Effort renewed to de-annex properties
June 4, 2010 by FofFC
Filed under Addressing the "Northern Annexations" and Development Plans, Frederick, Municipal Growth: addressing the hidden costs of sprawl in New Market, Press and Media, Sign a Petition, Spread the Word!, Volunteer
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Gazette, June 3, 2010 Annexations that were an issue in last year’s city election could play an encore in county election this fall, candidates say
All four incumbents who were seeking re-election to the Frederick Board of Aldermen last fall were in favor of the two annexations along U.S. Route 15, but none of them were re-elected.
Two of those four aldermen, Republicans Alan Imhoff and Paul Smith, are running for the Board of County Commissioners this fall, and they are not backing down on the issue.
“Regarding the election last year, I have to assume part of the reason I was not successful was because of annexations,” said Imhoff.
Alderman David “Kip” Koontz (D), who also voted in favor of the annexations, did not make it past September’s primary. The fourth alderman, Donna Kuzemchak (D), made it past the primary but lost in the general in her bid for a fourth term.
Smith said his position in the contentious debate undoubtedly had a hand in the outcome of the city elections that put him in sixth place with voters, even though most of the candidates who were elected also favored the annexations.
“The more I have learned, the more this makes sense,” Smith said. “That is the area where we need to put in jobs … that’s what’s lacking the BOCC budget discussion. What are you going to do to bring in additional revenues?”
Frederick County Commissioner Kai J. Hagen (D), who was involved in Friends’ petition drive last year and is running for re-election this year, said the annexations could well play another role. “It’s noteworthy that every person who voted for it who ran for office lost,” he said.
Friends has renewed its efforts to stop the development of more than 400 acres in the northern part of the city by gathering 8,000 signatures from city residents on a petition that would put the issue to a vote in 2013.
The 285-acre Crum Farm on the west side of Route 15 south of Sunday’s Lane includes the potential for more than 1,000 homes and 1 million square feet of office space, while the 110-acre Thatcher Farm on the east side of Route 15 north of Biggs Ford Road has the potential for up to 1 million square feet of office space.
Friends of Frederick County and supporters are not in favor of the annexations because of potential negative impacts on an overburdened highway, schools and other public services that will ultimately, they say, cost taxpayers.
“[The annexations] don’t make sense,” said Janice Wiles, Friends’ executive director. “There’s a better way to grow and progress through infill and redevelopment.”
Supporters of the annexations of two tracts of land on either side of Route 15, however, believe that job growth and beefing up the city’s tax base are critical goals, especially now.
Imhoff told The Gazette last week that annexations are “one of the hardest issues to understand,” that voters were “confused,” and that the issue became political and information was taken out of context.
“I still stand by my reasoning for voting on all the annexations and to provide ‘point/counterpoint’ commentary if requested by the electorate,” Imhoff said.
As for the any political implications of the timing of Friends’ latest attempt to reverse the annexations, Imhoff responded, “what’s not political in this country?”
To date, only two candidates, incumbent Hagen (D) and newcomer Ellis Burruss (D) are on record as opposing the annexations.
Burruss joined Wiles and others at a recent rally to announce the plans to reverse the annexations. He said he doesn’t believe that the commissioners’ race was a motivating factor in the timing of the effort. “I don’t think the timing was motivated by anything other than when FOFC was able to get the ball rolling,” he said.
Wiles said it took some time to figure out the legalities of the de-annexation process.
“I can’t predict what will happen to Imhoff and Smith, but if people learn what they stand for and how much that really will cost taxpayers, it might cause a problem for them,” she said.
The main focus is educating residents about the details of the annexations, how much they will cost in added infrastructure, traffic and public services, Wiles said.
The city and county will meet to review more detailed costs of the annexations on Monday.
“I hope that citizens think long and hard about the danger on [Route] 15 … we are concerned about the health, safety and welfare of our citizens and think our elected officials should be, too,” Wiles said.
Bruce Dean, local attorney for Corporate Properties Trust, said Wiles’ group may run into some legal issues with their efforts, but would not go into details.
City attorney Saundra Nickols refused to comment about the legalities involved in amending the charter to change the city boundaries.
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