Ever watch someone do something they’d really rather not? Their eyes become sharper, the brow furrows, and the voice becomes richer and deeper. And they punch out the words carefully, like walking on hot coals.
There was a lot of that in today’s Montgomery County Council joint Committee hearing on White Flint infrastructure financing. Seven of the nine Councilmembers were present, so it was the first time to get reactions to Tuesday night’s public hearing testimony.
And you could hear the trepidation from the first words. Council President Nancy Floreen jumped in early to point out that “we’re not going to have every detail worked out in the first month, or even the first six years. . . . We are promising a commitment to a solution, but I get troubled when I see these spreadsheets accurate down to the penny. We just don’t know that much years in the future.”
Marc Elrich was most candid, saying: “we’re in territory we’ve never been in before. I’ll bet most of the people in this room don’t understand the long-term implications to the County of what we’re being asked to do. Of all the plans we’re asked to do, this one is the most likely to generate more revenue to the County and has the most commitment from the developers. But it’s most important to get this right, to figure out the right balance.”
Those were the twin themes of the Council’s remarks: a lack of certainty, and a feeling of terra incognita. Mike Knapp said the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee was scheduled to hold three hearings, but would hold as many as necessary to understand the issues. Valerie Ervin, the Council Vice-President, said she wanted to have a discussion of certainty. “Everything that happens in White Flint will have effects elsewhere in the County.”
Councilmember Roger Berliner said residents wanted the “County’s commitment that the infrastructure is there when the density is increased.” He suggested there was really only one remaining issue: “funding the gap,” in the early years of the Plan, when development has not progressed enough to provide new tax dollars for the early stage infrastructure.
And Nancy Navarro, who hasn’t spoken much on White Flint, seemed most interested in moving forward. “It’s time to depart from the way we have done things in this County.” But even she added: “Let’s take a little time to get it right. A lot of people are paying attention to this. We need to make something happen. But let’s get it right.”
Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg finished the group of opening remarks by praising the commitment of the “civic groups” who had “years of engagement. We wouldn’t be here today without their work.”
Then the Council put on their game faces and began delving into the “buckets” of infrastructure funding. The next hearing will be Tuesday, November 9, at 9:30AM.
(and, yes, it’s a new camera.)