Just as it rises, is White Flint about to fall?

Just as it rises, is White Flint about to fall?

White Flint is rising. Projects are underway. Expectations are running high.

North Bethesda Market (from JBG Companies)

But is this pride that goeth before a fall? There are also several trends below the surface that may grow or combine to make this a bumpy ride.

Today, Ike Leggett, the Montgomery County Executive, vetoed the County Council’s bill to provide a coordinator for White Flint. Actually, he didn’t veto it; he just said he was returning it unsigned, and wouldn’t implement it. Is that a “pocket veto?” The Veto Letter on Bill 1-10 cites cost concerns, estimating that hiring someone to oversee White Flint could cost “in excess of $500,000.00” annually. (Where can I apply for that job?)

The Montgomery County Planning Board also foresees delays in implementing the White Flint Plan. The Planning Board is holding an implementation update hearing on Thursday, Nov. 4. The staff background memo notes that there is a deadline for beginning the Plan already in the staging/phasing requirements of January 1, 2011. With the County Council being cautious about any financing proposal for White Flint infrastructure, it’s unlikely that deadline will be met.

And the new White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee (WFIAC) has yet to meet. Required by the Plan, the WFIAC is already bigger than expected and its first meeting was postponed. The meeting hasn’t been rescheduled, and since the staff background memo and similar plans were written up without any input, the WFIAC looks to be about as effective as the late, but not lamented, White Flint Steering Committee, which was dysfunctional from the start, never had any structure or plan, never met, and never had any input on the Planning Board. (I did get a nice letter from the Chair of the Planning Board thanking me for my commitment.)

And rumors are flying that the Planning Board staff may disagree with other stakeholders in calculating what can be built in each stage. Net effect: rather than a smooth increase in infrastructure and development, this might lead to stochastic (random; bumpy; fits and starts) implementation.

We live in interesting times.  

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall


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