Live-blogging from the Montgomery County Council on March 2, 2010. The Council just approved the CR Zone, and is now moving into consideration of the financing of the White Flint Sector Plan.
Council President Nancy Floreen announced that there would be a final vote on the White Flint Sector Plan on March 23.
Council staffer Glenn Orlin explained his latest staff memorandum for the Council on financing. The memorandum can be found here: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/agenda/col/2010/100302/20100302_9.pdf
The staff memo points to Council bill 1-10, the Trachtenberg/Knapp bill discussed several weeks ago, to designate a special County Executive official to serve as the focal point and expediter for White Flint. The bill will be considered by the PHED Committee on April 5. The staff said that such an employee would be essential.
Councilmember Roger Berliner noted that the development district will take the place of the “traditional” transportation infrastructure requirement tests, and so it was important to have the development district portion of the Plan. Councilmember Mike Knapp, Chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, discussed the monitoring and review process, and said the Committee had determined that it was important that the Council have information before it takes action on infrastructure funding requests. This would be a partnership, working with the property owners, residents and the government. This is a bit of a different kind of animal. People putting a lot of money on the table, counting on the government. So everyone needs to be able to check on things.
Jennifer Barrett, for the County Executive branch, said that the development district would not be privately funded, but public. The bonds would be paid for by tax dollars.
The Council then moved to the staging issues.
Council staffer Marlene Michaelson presented the staff memo prepared for the Council on staging. The memo can be found here: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/agenda/col/2010/100302/20100302_10.pdf
The first item was deleting “Stage Four,” which would take place only after the first three stages are complete. It is unlikely that development in White Flint would ever reach that point, so the staff recommended deleting Stage Four and the PHED Committee agreed. The Committee also addressed the “mode share” goals for each phase (mode share is the percentage of non-car trips in White Flint; the increase in mode share was the key to conforming the White Flint Plan with automobile-oriented tests otherwise required by law).
Councilmember Roger Berliner asked about the monitoring of “traffic issues.” “What does that mean? Can we be more specific? Can we include intersection impacts?” Michaelson said it includes intersection impacts. Berliner said the communities would be happier if the language would include “intersection impacts” within the phrase “traffic issues.” The Council agreed to this clarification.
Orlin then discussed the mode share goals again, with Michaelson adding that the mode share goals have superseded many of the specific things recommended in the original draft Plan, such as parking districts. “We’ll need to use every tool in the box,” Orlin said, “anything that’s legal will be used.” Michaelson noted that LATR (one of the intersection-speed tests) was discussed in committee, but would be introduced on March 16. So the Council will review that question before the final vote on the White Flint Plan on March 23.
Berliner then discussed the Advisory Committee, and asked that “current residents” be expressly included. “If we are identifying property owners, we should identify residents.” The Council added that clarification.
Berliner asked whether there would be an opportunity for public comment on the movement between phases (i.e., from stage one to stage two). Planning Board Royce Hanson said it was inconceivable that in Montgomery County that the Planning Board would do anything without public comment. Staff will monitor and prepare a report, discuss the report with the Advisory Committee and the Board, and would provide an opportunity for public comment before it is sent to the Council. “You don’t want to go too far in identifying a detailed administrative process in a Master Plan.” It’s unlikely that any findings made by staff or Board will go unchallenged. this would be an Action Item for the Board, and so would be the subject of a public hearing. Michaelson: we’ve haven’t stated that public hearing requirement in any other master plan.
Berliner: changing the timing of the consideration of the placement of Bus Rapid Transit. Earlier had said we would get a report in a month, but now it appears that six months is more realistic. orlin: After a public hearing and not later than six months after the Plan.
Berliner: cut-through traffic. P. 5. Community has forwarded to staff alternative language with respect to calming and other measures. Strengthen this language a bit. Orlin: letter passed around, but we have a few concerns. Often these elements do not result in consensus. This comes up all the time. Berliner: the community appreciates that. But they are concerned that it will be initiated and then will languish, even if everyone is in agreement. We want it implemented, not initiated, where the community has signed off. Diane Schwartz-Jones, for the County Executive: this is already covered in existing law, and unless we want to address that part of the law, we need to stay within the law. This recommendation doesn’t comply with existing law. Orlin: one of the reasons we took away that recommendation is that we didn’t want to tie it to that legal procedure. In Silver Spring, this was done pro-actively with the community. Give us some time to work out these conflicts. Berliner: if everybody signed off on it, let’s get it done. Orlin: calming is different from other elements, and there are specific requirements and procedures. Not part of this Plan. It’s a neighborhood issue regardless. Berliner: ok, if staff would work on this. Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg: my community abuts the Sector. Cut-through traffic is raised on a daily basis. We do have a problem.
Michaelson: we will prepare a resolution with all your changes. We’ll have a draft by the end of next week, so comments can get back to us before this goes to Council on March 23.
Council President Nancy Floreen: tremendous community involvement, even a blogging section in the back row. This will be an interesting spring. This is an advance in our community’s future.
Floreen then called for a straw vote on the Plan with the language the Council had agreed on. The vote was unanimous (Councilmember Phil Andrews was absent). Floreen then thanked everyone involved and the meeting adjourned.