Show Me the Money!

Show Me the Money!

The next public hearing on the White Flint Sector Plan will be tomorrow, at a joint hearing of the Management and Fiscal Policy, and Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committees of the Montgomery County Council. The hearing will be held at the Council Building in Rockville at 2PM.

The joint hearing will consider one of the touchiest, and most complex parts of the White Flint Plan: how to pay for it. The Council staff has prepared a background memo, which can be found here:

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/agenda/cm/2010/100126/20100126_MFPPHED1.pdf

The memo notes:

There appears to be a consensus among the Executive, Planning Board, and stakeholders that the revised White Flint sector plan should not decide how to finance the many public facility improvements that will be needed to sustain the intensive land development which the proposed plan would encourage. However, almost every possible financing mechanism wiIl require some kind of Council action -legislative, budgetary, or both -relatively soon after this plan is approved. Therefore, before the Council acts on this plan, Councilmembers, the Planning Board, and interested parties would benefit from reviewing the financing mechanisms that can be used to realize the plan’s goals.

Some of the proposed mechanisms include Tax Increment Financing (originally proposed by the Planning Board, but panned by¬†Council staff because it looks bad — “usually used for urban blight”), impact taxes paid to obtain development permits, and development districts. The County Executive’s comments from last October are again reprinted in the staff memo; in those comments, the Executive is essentially concerned that it not be restricted in¬†using money generated in White Flint, even to build White Flint infrastructure or pay bonds. Instead the Executive wanted to be able to divert 100% of all White Flint monies to other County priorities. In light of consistent objections that the Executive’s “fairness” concerns might kill the goose that lays the golden egg, the Executive may have walked back those comments, at least to the extent of committing to pay off bonds.

Last week, at the request of Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich, the PHED Committee delayed consideration of the White Flint Plan until this and later hearings. PHED Committee Chair Mike Knapp, however, pointed out that there is essentially a “drop dead” deadline for the White Flint Plan of February 1.

The Committee has scheduled only 90 minutes tomorrow to review these complex questions. The PHED Committee will meet again on February 1 to finalize its view of the Plan (with another financing hearing on February 9, which likely won’t delay final consideration of the Plan by the Council).

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall

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