Landscape of Frederick County. Photo by Preservation Maryland, 2018.

Three Smart Growth & Preservation Legislative Victories in Frederick County

08/14/2020
By Elly Colmers Cowan

Frederick County has recently passed three pieces of landmark legislation that puts the county at the forefront of smart growth and environmental policy in Maryland. Preservation Maryland is proud to have worked with our local partners through the Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County to achieve these successes and to have helped ensure a better future for residents.

Despite initial delays in the legislative schedule due to Covid-19, Frederick County Council passed updates to the county’s Forest Resource Ordinance, zoning, and established a Climate Emergency Resolution. These pieces of legislation put Frederick County at the forefront of protecting environmental resources at the local level.

Forest Resource Ordinance

Council Bill 20-08, which passed the County Council unanimously, updates the existing Forest Resource Ordinance to ensure that developers replace every acre of forest they cut down by replanting the same number of acres elsewhere. The legislation also ensures compliance with Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act by using the state minimum “standard calculation” in the rare cases where this complex formula would restore more forests. The bill retains the 2-to-1 replanting to cut ratio for projects that remove more forest than allowed under the existing conservation thresholds. This no net forest loss legislation establishes Frederick County as a leader in forest conservation in the face of intense development pressure.

Frederick streetcar, ca. 1900. Photo from Maryland State Archive.

Frederick streetcar, ca. 1900. Photo from Maryland State Archive.

Zoning Amendment

While the Forest Resource Ordinance establishes baselines to replace forests and maintain no net loss of forests in the county, Council Bill 20-07 amends Frederick County’s zoning process to ensure that priority forests and other sensitive features are protected from intense uses when properties are developed. The legislation includes density exclusions for priority forests and other sensitive areas that are needed to effectively protect the County’s natural resources. The new way of utilizing density calculations for sensitive environmental features ensures the sustainable growth of Frederick County and the preservation of its valuable resources.

In addition to the environmental ramifications, this bill also increases protections for historic structures.

Now in any rezoning development application, the developer much include the identification of historic resources on the proposed parcel and how all efforts have been made to promote the protection, preservation, and integration of historic resources into the planned development through reuse, adaptive use, and rehabilitation. This adds a layer of review and protection for historic resources throughout the county.

Climate Emergency Resolution

The Frederick County Council also passed a Climate Emergency Resolution which directs the Council and the Administration to consider all significant decisions through the lens of the climate crisis.

Frederick County is already experiencing impacts related to the changing climate, including more frequent flood events that increase County expenditures on infrastructure repairs and emergency services. The Climate Emergency Resolution acknowledges the multiple threats to Frederick County as the result of the changing climate, and in response, it creates an emissions baseline, establishes achievable goals, and outlines a clear path toward those goals. To help achieve this, the Resolution establishes a multi-disciplinary workgroup to assess the County’s climate-related risks and develop a plan to reach net-zero emissions and strengthen the county’s resilience in facing climate impacts.

So far, only 8.8% of the US population is protected by a climate emergency resolution, and Frederick now joins Montgomery County as the only counties in Maryland to adopt a resolution thus far.

Add Your Name in Support of Smarter Growth in Frederick County

Smart Growth Maryland will continue our work in Frederick County through our co-leadership of the Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County and seeking to implement more aspects of the Livable Frederick plan. You can help support our work by signing the Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County petition in support of smart growth in Frederick County or by donating to Smart Growth Maryland today.

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Elly Colmers Cowan · Director of Advocacy

Elly Cowan is here to get you involved in historic preservation, smart growth, and community development by becoming an advocate with us.

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