Archives October 2009

Tyson’s Corner requires $15 Billion in infrastructure – White Flint only $500 Million

Below is a link to an article in today’s Post about Tyson’s.  The planners project a need for $15 Billion (yes that is Billion) in infrastructure over the life of the plan to fund infrastructure.  As most of you know White Flint requires only about $500 Million plus some operating costs of approximately $400 million according to the County Executive and the plan creates $7 Billion in NET new tax revenue for the County.  This is just one of many reasons why White Flint makes so much cents! 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/29/AR2009102904426.html

Evan Goldman

Coalition for Smarter Growth Promotes White Flint Plan

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, www.smartergrowth.net, is a group of local, regional and national environmental and civic organizations such as the Piedmont Environmental Council, Audubon Naturalist Society, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Surface Transportation Policy Project, who have been very active in the development of the White Flint Sector Plan. CSG started ten years ago to oppose plans by the Disney Company to create a new theme park in the Shenandoah/Piedmont area of Virginia, and since then has branched out to incorporate “smart growth” topics throughout the metropolitan area.

CSG has just issued a newsletter with a description of the White Flint Sector Plan. The page says:

Never before has it been more important that Montgomery County grow in sustainable, innovative ways while creating great, desirable neighborhoods. With increasing traffic, limited money for new infrastructure, and the urgency of climate change, Montgomery County can’t remain sustainable and economically competitive if we continue to grow in the same auto-dependent, spread out way.

 

Walkable, Vibrant, Efficient, Convenient, Sustainable

Instead of adding new jobs in hard-to-reach locations, such as the Life Sciences Center in Gaithersburg, how about locating them right at existing transit stations?

 

The White Flint Metro Station is a convenient location for jobs and homes, and neighborhoods designed to be walkable can reuse acres of parking lots while improving conditions along Rockville Pike. In addition, focusing growth at White Flint will create sustainable, environmentally-friendly communities that reduce driving, energy use, and climate changing emissions.

You can read the newsletter page here: http://citizen-networks.org/csg/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=28193120

Barnaby Zall

Sigh. Even Good News Neglects White Flint

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency is consistently ranked as one of the best federal agencies to work for, and one of the reasons is that it is involved in its community. The NRC is an active member of Friends of White Flint, and Mike Springer of the NRC is on the FoWF Board of Directors. The NRC hosted the September White Flint Town Hall for FoWF, at which Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson presented the White Flint Sector Plan to the community for discussion.

On Friday, Oct. 23, Gregory Jaczko, the Chairman of the NRC, announced a new third building, to consolidate its nearly 3,000 employees near the White Flint Metro and its existing White Flint offices. The new building will be 14 stories tall, right across the street from the existing NRC campus, between the Metro station and Metro Parking garage, as part of the North Bethesda Center being built by LCOR (another member of Friends of White Flint). Construction of the $131 million building is expected to begin in March and be completed in two years. Here’s an artists’ rendering. (Photo courtesy LCOR):

New NRC Building

So, today the Washington Post writes a brief story about the new building: “NRC to Build BETHESDA Office Building.” (emphasis added.) You can read the Post story here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/26/AR2009102603223.html?sub=AR

Sigh. I guess there’s still no “there” in White Flint yet.

Barnaby Zall

Whew! Council Finishes Public Hearings on WF Plan

Last night the Montgomery County Council finished its public hearings on the White Flint Sector Plan proposed by the Planning Board. Almost 90 witnesses testified to the Council, in panels of six, with statements limited to three minutes apiece.

The public hearings began on Tuesday, with representatives of many organizations, including Friends of White Flint, presenting views to the Council. (The 49-page Friends of White Flint Report on the Plan is available here.) Last night, the vast majority of witnesses were individuals, many of whom were also members of various organizations, but testifying on their own.

About three-quarters of the witnesses supported the Plan, though most also sought some changes. There was much less of the color-coordinated visual battling in the audience than on Tuesday night, probably because so many were wearing the yellow “Supporter” buttons, but the green shirts far outnumbered the yellow opponents’ shirts. It is unusual in Montgomery County to find supporters of a redevelopment plan appearing before the Council; usually it’s the opponents who have sufficient interest to turn out on a busy weeknight (much less on two nights).

A number of the witnesses were design professionals, all of whom supported the Plan. Roger Lewis, professor of architecture at the University of Maryland and “Shaping the City” columnist for the Washington Post, gave an unequivocal endorsement to the White Flint Plan: “Smart growth is the antidote to sprawl. This is a plan for young families and future generations. There is no evidence in the United States of adverse impact from well-planned smart growth development. These communities happily co-exist with density in a win-win for all sides.” Robert Youngentaub, whose company has won numerous awards as the best homebuilder in the country, said his company’s slogan is “Life Within Walking Distance,” as he praised the Plan for the same philosophy. Ed Acker, an architect from Fairfax, talked about the Plan’s “integrated design,” and “low-impact development strategy.”

One of the fascinating trends of the night was demographic: a surprising number of young people testified, most in favor of the Plan. Ordinarily, County Council meetings are the domain of those with abundant time, not the professionals whose babies cooed and kids played in the back of auditorium last night. Andrew Buffenbarger, a local political activist, talked about the need for jobs. Rui Ponte, a resident of Edgemoor, talked about how Bethesda neighborhoods had become much less dependent on cars after the walkable Bethesda Row was built near them. Cindy Zelaya, a mother from Randolph Hills, talked about the need for a diverse community, and said: “It’s the old story: build it and they will come. And for some of us, to the dismay of our spouses, we will shop.” Ryan Beible described his younger generation’s search for housing, and said that if the White Flint Plan is defeated, he will likely move out. Michael Kent, another young professional, talked about how a walkable community is a necessity for those busy, two-job families who see their home community as part of a work-life balance. Bryan Malickson, a young, unemployed attorney, asked for new job opportunities, and said “Give the ICC [Inter-County Connector, a huge new highway] something to connect to, like White Flint.” April Birnbaum, an employed attorney, doesn’t own a car, and said “I am living proof of the kind of people who will live in the new White Flint.”

Of course, not all the witnesses were from the next generation. Walter Gold, wearing his Montgomery County Fire and Rescue jacket festooned with awards, supported the Plan as he talked about the urban design lessons he had learned from 53 years as a volunteer firefighter and EMS technician: “It would be great to have a revitalized White Flint; it would be even better to have everyone enjoying it safely.”

There were a few witnesses who opposed the Plan; some of them wore the yellow “Got Schools?” T-shirts. Opponents of the Plan draft generally feared the addition of so many new residents in White Flint, wanted a new elementary school within the borders of the White Flint Sector, or felt that improving White Flint would harm their communities. On Tuesday night, in contrast, many of the opponents predicted that the County would not live up to its promises. Joseph Lavorgna, from the Board of Education, reported that the Board had voted to oppose the White Flint Plan because it did not have an elementary school site within the Sector boundaries; he said that the Board recommended taking the White Flint Park site proposed in the Plan for a new school. Charles Snyder complained about the “fairyland aspect” of getting people out of their cars: “Who says they won’t drive?” Carolyn Shawaker, former mayor of Garrett Park, warned against redistricting schools, saying that “the brilliant kids would prosper,” but that she had met a former student who worked on the White Flint Plan who told her “you wouldn’t recognize me because I was just part of the crowd at school.” Della Stallsworth, head of the Luxmanor Citizens Association, said that the White Flint Plan was full of “missed opportunities.”

As on Tuesday, there was some dismay in opponents of the current draft that so many residents supported the White Flint Plan. For example, the White Flint Community Coalition, which opposes the current Plan draft, uses as its motto: “Representing the wishes of the people of the White Flint area” but that was a bit ironic during the public hearings, when so many residents testified in support of the Plan and so few opposed it.

With the public hearings behind them, the County Council sent the Plan to its Committee on Planning, Housing, and Economic Development. The PHED Committee has tentatively scheduled its first meeting on the White Flint Plan for mid-November. The Committee has a statutory deadline of Nov. 15 to complete work on the County’s Annual Growth Policy for 2009-2011, so it is unlikely to work on the White Flint Plan before then.

Barnaby Zall

White Flint is now….Award Winning!

The Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association announced their 2009 winners, and White Flint was named the Outstanding large-scale Plan for 2009!

Planners,Below is a list of the award winners and honorable mentions for the 2009 Maryland Chapter Awards.

However, before you see the winners, a few remarks….

My original plan was to call all of the award winners and honorable mentions personally prior to sending this email and congratulate them for their efforts.  However, I also felt I should call those who fell short and let them know as well.  However, having submitted a nomination that did not win, I personally would have wanted to know why my contribution fell short.  Unfortunately, since I was not involved in all of the subcommittees, I could not personally answer that question for all of the projects.  However, if your nomination is not listed below and you are interested in getting a debriefing, please let me know.  I plan on asking for feedback from the subcommittee in the near future on the project submitted from my firm.  As a consultant, it is to my benefit to know how I can better serve my future clients and I think this is a rare instance (especially for planners working in small towns and cities) where we can get some feedback from other professional planners on our projects.

First off, not to sound cliché, but everyone who submitted a nomination is a winner.  We had some great plans to review and some tough decisions to make.  Speaking for everyone, it is great to know such great planning work is being performed in Maryland.  It is also important to mention that several committee members knew of plans that would have competed closely with some of the winners, but no one nominated them for an award.  It may be a matter of getting the word out better, being more aggressive in seeking nominations from quality projects, or something we haven’t thought of. 

Regardless, we need ideas for refining this event.  If you have any ideas on how we can improve the awards process in the future, please send me an email while this is all fresh in our heads.  The Awards Committee will be getting together soon to provide each other feedback in order to continue to improve on this event.  Any information you can provide us for discussion will be much appreciated.

Next, a big thanks goes out to the Awards Committee for all of their hard work in reviewing and discussing all of these plans.  A lot of reading, analysis and dedication was involved and also a lot of reward.  Personally speaking, each plan I read has provided me with more tools for my planner toolbox I hope to use in my career.  As a “student” of the field, each project was beneficial to me as a person who enjoys looking to see what is going on out there and as a career professional.  Please keep this in mind in the future if you consider volunteering to review nominations – the time spent reading the plans, exchanging emails and trying to come up with a ranking system is well worth it.

Lastly, we hope to see all of you in Annapolis on November 4th.  We are planning to have a couple of great speakers join us at the event, as well as some good food and beer to help us celebrate all of the great contributions we make in Maryland.  If you have not RSVP’d for the event, please do so by sending me an email. 

And without further ado…..

American Planning Association – Maryland Chapter2009 Award Recipients
Award Categories                                   Award                                     Award Winner
Outstanding Plan >100,000                    Winner                                    White Flint Sector Plan – Montgomery County
Outstanding Plan <100,000                    Co-Winner                               Solomons Island Master Plan – Calvert County
                                                                Co-Winner                               Garrett County Master Plan
Small Town/Rural Initiative <10,000     Winner                                    Town of Centerville Community Plan
                                                           Honorable Mention                Town of Boonsboro
2009 Comprehensive PlanOutstanding Project or Program            Winner         Zoning Discovery – Montgomery County (M-NCPPC)                                                                Honorable Mention           2009 Smart, Green and Growing Legislation – Maryland Department of Planning                                                                Honorable Mention                Office of Planning & Design Team – Baltimore County (Turner Station)

Outstanding Planner                               Winner                                   Timothy Bourcier, AICP, JD
Public Education and Outreach              Winner                                    Web-Based Development Tracking Tool – Howard County Lifetime Achievement                                           Winner                                    Edward R. “Ned” Cueman – Queen Anne’s County Political Leadership                                                Winner                                    James T. Smith, Baltimore County Executive Outstanding Student Project or Paper   Winner                                    Connect Barracks Row: A Future Vision for a Washington, DC Community
Outstanding Service to Chapter             Winner                                    Jenny Plummer-Welker, AICPNew Planner                                           Winner                                    Sean O’Neill – City of Annapolis

Greg Trimmer

“Smart Growth” is tough in Montgomery County

Montgomery County has a justifiable reputation as a liberal, innovative county, where taxes are high and so are services. The level of education and civic involvement is very high, and the County is a poster child for the concept of “paralysis by analysis.” Once in a while, however, something crops up which prompts a blink, if not a gasp. Continuing complaints about the McDonald’s in White Flint, for example, because some homeless go there for an evening coffee.

And, of course, there’s the big current debate in the County over growth. There really is a split in the “green” side of the growth debate, between those whose vision of the environment is sylvan fields, untrampled by human feet, and those who delve into the gritty, shoulder-aching work of actually reducing emissions. So allies on paper turn into debaters on the details.

But one area in which the new, informed-but-differing growth debate is raging right now is “smart growth.” We, at Friends of White Flint, don’t often use the term “smart growth;” we prefer “New Urbanism,” which is much more narrow. We have a page on our web site, www.whiteflint.org, explaining New Urbanism.

“Smart growth,” however, is the term de jour, and lots of people are debating what it means in a county like Montgomery. Can you have “smart growth” away from the Metro? That’s the Gaithersburg West/Science City debate in a nutshell. And does “smart growth” require an urban design, changing from Montgomery’s dominant suburban character? If so, is “smart growth” worth it?

Today’s Washington Post has an article on “smart growth” in Montgomery County, by Miranda Spivack, a reporter in the Rockville Post branch who covers development issues. The article notes the difficulty of promoting “smart growth” in MoCo, and extensively quotes Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson, who was brought back from retirement to prevent another planning disaster like the Clarksburg episode, whose ramifications are still ringing through the County.

Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson at White Flint Town Hall

You can find the article here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/21/AR2009102102730.html?sub=AR

FoWF addressed this question in great detail in its recent report to the Montgomery County Council on the White Flint Sector Plan. www.tinyurl.com/FoWF-WFSPReport. We said, for example:

The basic change in White Flint is being forced on us by a combination of factors: the two principal causes are the expected – and unavoidable – growth in County population, and the new State mandates to reduce carbon emissions. Increasingly, County decisions will be dominated by this new carbon reduction requirement. That is not entirely a bad thing, since carbon reduction is not only the law, but a moral responsibility.

Carbon reductions, however, are very hard. The single most effective reduction in carbon comes from using transit instead of cars. Montgomery County is, and will remain for some time, principally a suburban county, dominated by cars. Changing this mindset, in even the most promising areas, will be difficult. Encouraging use of transit is most effective if done in a positive manner, by urban planning and designs which make it easy to use transit.

Arlington County, our neighbor to the south, has done just that over the last few decades. Density quadrupled near its Metro stations, using FARs of up to 10.0, but traffic congestion has been reduced. Nearby neighborhoods have been preserved. Government agencies and private employers flocked to the new walkable communities. And an area one-tenth of the county produces half the county’s tax revenues.

There are few areas in the County where the Council can grasp the same opportunity to make this transition in thinking and action to satisfy carbon requirements, while generating billions of dollars in additional County revenue, providing new and exciting community amenities, and increasing the safety and desirability of a community. The requirements include a major public transit facility, a redevelopable area near that transit facility where new density can be concentrated, and agreement and coordination among the major stakeholders in the area. White Flint is one of the few places in the County where these and other elements come together to help the Council satisfy the legal requirements while providing huge new benefits to the community and the County.

White Flint is currently a carbon-spewing, traffic-clogged, parking lot-covered environmental problem. Yet it is also a unique opportunity for Montgomery County: a place where addressing these sustainability issues will also benefit mobility, walkability, and revenues, providing an economic engine for the entire County, just as Arlington County did a few years ago. The need in White Flint is for compact, strategic, sustainable development, of the type known as “New Urbanism.”

Barnaby Zall

 

Glatting Jackson Mobility White Paper

Glatting Jackson is the internationally-reknowned transportation and walkability consultant whose design guides the new street network plan in the White Flint Sector Plan. Glatting Jackson also designed the “Transitway Option” for Rockville Pike, placing a dedicated transitway in the median of the renovated Pike.

Glatting Jackson Rockville Pike section

Now Glatting Jackson has issued a “white paper” discussing various concerns about transportation and mobility issues in White Flint, including those suggested by the October 5 letter from County Executive Isiah Leggett.

For example, Glatting Jackson notes that “speed and capacity are not synonymous,” meaning that Rockville Pike can carry significant amounts of traffic without a high speed limit. Similarly, the White Paper offers three examples of congestion measurements from Colorado and Florida to show that the current tests proposed by opponents of the current White Flint Plan draft (which focus principally on how fast cars move through intersections) are not the only, or even the best ways to measure mobility efficiency.

The White Paper can be found here: Glatting Jackson Mobility White Paper

Barnaby Zall

President Obama Visits White Flint-area School

Monday, President Obama paid a surprise visit to Viers Mill Elementary School, which serves the Randolph Hills community in White Flint. http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/viersmilles/ Earlier the President attended parent-teacher conferences at his daughters’ schools in Bethesda and Washington D.C.

President Obama at Viers Mill Elementary

According to MSNBC, the President said he visited the school to “congratulate the students and teachers on their hard work. Obama stopped by Viers Mill Elementary School outside Washington, where he met with third- and fourth-grade students during their lunch period. The school receives federal poverty aid and has been celebrated for closing the achievement gap between minority children and other students.”

You can find the MSNBC story at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33382417/ns/politics-white_house/

Ironically, Viers Mill is the subject of much controversy in the White Flint Sector Plan. In addition to its travails with language, race and economic class, the school is severely over-crowded, with almost 250 students over capacity. Friends of White Flint, several local community groups, and the Montgomery County Planning Board have sought immediate help for the school, including by using White Flint-generated funds and by opening a new school at the former Rocking Horse Elementary School site in the Randolph Hills community of White Flint.

The proposal generated an explosive response, with the White Flint Community Coalition, an organization of residents opposed to the current White Flint Plan draft, proposing a “separate” solution for Viers Mill. Walter Johnson Cluster PTAs have voiced opposition to the prospect of a new school outside the White Flint Sector Plan boundaries, fearing redistricting which would take some students out of prestigious Walter Johnson High School and place them in the less-favored “down-county” cluster of schools. The Board of Education reportedly rejected the Rocking Horse proposal in the Plan, and noted that it would cause redistricting. Council sources report “ugly” letters being sent from people opposed to bringing Viers Mill students into the Walter Johnson cluster area. Coalition representatives responded by reminding their supporters to be civil in their comments, and proposing more immediate help for Viers Mill during last night’s Council testimony.

President Obama did not address the controversy during his visit.

Barnaby Zall 

Gazette Article on Council Deliberations

Jen Beasley, who covers the White Flint Sector Plan for the Gazette newspaper has written a story on last night’s Montgomery County Council public hearings and some other prior discussions of the Plan.

At stake is the future of the area surrounding the White Flint Metro, where county planners have recommended transforming mini-malls and asphalt parking lots into a more vibrant community of mixed use residential, commercial and retail space. The plan before the County Council proposes converting Rockville Pike into a pedestrian boulevard and making the whole of White Flint more like Arlington, Va.

“We are very excited about the White Flint plan,” Paul Meyer, Board President of the Wisconsin Home Owners Association, said Thursday at a public forum with County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac, held at the Mansion at Strathmore. The condominium board endorsed the plan and Meyer said at a recent presentation to residents, “there was an amazing amount of enthusiasm.”

Meyer said the residents of the Wisconsin have only one caveat: that the transformation of Rockville Pike be done early in the plan. The current draft calls for a street grid to be built first to alleviate traffic pressure while the Pike is redone, but several groups have called for the Pike to be redone first to prepare for the coming development so as Meyer put it, “we don’t have four million cars on one road.”

The Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit coalition of residents, businesses and developers in the sector that supports the plan generally, also endorsed acceleration of the Pike redesign as one of a dozen recommendations for improving the sector plan in a report delivered on Tuesday to the council.

Beasley notes that the two principal concerns about the Plan are traffic and schools. She quotes Councilmember Roger Berliner, whose district includes White Flint as saying about traffic: “We only have one choice here, we have to get people out of their cars.”

The Gazette article can be found at:

http://www.gazette.net/stories/10212009/bethnew204147_32527.shtml

Barnaby Zall