Gardner unveils three pieces of proposed legislation on zoning changes

·2 min read

Jan. 14—Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner announced three pieces of land-use legislation targeting a wide array of topics on Thursday.

If passed, the legislation will streamline the processes for farmers to apply for roadside stands, establish criteria for potential future data centers in the county and set standards for public notification of county rezoning processes.

The legislation package, which was unveiled during a news conference, would be a boon for county residents, Gardner said in a news release.

The first piece of legislation would allow roadside farm stands smaller than 600 square feet to be constructed without a building permit, and stands up to 1,500 square feet would have an expedited review process, according to the release.

"We know residents want to buy locally-produced food, so this proposal is a win-win for everyone," Gardner is quoted as saying.

In order to qualify for the streamlined process, farm stands would need to verify that at least 51 percent of the products sold at the stand were produced by the owner within the county, in the immediate neighborhood of the stand.

Additionally, this piece of legislation would allow value-added processes to take place on parcels of land as small as 10 acres. Current zoning laws set the minimum to 25 acres.

"Value-added" is defined in the legislation as "treatment that changes the form of a product grown on a farm in order to increase its market value with a minimum of 51 percent of the processed product being produced on the farm."

The second piece of legislation would establish a new category of land use, dubbed critical digital infrastructure. This would apply to data centers and their associated infrastructure.

Under the proposed legislation, critical digital infrastructure land usage would be allowed on land which is currently zoned for limited industrial or general industrial use. The legislation would standardize a number of rules for these pieces of land, including setting limits on lighting and noise-levels associated with the buildings.

Finally, the third piece of proposed legislation would set standards for how the county would notify residents of comprehensive rezoning of multiple properties, including the installation of signs at regular intervals and mailed notifications sent to affected and adjacent property owners.

"My goal is to ensure the economic viability of agriculture in Frederick County as we accelerate preserving the best farmland through our preservation efforts," Gardner said of the proposed legislation. "And it is equally important that we ensure new development happens well and that we protect our high quality of life and the aspects we cherish most about our community."

The legislation can be found in full on the county's website. The County Council is scheduled to hold a workshop on the proposals Jan. 25.

Follow Patrick Kernan on Twitter: @PatKernan

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