Frederick County Council rejects restrictive zoning rules for Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain and surrounding lands in Frederick County, Maryland, will not implement restrictive zoning that would have limited developments. The split vote on the “Sugarloaf Rural Heritage Overlay District” Tuesday night from the county council ultimately rejected the plan after years of contention.

“I don’t think in 100 years, those you know who will be here then will have any regrets about us conserving an area,” said District One Council member Jerry Donald, who represents the area in question. “I think they may be saddened if we let something slip away that will never come back.”

He and Council member Steve McKay were the sole votes for approval.

The overlay district would have taken the land and put further restrictions on development banning commercial logging and other businesses like gun ranges, landfills, sawmills and data centers.

“People have told you for years, we do not want to see data centers, permitted in any way, shape or form,” one resident said after votes were cast on the overlay district.

“What does the entire Washington metropolitan region value about Sugarloaf Mountain? It’s the journey. It’s the climb to the top. And it’s the view,” said McKay. “The last thing you want to see is to look down at warehouselike buildings right at the base of the mountain. That’d be ridiculous.”

But opponents of the plan fired back saying current zoning for Sugarloaf and the resource conservation and agricultural status were protection enough to preserve the land. The new rules, in their eyes, would restrict private landowners.

“We’ve heard from a number of constituents, residents in the area, who do not want their properties in the overlay,” said Council Vice President Kavonte Duckett.

The proposed zoning rules would have also limited building structures over 10,000 feet without express approval.

The county has also tasked a work group focused on data centers to look at possible sights for the facilities. Many on the council said eliminating the area before the group had completed their study is premature and that no land up for discussion was even currently zoned for data centers.

“There is no property that’s zoned for this. This would be the time that properties would come in to be rezoned, and they’re not here,” said Council member M.C. Keegan-Ayer.

The nonprofit that runs Sugarloaf Mountain, Stronghold Properties, opposed the overlay, writing in a statement, “Sugarloaf Mountain is currently zoned resource conservation, the most restrictive of all zoning categories. Any additional restrictions will impact Stronghold’s operation and maintenance of Sugarloaf Mountain.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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