who had come, almost without exception, to speak in opposition to the proposed shooting range near the base of Sugarloaf on Thurston Road in Frederick County.
The hearing had been rescheduled from earlier in the month when 500 people showed up to speak. All who had signed up were not able to speak before the 11pm cut off time (the hearing had started much earlier in the day at 1pm).
As a result – there will be a continuation of the hearing taking place on Tuesday September 2 at 7:00pm at the same place- Winchester Hall (12 E Church St. Downtown Frederick).
Testimony opposing the range came from residents around the proposed range, business owners and experts on equine health, ornithology, water quality. Thanks to all that came out and offered such thoughtful messages.
Press Coverage Here:
ABC 7 video
Frederick News Post
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Shooting Range proposed for “Resource Conservation” Zone at base of Sugarloaf Mountain
Update: The rescheduled hearing will take place on Thursday August 28. Click the flyer below for all the info:
We are tracking a development just over the line in Frederick County that could have serious impacts on Sugarloaf Mountain and area farms. An organization called Old Line Arsenal has proposed a huge shooting range with associated large buildings abutting the mountain on Thurston Rd. Sugarloaf Alliance is the leading group on this issue and we encourage you to seek out more information from their website and more complete information on their facebook page. What follows is a primer on what is happening and how you can take action.
What?! : This shooting range has: 144 parking spaces, a 3 floor 60,000 sf classroom building, 3 story shooting tower, up to 99 shooters at a time. The current submission says they will be open 6 days a week, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, closed Sundays.
Huh? How can that happen?: Remember, the Ag Reserve is only a Montgomery County land use designation, this area in Frederick County is zoned Resource Conservation or RC. The proposal is being brought to the Board of Appeals in FredCo as a special exception use. There was movement some years ago to protect this land with a new class of zoning similar to our Ag Reserve (that likely would have disallowed this sort of use) but it never came to fruition.
Sounds like a case of the NIMBY’s (Not in my backyard) to me: Regardless of how you feel about shooting ranges, we can agree that this over-sized facility does not fit the surrounding neighborhood of farms and popular hiking destinations. “Resource Conservation” this is not. There are a number of other ranges within a 30 mile radius- and a new one (appropriately sited in an industrial area) opening in Frederick by years end.
What is the time line? The BOA will hear the special exception on July 24. If the range as a use is granted the exception- the range must submit a fuller application to the Planning Commission.
How can I help?
-Monitor events through the Sugarloaf Alliance facebook - message them to get signs/flyers, etc.
- Write to the Frederick County Board of Appeals (its ok if you live in MoCo) to voice your concerns via email with the planner’s office by July 22. Email Craig Terry: CTerry@FrederickCountyMD.gov (bcc us- email@example.com)
-Attend the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on Thursday, July 24 at 7:00pm. (Winchester Hall 12 E. Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701)
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There is no better holiday than Thanksgiving to thank our farmers for all they do throughout the year. This year, we asked members of our producers listserve (want to join? learn more) to let us know what they are thankful for and share some favorite local food recipes.
I am thankful for waking up every morning and being able to do what I love. I’m thankful for a supportive family. I’m thankful for the blue sky and crisp air. I’m thankful that my body still responds to my call, most of the time. I’m thankful for the sound of my cattle, sheep, and goats munching grass, it soothes my soul. I’m thankful for the sheer joy my pigs express when it is feeding time, talk about a welcoming committee! I’m thankful for my land, all the wonders it holds and for all it tries to teach me. I am thankful for the people who are part of the community that we are preserving. Most of all, I am just thankful. I wish you all joy and happiness this holiday season.
Aliabaad Farm-Ali Mohadjer
“We at Aliabaad Farm are thankful to be part of the greater Montgomery, Washington, and Frederick County area. We are specifically thankful to all of those who go out of their way to support us such as our family, friends, employees who work hard year round, customers who take chances with our products, The Potomac Farmers Market that gave us the opportunity to learn the basics and introduce our produce to the community, and all supporting staff (including but not limited to) Montgomery County Alliance and The Washington County Ag staff. It takes many people dedicating their time and efforts to making Aliabaad Farm survive. We are blessed knowing that the community sees the hard work we put into this farm to provide them with farm fresh produce to enjoy.” Pictured above- a fall/winter share of the Aliabaad Farm CSA. Pickups available in Frederick, Montgomery and Washington Counties.Learn More Try recipes for Eggplant Pie, or Balsamic Kale from Aliabaad Farm CSA members
Cheryl Kollin, Farm to Freezer/ Full Plate Ventures
“We have much to be grateful for this year! Farm to Freezer launched in July and has produced more than 2,800 packages of frozen food for Manna Food Center’s clients. Many thanks to all who have supported our fledging new social enterprise. Farm to Freezer is a new brand of delicious, healthy, and regionally-sourced foods that are frozen at the peak of ripeness. We are a for profit social enterprise working in collaboration with hunger relief and social service organizations: Manna Food Center, Woodside United Methodist Church and Interfaith Works. Farm to Freezer purchases surplus fresh produce at the close of farm markets and provides those who are food insecure with more nutrient-rich food all year round. Sales of Farm to Freezer products allow us to deep discount this healthy food to local hunger relief agencies for those in need. Our delicious, healthy, frozen tomato sauce, ratatouille, roasted peppers, summer squash, and apple sauce are available at areas markets including Mixed Greens Market in Poolesville. Farm to Freezer is the proud recipient of Bethesda Magazines’ 2013 Green Business Award. Visit www.farmtofreezer.wordpress.com and www.facebook.com/farm2freezer “
Mark Mills- Chocolate and Tomatoes Farm
Mark is a member of the County’s New Farm Pilot Program (in which MCA partners)- an effort to match new farmers with land and know-how to grow new farmers in MoCo. Our Land Link program matched Mark with a spot to grow acres of tomatoes and other table crops. Read the WaPo article about the program here. When he isn’t digging and weeding- Mark is a professional pastry chef and chocolatier- so you know his recipes are going to be good. See Mark’s recipes for Carrot Cake and Toasted Sweet/Spicy Candied Pumpkin Seeds (went over well at the Park Haytt and more importantly with his own family)
Softwine Farm- Joe Orlow
Joe says ” Thank you to Caroline and all those who work for and support the Montgomery Countryside Alliance for all the assistance they’ve provided in my endeavor to make a goat creamery in MoCo a reality” Joe is searching for land through our Land Link program. Pictured here, X’s&O’s, her daughter Violet (in back), and the product of their labor, Nigerian Dwarf goats milk
Rocklands is now producing their own wine- be sure to ask next time you visit which one they recommend with this soup.
Butternut Squash Soup:
1 butternut squash, or half a medium-sized pumpkin, peeled and cubed
2 onions, chopped
large handful sage, torn
1-3 TB butter
Melt butter in a large soup pot. Add the onions, saute until soft. Throw in the sage, and let saute until fragrant and wilted, 5 minutes. Add the cubes of squash, and saute until lightly browned. Cover the squash with water up to an inch above. Let simmer for 30 minutes until very soft. Add salt to taste, then blend with an immersion blender. Add cream if desired. Garnish with pumpkin seeds or garlic croutons. Enjoy!
We’re thankful to have had great weather to get our garlic planted this week, and to have our NRCS-funded high tunnel for its first winter of production this year. I seeded most of the high tunnel earlier this month, and the seeds have now germinated consistently. We’re looking forward to having an abundance of greens from the high tunnel this winter. I’ve attached pics of garlic planting and the freshly sprouted seedlings in the high tunnel.We’re thankful to have had great weather to get our garlic planted this week, and to have our NRCS-funded high tunnel for its first winter of production this year. I seeded most of the high tunnel earlier this month, and the seeds have now germinated consistently. We’re looking forward to having an abundance of greens from the high tunnel this winter. I’ve attached pics of garlic planting and the freshly sprouted seedlings in the high tunnel.
photo by Lee Langstaff
As we were putting together our ambitious 2014 work plan, we got thinking about all of the things we have achieved together with our supporters in the last few years. There is much left to do and we could use your help.
What has MCA done for me lately? Well…..
Our Shared Environmental Resources
Set Ten Mile Creek (backup water supply for 4.3 million) on the path to protection … but there is more to do
Supporting a Strong Ag Sector
And the list goes on and on… help us add more victories to this list- join MCA – a yearly membership is just $25
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The longstanding court dispute over whether a large scale religious facility could locate on 119 acres in Montgomery’s Agricultural Reserve has been settled. Montgomery County has agreed to pay the church 1.25 million and the church will build in Silver Spring. After 7 years of court wrangling, both sides were ready to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. The purchase of an easement that will limit development of the parcel to 4 single family homes has been well received by all parties, including the affected neighborhood.
Welcome- the Frederick County Board of Appeals is hearing an appeal of the approval of Global Mission Mega Church that is proposed to for the shadow of Sugarloaf. See a background here
We are going to give you the play by play below. We are going to 11pm at the latest tonight and will continue at another date if need be. There is the possibility that this case will not be heard tonight because of assertions by GMCs laywers sent in at the last minute.
8:02pm- It seems that none of the BOA Members actually visited the site but instead drove around it- they couldn’t get access to the site for some reason.
8:10- GMC’s lawyers insist that opponents are using the wrong statute- this is the case they made in a huge filing late yesterday insisting that the issue of septic can not be any part of this.
8:17- The county’s lawyer agrees with the church- anything related to the health department should not be part of tonight’s proceedings.
8:27- MCA’s lawyer insists that the people living closest deserve to take a look at the numbers on the septic system.
8:33- the BOA takes a break to consider the church’s assertion that church opponents can’t present anything on the septic system or anything on the site plan- basically they are saying that there are no arguments we can make tonight and the lawyer for the Planning Commission has agreed. This could be a short night folks- not in a good way.
9:23- Chair Duke has said he would like to deny the whole appeal, agreeing that neither the site plan or the septic are the preview of the BOA.
9:25- BOA member Sepe says it is crazy to deny the appeal without hearing any testimony at all “we have not even started this process”
9:26- MCA’s Caroline Taylor asks the BOA- if we are asking the Health department about their methods to find how they have arrived at those numbers and we can’t get them before a decision- what is the process for getting those? We are asking you to collect information to make sure we are getting our questions answered.
9:26- The County’s lawyer points out that the Health Department is a state agency and supports the idea that the BOA can not decide on Health Department.
9:32- MCA posits that we are here at the BOA because we have not gotten the information on the septic calculations in previous hearings.
9:34- BOA member Sepe is still (rightly) concerned that they have not heard any testimony at all. Chair Duke says that there is precedent in a case a few months back, denied on the basis of jurisdiction.
9:37- A motion made that they will not take evidence on septic as they do not have jurisdiction over the decisions made by the heath department- it passes 4-1 Ms. Sepe in opposition. This means that the BOA will not even hear testimony on the septic issue.
9:44- A motion is made to appease the church’s second demand- denying the appeal on the basis of our appeal being based on 2009 regulations when the church insists it is the 2008 regulations that should be applied (even though they had added more land to thier property to it site since then). If this passes it takes another big plank out of our argument against the church. County staff say that the newly submitted site plan was a continuation of the same one, not a new one. Again- Ms. Sepe is a voice of reason for taking testimony and giving our side a chance to respond to these late breaking filing from GMC. BOA member Fenimore agrees with her.
Woah- BOA member Bowersox- “That’s why there is a circuit court”. In response to not hearing testimony.
3 to 2 – the motion to take out site plan-
Folks- the appeal of the site plan approval has been denied. This is not the end of this issue. Stay Tuned.
MCA has been appealing the FredCo Planning Commission’s approval of the 118,000 square ft proposed mega church project in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain, high on a hill over a pristine stream and using a giant sandmound septic system that will take up 2 acres of the property. The size of the building and the number of services that would be held means thousands of people would occupy the building each week- making it likely the septic system would fail and degrade the local sole-source aquifer- the source for all area resident’s drinking water. Read the whole saga here.
But how big is 118,000 Square Feet? We put together the handy guide below with similarly sized buildings. Note- all these buildings are on public water and sewer- as buildings of this size and occupancy should be to protect water quality. Also note- even though they are all the same size, all but St. Patrick’s Cathedral would not be allowed on the proposed site for the Mega Church. The Agricultural zoning allows houses of worship but not commercial ventures. So, a building housing a church that happens to be the size of a Wal-Mart, fine- a Wal-Mart- no.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: 108,000 Sq Ft
St. Patrick’s is NYC’s great Cathedral and landmark. The Cathedral hosts 5.5 million visitors a year and 2,400 masses are celebrated each year.
The new Wal Mart in Aspen Hill 118,000 SqFt
The Tacoma, WA Convention Center 118,000 SqFt
The Convention center has recently played host to a crowd of 5,000 for the Best of the NW Cheerleading and Dance Competition and in 2011 hosted the America’s Got Talent tryouts.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio 118,000 SqFt
This Museum has been expanded over the years to its current size and welcomed 186,429 guests last year.
The BOA heard our motion for reconsideration (of our appeal earlier this month, read more below) last night, and again did not take any testimony. Board member Ms. Sepe moved for reconsideration on 4 different motions:
1. citing the facts that the septic is only conditionally approved
2.that the site plan does not include one whole parcel that was bought recently, the parcel that would allow a project-critical secondary access for emergency vehicles.
3. that the wrong year’s ordinances have been applied
4. the BOA did not follow its own by laws in not hearing any testimony at the its last hearing.
After each of her motions, the chair would allow discussion but the other members said nothing- only raising their hands to vote down each well reasoned motion. Ms. Sepe was joined by alternate Mr. Dyjak on her final motion but it was still 2-3- the motion to reconsider failed. The whole thing was over in 20 minutes.
What’s Next- We await the written opinion from the BOA and then, in the words of one BOA member “this is what Circuit Court is for.” As we say after each such hearing- the proposed building is still just too big, still threatens water resources and this is nowhere near over. We value your support as we go hearing for hearing, round for round. Donations to our legal fund can be made here. Please be sure to write “legal fund” in the instructions to seller field- and thanks!
Update: Frederick County Board of Appeals: Dismisses Site Plan Appeal Without Hearing Evidence
The Frederick County Board of Appeals dismissed our (MCA,SCA and neighbors) appeal of the site plan approval of Global Mission’s (GMC) mega facility. Last Thursday evening, we had 22 people prepared to testify and our attorney was set to argue our appeal. Yet, in response to a GMC last minute submitted 15 page communication advocating on procedural grounds (that we dispute) for dismissal and without affording us the opportunity to reply, the FCBOA, by majority vote, dismissed. It was the big shrug. The Frederick County Attorney, days before the hearing, noted that is was extraordinarily odd that GMC had not filed as a party. Apparently they did not so that they would not be held to filing deadlines that apply only to parties!
Hearing set for February 28th at Frederick County Board of Appeals (link to directions/agenda)
Please plan to attend to give voice to the numerous concerns! Scroll down for more action.
Currently, Frederick County is poised to allow the Global Mission Church (GMC) of Silver Spring to construct a massive complex on farmland, steep topography and forest – in the shadow of Sugarloaf. At approximately 120,000 square feet (the size of the Nashville Convention Center and larger than St. Patrick’s in New York), the development will dominate the vista from the mountain and the area long designated for farm and open space preservation in both Montgomery and Frederick Counties. Moreover, as the project will be served by Montgomery County’s rustic roads -it is a traffic nightmare and hazard waiting to happen. The complex, with an occupancy load potential of 5800, would draw from the Piedmont ground water aquifer that is the sole source of water to a swath of geography from Frederick, through Montgomery and into Loudoun. The sewerage produced would rely on a massive (and untested) sand mound septic system atop highly fractured geology, the aquifer and fragile Little Bennett Creek. See the Map Here.
Montgomery Countryside Alliance and Sugarloaf Citizens’ Association are currently challenging the legality of Frederick County’s approval of the project before the Frederick County Board of Appeals. Partner groups such as Audubon Naturalist Society, Friends of Frederick County and Friends of Little Bennett have labored with us on this issue since 2009. Our concern has always centered on the massive scale of the project and the incompatibility with resources and beloved treasures, especially the mountain. Neighbors have filed suit against GMC’s proposed secondary access road that, if constructed, would greatly alter their neighborhood. Efforts to help the church find a location with public water/sewer and appropriate transportation infrastructure were unsuccessful.