The voluminous revision of Frederick's zoning law that goes before the Board of Aldermen tonight is one that reflects the city's struggles with rapid population growth and the consequences of a prolonged drought.
Frederick grew by about a third in the 1990s. A July 2004 Census estimate put the population at 52,793. The proposed Land Management Code has had its own growth spurt. At 1,125 pages, it dwarfs the original August 1929 version, a pocket-size, 31-page booklet.
While there have been several public hearings and an estimated 17,500 notices mailed to property owners, few residents know much about the code, which has been two years in the making.
Some who have studied it are concerned.
Chris Loysen, who owns Dodson's Auto Care & Texaco at 1700 W. Seventh Street, near Fort Detrick, said the revision would reduce his property rights without compensating him for the loss.
"I felt that when I bought the property, I bought the right to the uses that came with it," said Loysen, 43, of Germantown. "They are taking away most of them, whether or not I am paid for these rights. And I don't think anybody has spoken to the fairness of it."
Although he has no plans to build an office building, for example, he said the code would no longer allow such a structure. He has requested a more expansive zoning designation, "General Commercial" -- or "GC" in the new code -- which he said is similar to his existing classification.
Neighbors, several of whom praised Loysen as a model of the local businessman, are opposed. A flier warned that under the GC code, a small neighborhood gas station could become a strip mall, an adult bookstore or a huge, 24-hour gas-and-fast food mecca.
"I'm here because I don't like what's happening," Michael O'Connor, 39, who lives on Lee Place, told officials at a hearing last week. O'Connor said that as a boy, he filled his bicycle tires at Loysen's because the air pump was free, as it is today. But O'Connor also asked that the gas station receive the more restrictive zoning.
Proponents say the revised regulations would help guide growth and streamline procedures for reviewing building proposals.
"The No. 1 thing is that it's a unified development document," said Charles W. Boyd, director of planning. Boyd said it would allow officials to shape growth to mirror one of the city's most beloved neighborhoods -- the historic downtown, where townhouses, shops, offices and restaurants have created a lively community.
City officials have wrestled at length with the creation of an elaborate matrix that spells out the intended uses for the zoning classifications, painstakingly debating, for example, whether a shoe store should be allowed in a neighborhood shopping center.
But Boyd also acknowledges critics who say the revised code falls short of ensuring that there are enough schools and roads before new development is approved.
"We are messing with people's property rights. We know that. We're aware of that all the time," Boyd said.
The code also reflects continuing concerns about the 2001-02 drought. It maps areas near well-water aquifers for the first time and restricts certain types of building to prevent pollution, Boyd said. It would also create zones to discourage residential construction in noisy areas near major highways.
The highway noise and well-water zones are two of five "overlay" districts that would impose additional restrictions on properties. Among others is the preexisting Historic District overlay zone to preserve the downtown's yesteryear charm.
The Land Management Code would include new "floating" zones to allow flexibility to rezone parcels for use as parkland, office space or a mixture of residential and commercial use.