• Recommendation first step toward town houses on Mount Olivet property
  • September 28, 2017
  • A request to rezone a section of Mount Olivet Cemetery for future development did not go the way a group of Neighborhood Advisory Council 10 residents had hoped Monday, but they are not giving up on trying to halt it.

    The city’s Planning Commission voted in a unanimous, 5-0 majority Monday to make a positive recommendation to the Board of Aldermen to remove an institutional floating zone from a 12.74-acre portion of land inside the cemetery. The action is the first step toward the eventual construction of roughly 90 town houses and a senior living facility on about 20 vacant acres at the edge of the cemetery.

    Cemetery owners plan to sell the land because they do not need it for future burials and a developer, Community Housing Initiative, has an option to buy and develop it.

    George “Tim” Horman, president of the cemetery’s board of directors, explained Monday that the land is “excess,” and that the profits from selling it will help maintain the grounds in the future.

    Horman spoke in response to questions from the public and the planning commissioners about the future of the cemetery.

    Several residents who have expressed opposition to the project also came to Monday’s meeting. While they said they understand that the request is just for the rezoning and that the development plans are not part of Monday’s recommendation, they wanted to ensure their comments and concerns are on the record.

    “I want to comment early and often on any issue that is going to impact our neighborhood in one way or another,” said Emily Roy, who lives nearby on Catoctin Avenue. “I hope that you all keep an open mind for ways to make this project work for people who already live in the neighborhood.”

    The neighbors are primarily concerned about increased traffic and density that they expect development in that area will bring.

    “We are not opposed to new neighbors. We are friendly people,” said Thomas Overbey, who lives 3½ blocks from the proposed development area. “But the space we’re talking about cannot handle more vehicles.”

    Jennifer Tegges, who lives nearby on Carrollton Drive and rides a motorcycle, expressed concern about the traffic issues already occurring in the area and the possible repercussions of adding more vehicles. As a motorcyclist, she said the area is dangerous and she worries about the increased danger for both motorcyclists and cyclists.

    Bruce Dean, a land-use attorney and partner at Linowes & Blocher, also attended Monday’s meeting representing the developer.

    Dean pointed out that the city has a “fairly robust” Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that the developer will have to follow as the project moves forward. The ordinance is a legislative method that ties public infrastructure to growth for proposed development. It tests the development’s projected impact to roads, water, sewer, schools and traffic.

    Dean said after the vote that he was obviously pleased with the positive recommendation and that the developers look forward to moving through the process.

    He also pointed out that the project is not expected to increase the density beyond what was originally intended for the area. The entire 102-acre cemetery was originally zoned R8, or medium-density residential. The institutional floating zone was placed on top of it because of its use as a cemetery. The R8 zone allows construction of homes in an urban residential environment with a maximum density of eight units per acre. If the institutional zone is removed, the property will automatically revert back to R8.

    Overbey and other neighbors said they plan to keep attending the meetings regarding the rezoning request and other aspects of the project.

    Alderwoman Kelly Russell, who also serves as a voting member of the Planning Commission, emphasized that the commission is only a recommending body and encouraged the neighbors to keep attending meetings and expressing their opinions.

    The Board of Aldermen will address the rezoning request next, beginning with at least one workshop before voting on it at a future public hearing.

    Approving the rezoning will only allow removal of the institutional floating zone. The Planning Commission must also approve development plans, which Dean said is likely years away. He has said the developers want to remain completely transparent throughout the process, which is why they originally shared the tentative plans with the NAC 10 residents in May.

    Institutional floating zones were applied to the city’s zoning map in 2005 when the city’s land management code underwent a comprehensive rezoning. The floating zones were placed over the original zones and designate special uses for schools, hospitals, cemeteries, churches, nursing homes and government offices.

    According to the plans, the developer intends to purchase a total of about 20 acres and has applied to remove the institutional zone on the 12.74 acres to build the town houses. The senior living building is planned for the additional 8 acres near Interstate 70 and will keep the institutional floating zone. Developers have said the senior housing facility will be marketed to seniors making 60 percent of the average median income.

    The cemetery, at 515 S. Market St., dates back to the 1850s and contains roughly 150,000 graves. Historical claims to fame include the final resting place of Frederick resident and “Star-Spangled Banner” lyricist Francis Scott Key, and a “Confederate Row” where 700 Southern casualties of the American Civil War are buried.