Historic Designation Could Lead to Incompatible Land Use in Sugarloaf Country
Update- 8.13.15- The Applicant has withdrawn this proposal on the day of the hearing. We don’t have more information at this time. Thanks to all who wrote in and to Sugarloaf Alliance for their advocacy.
The owners of the 2220 Thurston Rd property (on the Frederick County side) are seeking a historic designation for their 260 acre property so they can proceed with plans to operate a large event venue – a use that is prohibited in the Resource Conservation zone where the property lies among farms, forests and of course the Mountain. If Frederick County’s Historic Preservation Commission does find the drastically renovated structures on the property “historic”- many of the uses allowed under this designation, such as an event venue, may bypass the intended protections of Resource Conservation zoning and threaten the very resources the zone is meant to conserve.
1. Attend the Historic Preservation Commission Hearing- Wednesday, August 12th at 7:00 p.m, Winchester Hall, 12 East Church Street, Frederick
2.Send your concerns by email to Frederick County Planner Dennis Superczynski- dSuperczynski@frederickcountymd.gov by August 10. Sample points follow, please make them your own:
- The Resource Conservation zoning on this area is critical to protect not just the land itself but the other less tangible resources of rural roads and quiet surroundings.
-This property abuts Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve and there is concern that more permissive zoning would have an impact on the working farms just over the county line.
-Designating a property as historic must be balanced with keeping our presently exiting resources preserved for future generations. The proximity of this property to historic battlefields, working farms and Sugarloaf mountain needs to be carefully considered in any potential zoning change. Frederick County has often considered more protective zoning for this area to protect these natural and historic resources. More permissive zoning- even to protect our historic buildings, may inadvertently allow incompatible land uses – a change which can’t be undone.
You’ll remember a year ago this month when a proposal to turn this property into a massive shooting range with sniper tower and parking for hundreds was drawing massive crowds of concerned neighbors and Sugarloaf allies. The range proposal ended when the owners, the Valois family, capitulated to opposition at the hearing, saying they now understood the unique landscape of the mountain and surrounding farms was incompatible with their plans and wanted to be good neighbors.
While the noise created by a large event venue may not rise to the din of a shooting range- community members are rightfully concerned about the noise and traffic that would be associated with such a facility. As Sugarloaf Alliance (the lead organization on this issue) has pointed out “the natural contour of the mountain and valley produces significant echoing of any noise generated and the narrow, winding, hilly character of Thurston Road becomes more dangerous with increased traffic.” Currently, this parcel is zoned Resource Conservation – while Frederick County lacks the more stringent zoning of Montgomery’s Ag Reserve, this part of Thurston Road sits in an area that open space advocates have identified as needing more protective zoning – specifically because of the Mountain, working farms, historic battlefields and rural character of the area.
This week’s Commission hearing is the first step in the property achieving a zoning change that would permit an event venue. Please stay tuned.
Hops- Microbreweries and Wineries are among the revised land uses we will discuss
That Happened: Friday, February 27 at 10am – St. Paul Community Church, 14730 Sugarland Road, Poolesville
Montgomery County put the Comprehensive Zoning Code Re-Write into effect in October of last year. What do the changes and refinements, such as provisions for Ag tourism/education and wineries, mean to area farmers? What are the new opportunities for farm enterprises and how are they regulated? What challenges remain? How do we meet those challenges?
In part of an ongoing effort to educate folks on these issues, Jeremy Criss of MC Ag Services Division has kindly agreed to provide a presentation and answer questions for area producers. Some may have already attended Jeremy’s presentations to the Farm Bureau and others. There will be ample opportunity for full discussion following the presentation. If you have questions that you would like to share with Jeremy in advance of the meeting contact him here: email@example.com. We will also be joined by a representative of the Maryland Winery Association.
Please RSVP by contacting Ellen@mocoalliance.org
Plan to arrive on time and allow for 2 hours for the meeting. Special thanks to Gwen Reese, Trustee of St. Paul Community Church and MCA Board member, for making this wonderful space available for the meeting. Breakfast and coffee generously provided by Whole Foods Market, Kentlands.
2015 GMC Update: Our Attorney, Michele Rosenfeld, delivered oral argument before the Court of Special Appeals in early December 2014 in both of the ongoing legal challenges. The site plan approval challenge that MCA filed in partnership with Sugarloaf Citizens Association is strong and was favorably heard by the Appeals Court. The oral argument in the suit filed by community members involving the Church’s required secondary access road bisecting residential property bound by long standing neighborhood covenants, also quite strong, was also heard. We are waiting for opinions in both cases. Awaiting decisions in both cases.
Read on below…
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.
Circuit Court Challenge and Media Coverage
Five Things the Same Size as the Mega Church
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.
photo by Lee Langstaff
As we were putting together our ambitious 2015 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
Currently working on supporting new farm businesses and expansion of sourcing local farm products in County stores/restaurants. We are pushing to add to our farmland inventory for the LandLink program. Our education initiative has expanded and we are working with MC Farm Bureau to secure funding for mobile ag science lab for the use of the County’s elementary schools. How about that! Every elementary school student should have exposure to what farming is all about and why our Ag Reserve is so special.
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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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- firstname.lastname@example.org)
-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.
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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.