- Gas House Pike annexation request to come before Frederick aldermen in October
- September 28, 2017
After three lengthy workshops to address everything from road improvements to residential buffers, a request to annex and rezone several hundred acres of Frederick County farmland into the city limits for industrial use is ready for a final vote.
The Board of Aldermen is set to vote in October on the request from landowner Renn Family Investments LLC to annex 387 acres on the north and south sides of Gas House Pike east of Riverside Corporate Park.
According to the request, 327 acres of the land would be zoned for light industrial use, adding to a limited amount of developable industrial land countywide. The rest of the roughly 60 acres would remain farmland.
The annexation request received a positive recommendation in June from the city’s Planning Commission by a slim 3-2 margin and is now before the aldermen. Board members held their third and final workshop on the request Wednesday, where they seemed to come to a consensus on the details of the agreement.
If it clears the board, it will move on to the Frederick County Council for final approval after a 45-day window to appeal.
Bruce Dean, a land-use attorney representing the property owners, said he and his partners can move forward with the development process immediately after the County Council approves it. If for some reason the council does not approve it, though, he said they may have to wait five years before the property is developed.
The local Renn family owns a number of agricultural parcels in the area and is selling them off as its members move away from the farming business. Another Renn Farm in the Airport Overlay Zone was the subject of a highly disputed rezoning request in 2015. The request eventually went through, and a mixed-use residential project is in the works.
A need for industrial land
Dean and his team are promoting the annexation as a tool to attract future development. They estimated the county currently has 100 acres or less eligible for industrial projects and said the area has missed out on profitable development as a result.
If zoned as proposed, light industrial projects similar to AstraZeneca and the Flying Dog Brewery relocation near Frederick Municipal Airport, would be eligible for development at the site.
Jim Mackintosh, co-owner of Mackintosh Realtors, explained that most of the land zoned for that use in the county is either too small, does not have public water and sewer connections, or is already tied up with other projects.
Helen Propheter, Frederick County’s director of economic development, said in a prior workshop that she has hosted companies that are looking for industrially zoned land that the county cannot accommodate. If the proposed tracts along Gas House Pike are annexed into the city, though, it will create more options for that type of use.
Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said he runs into the same types of issues when trying to bring industrial projects to the city.
“It’s fair to say that the need for light industrial and flex space in the city and the county is important and has been determined to be a strong one,” he said.
A lengthy process
The aldermen, planning commissioners and city staff members worked with the development team over the past several months before reaching a consensus about the annexation request Wednesday.
Dean stressed that he wanted the current officials to make the decision on the annexation. That may not have been possible had the vote been delayed any longer, as the city is holding an election in November that will replace at least two of the sitting officials.
During the process, several nearby residents spoke against the addition of an industrial development moving in next door. None of the residents spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, but the concerns expressed earlier revolved around potential noise, traffic and other disturbances an industrial development would bring to the neighborhood.
Required road improvements, namely the widening of Gas House Pike and a proposed north/south spine road to serve the future development, dominated a large portion of Wednesday’s workshop discussion.
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, for example, said one of the drivers for annexing the property into the city is alleviating traffic congestion in the area, which she believes the proposed road improvements would help facilitate.
Dean ultimately agreed to include a contribution to regional road projects in the money spent on roads to accommodate the development, according to the results of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance test. The ordinance is a legislative method that ties public infrastructure to growth for proposed development. It tests a development’s projected impact to roads, water, sewer, schools and traffic.
The proposed annexation also requires the eventual developer to pay for the widening of Gas House Pike to five lanes from Progress Drive to the eastern end of the property line. The project could carry a $4 million or $5 million cost, which Dean said is a pretty big deal.The aldermen also agreed on several other conditions, most notably a 75-foot buffer for nearby residential properties.