The new White Flint Implementation Committee held its third meeting last Monday night, and for the first time, the meeting was in White Flint. The WFIC met in the multi-purpose room of the Montgomery Aquatic Center in Wall Park, part of the “core area” for development in White Flint. Amidst the smell of chlorine, the happy squeals of kids ready to splash, and the sight of parents herding their charges toward mini-vans, the WFIC heard from several Executive Branch officials and Planning Board staff on plans for “community amenities” promised in the White Flint Sector Plan, like libraries, recreation centers, and parks.
Unlike prior meetings, where the tone was definite and forward-looking, the January 10 meeting had a more tentative, “feeling your way forward in the dark” atmosphere. Though many of the new White Flint projects, particularly the three “sketch plans” already submitted for new projects, are moving forward, the WFIC got a full dose of the budget woes impacting all County planning.
Asked why there seemed to be a disconnect between the Planning Staff and the Planning Board Chair about whether we would get real-time monitoring of White Flint projects, the staff tensed up and said, “well, she’s right. We may not have the resources.”
Asked what the role of the WFIC itself would be, there were strong words of support from Diane Schwartz-Jones, who is rapidly earning the title of “Queen of White Flint Implementation” for her work as coordinator for the Executive Branch, but little from the Planning staff. “In some cases, the Committee may provide input,” said chief planner for the Committee Nkosi Yearwood.
The Recreation, Library and Parks staffers who briefed the WFIC also had great ideas, but few concrete plans.
And Diane Jones pointed out that “money was really tight” for amenities in the next few years. Nevertheless, Jones also stressed that the three sketch plans in the approval process right now (Mid-Pike Plaza, Nicholson Lane/Combined Properties, and JBG’s North Bethesda Market Phase Two) were “major” and urged the Committee to focus quickly on the effects of those plans on the amenities required to support those plans.
The watchword of the night? “Co-location.” We’re going to see a lot of doubling up of facilities in the future. “We don’t need to provide meeting space [in libraries] because other agencies around us have it already.”
There were some positive developments. Jones reported that there would be four new CIP (County capital investment projects, or big-ticket items) in the upcoming budget for FY 2012, including
- implementation planning,
- the design of Rockville Pike,
- the T-intersection at Market Street and Executive Boulevard, and
- the eastern side of the Plan, including bike paths and Nebel Street improvements.
There was also discussion of tensions between the plans for Rockville Pike from the City of Rockville, and the White Flint Sector Plan’s proposal for a central median with transit. Rockville has not updated its Pike plans, which may lead to some problems at the northern edge of White Flint, where Rockville has jurisdiction over the Pike. “Rockville’s just not as far along as we are in New Urbanism planning,” said one Committee member. There will be upcoming meetings to resolve these questions.
The next meeting is scheduled for Valentine’s Day, February 14, when the Committee will hear from the Montgomery County Schools on their plans and projections for White Flint.