The White Flint Implementation Committee met again last night in a sweltering conference room at the Montgomery Aquatic Center to discuss progress on the White Flint Sector Plan. It was a light agenda, and the meeting adjourned shortly after 9PM, just before participants began keeling over from heat exhaustion.
But first, there was the usual attendant controversy. After last month’s meeting, when Montgomery County Executive Assistant Diane Schwartz-Jones revealed a plan to raise private and “unused” planning funds to hold a series of “charettes” on White Flint amenities, there was an active discussion of Planning staffer Nkosi Yearwood’s report on progress toward hiring a consultant. Two consultants, Torti Gallas and Partners (Silver Spring) and Ouden Knoop Knoop + Sachs Architecture (Chevy Chase, MD) have been hired to help plan the hiring of the consultant to run the charette. There apparently is no contract, no RFP, no public scope of work, or any other of the usual accoutrements of contracting in the modern era. No one at the meeting knew much more, but someone offered the rationale that it was essentially a privately-funded activity (though I pointed out there were $20,000 in “unused” planning funds in the mix). Mike Coveyou of the County Executive’s office reported that the Department of Administrative Services “freed up” that money; it wasn’t actually Planning Board funds.
So Della Stollsworth of Luxmanor, turned to Francine Waters of Lerner Enterprises, and asked: “Do you know who you’re hiring?” “We’re not hiring them,” Francine replied. WFIC Co-Chair Dan Hoffman tried to soothe the agitated residents by pointing out that the initial consultant was probably just doing “scoping” for the project, but the whole discussion left some (including me) quizzical about the whole idea.
In other news, Yearwood reported that there was a second vacancy on the WFIC, with former member John Frye, from Fallstone, resigning. The earlier vacancy from Karl Girschman from the Wisconsin, has not yet been filled, even though Paul Meyer, another Wisconsin resident and long-time activist, had applied for the vacancy weeks ago. Nkosi said that the Planning Board would be sending requests to various community organizations to nominate persons to fill the Frye and Girschman vacancies. No timetable to fill these.
The CR Zone amendments, which in this case, amount to making the “sketch plan” process where residents have input into an early stage of a project’s development, essentially only advisory to the Planning Board, are still being discussed, with hearings before the Planning Board on April 27, and public hearings before the County Council on May 17. The Washington Suburban Sanitary District has proposed new “free and clear” areas of up to 80′ on either side of the various pipelines that run through White Flint, which will affect two major planned developments: North Bethesda Market Phase Two, and North Bethesda Gateway. It will likely not have any effect on area communities such as Old Farm and Luxmanor, where enormous pipes carry millions of gallons of water a day right next to homes. So residents who want to dig in their yards may continue to do so, but should expect to keep swim suits nearby in case the pipes break.
And the meeting concluded with an extended discussion of the new White Flint Implementation Guidelines, which are the Planning staff’s attempt to combine transportation and “adequate public facilities” monitoring programs into one, (relatively) easy-to-understand analysis of “staging” requirements. Much discussion of parking requirements and other ways to get people out of their cars. The WFIC includes a couple of experts on evaluating the success of these “mode share” efforts, but most of the people in the room looked lost.
The next WFIC meeting will be May 9.