Archives November 2010

Council PASSES White Flint Financing Plan

[UPDATE: here‘s the Gazette story.] 

Just as in prior meetings, the Montgomery County Council chamber was packed late this afternoon with dozens of residents intently listening to the proceedings.  

County Council

But when the Council turned to the plan for financing needed infrastructure in White Flint, the crowd left; they were there for an earlier legislative proposal. What a change from a few short months ago, when White Flint was controversial and a hot ticket for citizen activism. Some citizen activists, from the group Action in Montgomery, did show up, but they were much more subdued than last week, and seemed relatively supportive of several aspects of the White Flint Plan.

AIM

The departing crowd missed a show, too, though it was highly technical and filled with numbers and jargon. Some measures were being negotiated and debated throughout the afternoon in the hallways outside the chamber, and then the Councilmembers did the same for several proposals dealing with the “advanced funding” intended to jumpstart the design and construction of the transportation infrastructure necessary to allow development of Rockville Pike.

Valerie Ervin and Nancy Floreen

When the dust settled, the Council had unanimously adopted a financing plan for White Flint.

There were actually three legislative proposals adopted today: an overall financing bill, a resolution establishing the Council’s strategy for White Flint infrastructure, and a special appropriation to jumpstart White Flint design and planning. The approved plan includes most of the recommendations proposed in the staff package, plus a few, relatively-minor changes proposed by the County Executive and the Council staff.  

County Executive and Council staff

It’s been a long five years, working on this Plan, but it seems like it has finally, officially started. Afterwards, many of those who had worked so long to develop the Plan were either congratulating each other, or collapsed in chairs from exhaustion. 

This was the last action of the current County Council. Tomorrow, Councilmembers Mike Knapp and Duchy Trachtenberg leave the Council, and new members Hans Riemer and Craig Rice join. Riemer, a long-time civic activist, has been particularly supportive of New Urbanism and White Flint in particular, and Rice is also expected to support the new community.

Barnaby Zall

Staff Package for Final Council Action on White Flint Financing

Tomorrow at 2:45PM, the Montgomery County Council is expected to finish its consideration of the financing plan for infrastructure to implement the White Flint Sector Plan. At its meeting last week, the Council worked through most of the staff recommendations for changes to the County Executive’s proposal.

Montgomery County Council

The Council staff, which had disputed significant portions of the Executive’s analysis, has prepared a final package of materials implementing the Council’s November 23 decisions, and discussing three remaining questions: a) exempting four existing apartment buildings (earlier, the Council had agreed to exempt condominium buildings) from new taxes; b) denying tax credits for those who pay the new development district taxes; and c) “the Council must adopt a financing plan, with certain questions answered, before the special taxing district can be required to repay funds advanced by the County.” This last point is actually much less broad than the wording suggests: this is the requirement that specific information be provided before the County will advance funds for certain infrastructure.

The Council will meet in the Council office building in Rockville.

Barnaby Zall

First Meeting of Latest White Flint Advisory Committee

The White Flint Sector Plan calls for the Montgomery County Planning Board to establish an Advisory Committee to help it implement the Plan. The Planning Board appointed 23 people to the new Committee in September.

Last night the new Committee held its first meeting. The meeting was led by White Flint Planner Nkosi Yearwood.  

Nkosi Yearwood

The first topic was “Committee Role and Structure.” Most of this discussion was deferred until the next meeting, although the Committee decided to meet on the second Monday of each month. So the next Committee meeting will be held December 13, at 7:30PM. The Committee was also trying to find meeting locations in White Flint, instead of meeting at the Silver Spring headquarters of the Planning Board. Nkosi pointed out that members of the Committee would have to file disclosure reports explaining any financial interests in White Flint, and those, along with other Committee materials, will be publicly available.

The Committee then reviewed the three “sketch plans” submitted for prospective projects in White Flint. Greg Trimmer discussed the JBG Companies’ “North Bethesda Market Phase Two” project between Rockville Pike and Woodglen, along the new Executive Boulevard extension. Hilary Goldfarb of ProMark Real Estate discussed the “North Bethesda Gateway” project along Nicholson Lane.  

Greg Trimmer (L) and Hilary Goldfarb

Then Evan Goldman discussed the sketch plan for Mid-Pike Plaza. Evan predicted that construction might begin as soon as 2012.

Then the Committee heard a presentation from Jacob Sester, of the Planning Board, on financing options for implementation. Diane Schwartz-Jones, from the County Executive’s Office, also discussed implementation financing, and the likely discussion issues the Montgomery County Council would grapple with at its meeting Tuesday. One of the issues which loomed large during development of the Plan, but which has been quiet recently, arose again last night: school financing. Meredith Joseph, from Timberlawn, pointed out that there has been some concern about school overcrowding this year, and the overcrowding might worsen with the development.

At the next meeting, the Committee will discuss transportation issues.

Those who expected the new Committee to suffer the same fate as the former Steering Committee (which was essentially non-functional) were pleased to see the active participation of representatives from both the Planning staff and the County Executive’s staff. But until the role of the Committee is clarified, it’s not yet clear how much influence the Committee will have on the Planning Board itself.

Barnaby Zall

Changes in FLOG Registration

It’s a sad day for the FLOG. We have always had an open registration process, where readers could register themselves to comment or post freely on the FLOG. More than 500 people have registered on the FLOG. 

Unfortunately, as many of you may have noticed over the last few months, we have attracted the attention of spammers, who use specialized programs, known as “bots,” to repeatedly register and spam the FLOG. We have been told by our Internet hosting company that we must institute additional security.

This will NOT, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, include either airport scanners or “pat-downs.”  

Pat-Down (from CBS News)

Starting immediately, however, readers will not be able to register themselves on the FLOG. New readers who want to register must apply to a moderator or administrator (we have three) for registration.

[UPDATE: To clarify some questions that have been raised: 1) you do NOT have to register to READ the FLOG; only to comment or post; 2) to register on the FLOG, send me an e-mail at bzall@friendsofwhiteflint.org. Include your name, a “user name” you want  readers to see, your e-mail address, and if you want a specific password, include that as well.]

This will NOT affect existing registrations. If you are already registered, you don’t need to do anything else. You will remain registered (assuming you abide by our very flexible rules).

Sorry about this, folks, and we really appreciate our loyal and active readership. But we live in an imperfect world, and we have to adapt.

Barnaby Zall

Staff Recommendations for Council Hearing on White Flint Financing

At its meeting tomorrow morning, the Montgomery County Council will again consider proposals to finance needed infrastructure in White Flint. The proposals now include the County Executive’s plan, which was worked out with members of the White Flint Partnership.

Montgomery County Council

The big issue now is changes suggested by the County Council staff, which has traditionally gone its own way on many of the White Flint proposals. The staff, as usual, has prepared a package of information for the Council to review on the financing proposals. The staff packet can be found here.

The Council meeting will be held at 10:30AM in the Council hearing room (big auditorium) in the Council Office Building in Rockville. The segment should conclude by noon.

The Council is expected to complete its consideration of the White Flint financing plan by next Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Barnaby Zall

(And I thank Evan Goldman for posting while I was on vacation.)

County Executive Infrastructure Financing Plan – White Flint

county-executive-white-flint-financing-proposal.pdf

Attached is a pdf of the County Executive’s proposal for infrastructure financing in White Flint.  This proposal is the culmination of months of work to understand the costs and potential revenue sources for infrastructure in White Flint.  The County Council debated the proposal at last Tuesday’s work session within the PHED and MFP committee’s.  The proposal will be discussed further at the upcoming full Council session on Tuesday November 23rd.  Final vote on the financing plan will take place on Tuesday November 30th. 

Evan Goldman (doing my best to fill the very big shose of Barnaby Zall)

White Flint Partnership Supports County Executive Financing Plan for White FLint

The White Flint Partnership endorses the financing plan as proposed by the County Executive at the joint PHED/MFP Work-session on White Flint financing November 16, 2010.  We believe that the proposal is a fair and equitable negotiated solution to the $100 million funding gap.  The solution proposed by the County Executive shifts the burden for approximately 50% of the funding gap onto the private sector by extending the life of the special taxing district. The portion of the gap to be funded by the County is largely second phase projects which will not be constructed for at least seven to ten years.  In addition, the second Metro entrance could be eligible for state or federal funding to further reduce the County’s burden.  Below is a summary of some of the benefits of the current financing proposal as well as some greater detail about the true costs of infrastructure in White Flint.    

KEY BENEFITS OF COUNTY EXECUTIVE’S FINANCING PROPOSAL: 

We believe the funding mechanism proposed is a creative solution for managing the gap for the following reasons:  

·         Enables infrastructure to occur in White Flint without competing with other CIP projects or counting against the County’s debt capacity because there are dedicated funds for repayment. 

·         The mechanism continues the precedent that development pays for needed infrastructure within a Sector Plan by having a private sector funding source for all district infrastructure items. 

·         Forward funding of $37 million of infrastructure will expedite the western work around and free up funds for other major projects in White Flint including the Rockville Pike transformation.

·         By allowing the special taxing district to repay the $37 million when excess funds are available, it does not compete with other major projects in White Flint that the special tax must fund.  Alternatively, repayment of interest, even starting in year 10, would delay the construction of all other White Flint infrastructure projects including Rockville Pike.

·         The proposal allows the County to take advantage of $37 million in reimbursement from the private sector for a major road construction project which is largely on the County’s conference center property.

  • Finally, the property owners have agreed to relinquish their right to seek a credit for on-site capacity generating infrastructure which would ordinarily have been credited against Impact Tax Payments or PAMR. 

White Flint Advisory Committee Meeting Rescheduled to Nov. 22 7:30PM

The new White Flint Advisory Committee has a new first meeting date and time: Monday, Nov. 22, at 7:30PM at the MNCPPC headquarters, 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring. Nkosi Yearwood, Montgomery Planning Board Planner for White Flint, reports that “Topics on the draft agenda will include the committee structure and updates on financing, submitted sketch plans and staging.”

Barnaby Zall

Hartman visits White Flint Nov. 19

The annals of fiction are filled with stories of hidden powers behind the throne and mysterious unseen forces at work. Next week one of those mysterious forces emerges from behind the curtain into the full glare of Mid-Pike Plaza in White Flint.

Ken Hartman is the Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Center. The Regional Service Centers are one of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s ways of decentralizing County outreach and communications. The B-CC Center includes White Flint, and thus, Hartman is Ike Leggett’s man on the spot in White Flint.

Hartman will have a “Coffee and Conversation” chat at La Madeleine restaurant at Mid-Pike, 11858 Rockville Pike, from 9-11AM on Friday, Nov. 19. Karen Thon, who heads the Bethesda Urban District, suggests the visits can be valuable for residents: “Find out about programs and services in Montgomery County, learn more about the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and their role in the community, or just bring your concerns for your community to discuss.” La Madeleine has a nice fireplace in the center of the casual dining area, and is a good spot to meet your community’s leaders.

 Perhaps you could ask him why the County Executive is happy to raise $7 billion from new White Flint taxes (including possibly on current residents) so long as he can send all of it somewhere else in the County?

Barnaby Zall

White Flint Financing Meeting POSTPONED

As noted in several posts below, the Montgomery County Council Committees on Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) and Management and Fiscal Policy (MFP) were scheduled to hold another joint hearing on the White Flint financing tomorrow morning. That joint meeting has now been POSTPONED.

No telling when it will be rescheduled. Chances are looking bleak for getting an infrastructure financing package debated and approved before the January 1 deadline.

 Let’s all hope for a breakthrough so all parties can work together on this necessary step.

Barnaby Zall