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Carroll County splits from joint Monocacy River board with Frederick County, forms its own

The joint Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board, formed between Carroll and Frederick counties in 1978, has ceased to exist after the Carroll commissioners voted Thursday to form its own board.
The joint Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board, formed between Carroll and Frederick counties in 1978, has ceased to exist after the Carroll commissioners voted Thursday to form its own board. (Rachel Woolf, Baltimore Sun)

The joint Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board, formed between Carroll and Frederick counties in 1978, has ceased to exist after the Carroll commissioners voted Thursday to form its own board.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, proposed that the commissioners take the Carroll citizens on the joint board and form a Carroll County Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board — without Frederick County.

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The commissioners approved the motion unanimously, though Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, was absent. The joint board can be dissolved at the discretion of either side, county attorney Tim Burke said.

The 10-member joint advisory board consisted of five citizens from each county, appointed by elected officials, and was formed in response to the Monocacy River being designated as a state scenic river in 1974, according to the board’s page on the Carroll County government website. In 1990, the citizens on the advisory board formed a plan to protect the river, which runs through Frederick County not far from western Carroll County, and provide guidance to local government and land owners regarding the management of the river and its resources, according to Tom Devilbiss, Carroll director of land and resource management.

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The scenic river law in Maryland allows for adjoining jurisdictions to have a joint board, but it is not required, Devilbiss noted.

In recent years, Frederick and Carroll sought to update the 1990 plan, but the county governments could not agree on the new plan created by the advisory board, according to Wantz. Legally, the plan does not have to be followed but serves as a guide, Wantz said.

The Carroll commissioners approved the 2018 plan in November, whereas the Frederick County Council reverted to the 2017 plan, with some modifications, Wantz said in an interview. That 2018 plan will be in effect for Carroll for 10 years, according to Wantz.

Before approving the plan, commissioners vetted it through the Carroll County Farm Bureau, neighboring land owners and real estate agents, Wantz said in the meeting.

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“After doing that and getting all those folks involved, we felt that it was a good plan, so we passed the plan,” Wantz said. “Frederick County, however, it got held up for various reasons. I hesitate to say it, but there was some politics involved.”

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, noted there was an election in Frederick County during that time. Wantz said Carroll waited for the election to end, hoping the two counties could agree on one Monocacy plan, but the new council didn’t agree either.

Wantz later noted that he, along with his fellow commissioners, attempted to work with the Frederick County executive and council president along the way to reach an agreement.

The Frederick council disagreed over the definition of waterway, among other items, Weaver said in the meeting. He later added he believed the council had “philosophy differences” and had a different understanding of the advisory board’s purpose. Because the counties could not come together, Wantz initiated his proposal.

Wantz said he communicated with Frederick County officials about this possibility prior to the vote Thursday.

Tim Goodfellow, the Frederick County liaison to the advisory board, did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment Thursday.

Frederick County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said in an interview Friday that each county wanted to do what was best for its constituents and the river.

“We heard from a great number of our constituents and in the end we ended up going back to the 2017 plan and heavily amending it to address the concerns our constituents had raised,” Keegan-Ayer said.

The two major principles the Frederick council could not agree on with Carroll commissioners were the definition of “corridor” and information regarding environmentally sensitive areas, according to Keegan-Ayer. She and Wantz met over the past year trying to figure out where the counties were going with the new plan, but they diverged, she said.

“I like to liken it to an amicable divorce,” Keegan-Ayer said of the split. “There was no animosity.”

Wantz anticipates the Carroll board members will remain the same, but the commissioners on Thursday also adopted a new residency requirement for some Carroll County government boards that could affect the Monocacy board.

This story has been updated.

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