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Developer eyes horse farm’s land

- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The lush pastures that produced a Kentucky Derby contestant would display another kind of green under a developer's plan to build 2,300 environmentally friendly homes at Glade Valley Farms.

The development of what was once one of Maryland's top thoroughbred breeding farms hinges on the city of Frederick's annexation of the land, which could occur within a year or two, and Frederick County's response to a request by Beazer Homes USA for a waiver from agricultural zoning on the 1,015-acre site.

The Atlanta-based company has a contract to buy the 890-acre Glade Valley Farms and a neighboring parcel covering 125 acres.

Glade Valley Farms was established in the 1960s on land that had been farmed since European settlers arrived in the 1740s. The horse farm was established by the late Jack I. Bender and Dr. Robert A. Leonard, a veterinarian, in the 1960s. Dr. Leonard is still an owner, but is retired, said George Rathlev, executive vice president of Beazer's Maryland division. Howard and Sondra Bender are the primary owners.

Glade Valley was Maryland's leading thoroughbred breeding farm from 1972 to 1973 and from 1977 to 1979. The horse Southern Appeal, foaled at the farm in 1983, finished 13th in the 1986 Kentucky Derby.

Stephen Lustgarten, attorney for the Benders, said his clients hope the sale will be completed in 18 months to two years.

The farm, which has 10 employees and about 100 horses, may be moved to another location, depending on whether slot machines are approved at Maryland racetracks, he said.

The proposed houses, townhouses, condominiums, schools, offices and retail stores would be more environmentally friendly than typical housing developments, Mr. Rathlev said.

He also said the development would get 20 percent of its electricity from solar-energy panels.

The homes would include energy- and water-conservation features, and some would feature geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot-water systems, recycled bricks and bamboo hardwood flooring. Reclaimed tap water will be used for some outdoor watering.

Existing buildings, from the main house to the barns and outbuildings, will be retained and restored, and more than 50 percent of the property's open space will be retained in some form, Mr. Rathlev said.

But development would carry an environmental cost. An average household of 2.3 residents emits nearly 61,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Multiplied by 2,300, that's nearly 140 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Shannon Moore, founder of the Maryland Carbon Reduction Action Group, said that if residents commute to the D.C. area to work, their carbon output would increase. And for every acre of trees removed, 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide are not absorbed, she said.

Mr. Rathlev called the project "smart growth" because it is within a designated growth area in the city's 2004 comprehensive plan.

"Smart growth says you go where the designated growth areas are," he said. "We didn't propose this on the outskirts of Libertytown or Emmitsburg or Middletown."

If annexation occurs, land use would be restricted by the property's agricultural zoning for five years unless Beazer obtains a waiver from the Board of County Commissioners, said Tim Blaser, a Frederick County planner specializing in farmland preservation.

Mr. Blaser said the proposed development would eliminate some of the most fertile ground in Frederick County and contribute to the merging of Frederick and nearby Walkersville, something county planners would like to avoid.