After passing the plan in 2022, the non binding goals of protecting the area around Sugarloaf, the overlay that forms the teeth of the zoning change was remanded to the Planning Board last year. It was once again approved by the Planning Board with few changes and a strong recommendation to pass it. The Council took it up on December 19th and the overlay failed 5-2.
The Frederick News Post covered the meeting. Councilmembers Brad Young, M.C. Keegan-Ayer, Kavonté Duckett, Mason Carter and Renee Knapp voted against the overlay. Councilmembers Jerry Donald and Steve McKay voted to approve it.
To the advocates in the room, the reasons given for not backing up the plan recognizing the regions unique qualities with measures to keep them protected were underwhelming to say the least. A broad coalition of regional supporters were dismissed as NIMBYs, zoning that would protect farms and forests, used by the county elsewhere to protect similar resources was called "exclusionary" and Councilmember Young even said that the area may need to be a "revenue stream" in the future.
One part of the meeting that was particularly chilling was the lack of support for an amendment barring Data Centers from being sited in the Sugarloaf Zone. A proposed floating zone that would allow Data centers is proposed for parts of the area considered by this plan.
Related: Maryland Matters on Data Centers: "In other words, if the data centers come to Frederick County, there could be tremendous consequences for the climate and the environment — and for millions of utility customers throughout the region."
We understand that the next part of Frederick County's Zoning re-write is the 270 corridor, an area where carveouts to this plan were floated to allow a developer to site data centers in partnership with Amazon within the plan area. This plan, bound by NDAs and backroom deals, only came to light thanks to the legal efforts of Sugarloaf Alliance.
Data center development on the industrial Eastalcoa site is ongoing - in the words of Councilmember McKay who was seeking to prohibit Data Centers in the Sugarloaf Zone:
"The County is moving forward with a major data center project at the old Eastalco site. We’re a decade or more from maximizing that project. We don’t need more land now. That Eastalco site has the high power electric infrastructure - Sugarloaf doesn’t. The Eastalco site has nearby water and sewer - Sugarloaf doesn’t.
Leaving open the prospect for this kind of development in the Sugarloaf area actually opens it up to even more intensive development. As far as the Council members opposing the overlay tonight, I didn’t hear them shying away from that possibility. In my opinion, that vote against the overlay was a vote in favor of future development there."
No question this is a setback, but the work continues. We stand committed to our partners across the county line. Please follow Sugarloaf Alliance for more in-depth updates.
- The Frederick News Post - the cost to upgrade the grid for Data centers in MD is 5 Billion - who pays?
- Multiple Data Centers proposed along Potomac River in the Ag Reserve
- Background on the Sugarloaf Region Plan