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University of Baltimore Journal of Land and Development

Abstract

In late 2012 a bitter war was waged in a small Maryland town. Newspapers portrayed it as a David and Goliath type story; rural residents fighting big business developers to keep them from destroying their small town's charm and character. Yet underlying the conflict were commonplace issues of land use and planning, governed by a little known, yet surprisingly ubiquitous law, known as an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. To set the scene Frederick County, Maryland is like many other counties across the United States that are coping with the effects of growth and demographic change. In decades past its residents have been insulated from the perils associated with unmitigated development experienced by neighboring counties. Frederick is predominately a rural county, sparsely populated and dotted with large tracts of farm land. Many of its long term residents place a premium on this quiet, slow paced way of life and therefore vehemently oppose any change that threatens to undermine it. The hustle and bustle that characterizes other rapidly growing counties simply does not exist here to the same degree. Demographically this is due in part to the relatively low population density. Detached single family units sit on large parcels of land leading to a much lower percentage of homes per square mile and therefore less people. As a result, the typical problems that accompany the rapid migration of people into an area have not manifested themselves to any meaningful degree.

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