Citizen Commentary: Developer on the Move – A Response to a recent CCT article on the Beck Property in Mt. Airy
As one of my colleagues recently said “the Pleasant’s developer PR campaign is in full swing” to sell their preconcept plan on the Beck property. As expected, they are painting a pretty picture of how wonderful it will be to have 492 housing units and commercial establishments plopped on the Beck property that spans both the east and west sides of route 27 in the town of Mt Airy. In spite of their assurances of the great value this development will provide Mt Airy as well as promises that the issues surrounding the development having been resolved, there still are many issues they are not being transparent about. When you are selling your house you need to provide full disclosure of all the problems in the house, the developer should provide similar full disclosures. The following provides some of the issues that they are not disclosing in their advertising.
The plan calls for 492 new homes and commercial buildings on both the east and west sides of the property. This number of homes and the people living in those homes will need the basic infrastructure to support them. Water in Mt Airy is an issue and has not been resolved. Five new wells have been drilled to support this project and initial testing results show drastic under-performance. In addition to water needs for the homes it should be noted that commercial uses (especially think restaurants) use significant amounts of water also. There is a lack of water not to mention its current toxicity levels of PFAS.
Another aspect of infrastructure needs are roads and traffic. The developer has indicated that there will be less traffic with this plan than usual because 70% of the residential component of the project are senior citizens. This is debatable. Think about it. Do 55 and older people insure less vehicles and driving? I think not. Most people I know who are 55 and older (well into their 80’s) drive and have multiple vehicles. Do a little research and you will find this to be true. Traffic will increase creating gridlock in with those intersections along Route 27 and the roads intersecting with Route 27 that span the new development. County and Maryland roads would not be expanded for many many years.
One of the most offensive aspects of the preconcept plan is the construction of a 4 story apartment building on the west side of the Beck property. This 40 foot tall monstrosity would be an eyesore that would be visible to most to the inhabitants of the town. This city type of building does not belong in Mt Airy. Rather, it belongs in a city or places like Gaithersburg. Oh right, that’s where the developer is from. Not that there is anything wrong with Gaithersburg, but Gaithersburg is not Mr Airy.
Finally, there is one other item not mentioned by the developer. Its a thing called recharging, that is, land set aside for recharging aquifers and hence wells. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) requires that land be set aside for recharge for every gallon of water taken from the ground. There is not enough land on the Beck property to accommodate the recharge requirement. The developer is investigating alternatives to get around this problem by using what is known as the Brinkley Bill (BB), a law passed by the Maryland Senate that in certain situations would essentially waive the land recharge requirement. But according to MDE this law would not apply to the Beck project since the wells as noted above are currently under performing. So we are back to the beginning, water is a problem.
The Mt Airy town government, citizens and technical staff are not convinced that the Beck preconcept plan is viable and good for the town (hence the developer advertisements). This will come to light as public meetings take place in the near future when the plan gets reviewed. Make sure you are aware of the meeting dates and locations of these meetings so you can let your voice and questions be known. If you don’t speak up, the old saying “silence means agreement” will apply.
~~Charlie Mansfield, Mt. Airy