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Friday, July 11, 2008

Setting a New Agenda for Frederick City

Jack Lynch

Part Two

Yesterday I announced my intention to run for Mayor of Frederick and set out a challenge to the growth policy of the current City administration. Today I'll expand on the concepts of growing and redeveloping within the current City bounds.

I have in mind three major areas – a new look at the length of East Street, especially the areas close to our historic downtown that need revival of purpose. The Golden Mile corridor, and Hillcrest. East Patrick Street, and the potential for redevelopment of the county fairgrounds. The focus will be on design densities with articulated and stepped heights, mixing residential and commercial uses, with reduced auto dependence and integrated park and natural areas as buffers.

These areas suppose a kind of central node for managing traffic and design – I envision broad traffic circles closer to the size of those seen in Washington, DC than the little oval speedways Maryland has generally built – equestrian statues in the center, or otherwise – but functioning to direct a better traffic flow at nodes that compress too much movement for the usual stop signs, red lights, etc.

I envision one to address the north end of East Street and flows to the neighborhood east of it and the Odd Fellows property development just north of it, and one at East Patrick near the fairgrounds to replace the red light and develop a systematic approach to directing increased flows into the fairgrounds property with the expectation that it will be redeveloped as a major mixed use design. It is time to start thinking about moving the county fair to a better location and letting the City expand on that ground.

An option for that and for a big City sports field park might lie just north of the current City limits. While the reasoning for attempting to take Hargett Farm may be sound in some regards, it is wrong to approve a final site plan and then turn around and use eminent domain against private interests. And it could cost the citizens dearly, while also taking away funds that might be applied better elsewhere towards many other park needs.

I will request a review of options for creating an appropriate sized convention center, perhaps between East Patrick and Church Street. It could take advantage of transit, and downtown proximity. Depending on the size, it might be staged to build in sections and grow in its role and importance over time and market demand. Obviously, if the studies prove we are already well served by the mix of campus, private and institutional spaces and it has no further market potential – that idea could be dropped again.

We should be looking at the conceptualization of a Baker Park East to fit alongside the two sections of my potential East Patrick developments and the Carroll Creek extension to the Monocacy River.

New overlay zoning to allow denser, smarter growth that builds a truly walking enabled and transit-oriented community development in key zones, and a greater downtown zone, with design guidelines and green infrastructure enhancements and overlying design concepts that guide a connected and common thematic design for big areas like East Street and Route 40 where growth can be engaged in the process of community building, rather than sprawl.

In good weather, I like the idea of taking the City meetings outside to the Baker Park band shell where symbolically the governing of the City merges with the life of the community, and a real public access. It should prove harder to make stern bureaucratic and negative choices when children laugh and play on swing sets and folks walking by who've never paid much attention before - stop to listen a bit.

I also want to address the daytime work session meetings because they are not readily accessible to the many citizens who commute. I will place a video recording system for meetings that will broadcast over television and the web. It will wait no longer! A public relations office will return to City Hall, and the Mayor will openly engage the press with news conferences again.

Putting progressive elements of community design, energy use, environment and historic presence back into the planning of the community – a theme of mine will be, for 'Frederick's past, present, and future' – meaning our changes will recognize, incorporate, and value our historic past, augment our present, and guide our future within its framework – a progressive rather than regressive interpretation of the City.

I'd like to arrange planning staff trades between the City and County, so that planners on either side understand some of the issues and process on the other side of the table. That sharing and basis of understanding will pay off in reducing disputes over interests and priorities – and may even produce some formal relationships that result in mutual planning programs. We must begin thinking in regional terms, beyond City, beyond County to solve the next generation of challenges.

A public commitment to recycling programs would begin, with a highly visible public waste recyclables receptacle campaign, requirements for City events, mandates of business recycling and promotion of homeowner recycling – also an interest in investment in a facility for composting and recovery systems. The City should partner with its homeowner associations to provide improved recycling opportunities and shared containers to encourage greater participation and easier access to compliance with recommendations to recycle more. Higher density communities and decreased lot sizes constrict the opportunities to recycle and manage wastes.

We will become a community whose diversity will be part and parcel of its reflection in government actions, where a shared presence adds vitality and strength. We will commit to reflecting that diversity in government appointment and employment. There will be strong links between community subsets and our enforcement officers. Trust and mutual respect will continue to be hallmarks of our police authority in the community.

An agreement with the county on issues of growth, annexation, roads and school capacities, and emergency services impacts. The loophole in the schools APFO should be closed and school overcrowding addressed in consultation with the county. Our water policy will recognize that we now live with limits and should recognize inherently that quality of life and quality of water resources go hand in hand, sourcing of water should be diverse and built upon enhancements to our forestation, land preservation, and notable riparian buffers.

Creation of an agricultural zoning and tax structure which supports a greenbelt around the City with viable farming and community open space interests. A new form of transferable development rights that allows reduced land values at the contiguous ring around the City while creating greater opportunities for density within the ring. Structuring compensatory inducements to participate in maintaining open space land uses through a variety of combined programs and staff guidance to meet the requirements.

Improvements in commuting options and increased off rush capacities to metropolitan destinations within a fifty mile radius so that weekend commuting potentials are realized and traffic problems reduced by transit. We will seek regional solutions and cost sharing to accomplish it. Completing the citywide trails program and connecting the existing pieces will be a priority, as well as developing bicycle commuting enhancements, and building towards increased commuting within the City.

The Monocacy River will be a centerpiece of public space and parkland – a walking trail and public access – a community committed to a clean waterway and a corridor of green forestation and wildlife. Between the City watershed on the mountain and the streams to the river, our impacts are destroying water quality – we will seek to reverse that trend of increased pavements and runoff – return and augment green buffers and monitor for water quality impacts.

Parks will be evaluated to reduce unnecessary mowing of unused spaces for warm weather water retention and wildflower meadows. Existing small parks from developer land donations which have perfunctory development of spaces will be invested in - enhancing facilities and increasing natural areas.

The City should require submission of homeowner association financials on a regular basis and have benchmarks for financial health of the associations. When they fail in fiduciary responsibilities, their infrastructure falls to taxpayer costs.

Significant historic sites should be considered for adding tourist interest and commemorative statues, etc. The revolutionary and frontier era in Frederick are neglected, but there are also opportunities such as the visit of Lincoln on the way to Gettysburg – and a monument along Route 15 North dedicated to the march to Gettysburg would be a highly visible attraction for Civil War tourism.

We will celebrate and improve upon our historic setting and heritage – this is the engine of what is special about our place, it enhances our quality of life and provides a firm identity to carry us forward. We are a destination of wide interest. We will promote it.

I would make a committed effort to work alongside the citizens of nearby communities and municipalities to mutually meet these common goals and resolve differences. Frederick City impacts its neighbors, and they may impact us in turn, we want to communicate and manage agreements on handling those matters together. I submit and accept that the time a City can simply forge ahead and burden its neighbors with its growth plans are over in Maryland.

We need to look again at districting of Aldermanic elections because the City residents and needs have grown until a clear path of responsibility between officials and local neighborhoods is lacking – citizens deserve an advocate, and someone they can hold responsible to their specific needs and minor concerns.

I've raised a lot of concepts for changes, my ideas will need fleshing out against the legal basis of government administration and legislative powers, some are simple, some fraught with deliberation and long effort in winning over of the Aldermen who will actually vote for the changes.

Leadership is about getting out front, and also about pushing from behind. Not all of these ideas will succeed, or even be possible, but I'll keep asking the questions – why not the best for citizens?

The next Mayor of Frederick? I'm starting early. I seek your support and advice. Are you ready to work with me and change the City of Frederick? I'd love to hear from you!

Please respond to me with your thoughts at

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