Archives October 2011

We Like Meetings So Much We’re Having Another

The Board of Directors of Friends of White Flint met last night to discuss the future of the organization; several other members of the community also attended the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss proposals that FoWF join with or evolve into some other organization or entity; some of the proposed organizations included Business Improvement Districts, Urban Districts, the B-CC Chamber of Commerce, or one of the various County advisory groups. The group also discussed proposals to revise and improve FoWF’s web portals, including the FLOG.
 
The consensus of the group (indeed, unanimity) was that FoWF should not join with a County or other entity. The group wants FoWF to stay an independent voice joining the three major segments of the White Flint community: residents, businesses and property owners.
 
At the same time, the group recognized that FoWF cannot continue the level of activity it had during the development and enactment of the White Flint Sector Plan without adding staff, which, of course, requires adding more funds. The same is true of the web portals, which require more attention than our volunteer staff can give.
 
It was a very active discussion, lasting two hours. This discussion was, however, too significant and large to be completed last night.
 
The Board decided to hold another meeting to continue these discussions. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 16, 2011, beginning at 6PM, at the offices of Federal Realty, 1626 E. Jefferson St., Rockville.
 
The meeting, like all FoWF meetings, will be open to the public. You do not need to be on the Board to actively participate in the meeting. I encourage everyone to attend and participate.
 
Barnaby Zall

Change is Good

The Friends of White Flint Board of Directors decided last night to hold a meeting to discuss the future of the organization and its web sites. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held on Monday, October 24, at 7PM, at the offices of Federal Realty, 1626 East Jefferson in Rockville.

February 16 FoWF Board Meeting

 Background:
FoWF started in 2007 principally to promote the development of a White Flint Master Plan designed to convert the area into a transit-oriented, sustainable, pedestrian-friendly urban center. The White Flint Master Plan was adopted in March 2010, and the required enacting legislation was finalized in July of this year. The County Council, FoWF and many others celebrated White Flint being “open for business” on July 22. http://blog.friendsofwhiteflint.org/2011/07/27/white-flint-open-for-business/.
 
In 2010 and again this year, the FoWF Board discussed whether and how to continue FoWF after its first goal was achieved. The Board decided that there was a role for an advocacy group to monitor and comment on implementation plans, and none of the other groups organized by various County agencies filled the same role as the non-profit and independent FoWF.
 
Nevertheless, in part because of tremendous pressure from recent budget crises and in part because, frankly, I have been remiss in keeping up the website, several groups, including some County organizations, have asked to join with FoWF in the website, or in other activities.
 
The Proposals:
There have been several proposals of varying types: some suggest that FoWF take over certain roles in White Flint implementation, such as forming the nucleus for a Business Improvement District; others suggest that FoWF partner with a county body, such as the White Flint Urban District, to promote White Flint as a destination; still others simply ask that we let the County take over the whiteflint.org web site.
 
Reaction to the Proposals:
Reactions to the first set of proposals, when broached to Friends and Directors, were heated. Just a few selections:
Councilmember Nancy Floreen: “I would urge you to consider this move carefully. If you merge with a government entity, the Friends lose their flexibilty and identity and probably creativity. You become government, which is not as agile as the private sector would permit. I think that would be a great loss.”

Councilmember Nancy Floreen (L), Dan Hoffman and the Hoffman kids at the "White Flint Is Open For Business" Celebration

 
Former Planning Board Vice-Chair John Robinson: “What if you all do not agree with what the government wants to do, such as shift social or amenity costs to the private sector that were not contemplated by the White Flint sector plan. What if the opposite occurs, that the “government” proposes to cut back on its own commitments to amenities, transportation funding, etc. At that point disagreeing with the government and supporting the private sector (business or citizens in general) becomes very awkward if the government has voting representatives on the Board.”
Randolph Civic Association head Dan Hoffman: “I feel like having one dialogue about it would be healthy at this point.”
FoWF Co-Chair for Residents Suzanne Hudson: “The role of Friends may change because of the Urban District but the need for its input outside of the governmental process could be critical. Part of that is being a counter point to the county government.”

Suzanne Hudson, FoWF Co-Chair for Residents

 
My view:
I am the founder and chief bottlewasher for FoWF. I am not taking any position on any of the proposed options. I will point out that FoWF will not be able to continue into the future without some sort of support staff, which would affect all of the proposals. In other words, some change will happen; the question is what change would be best.
 
This meeting is to begin the process of evaluating these proposals. Ken Hartman, head of the Regional Service Center for White Flint, will be there to discuss one option; I believe others will discuss the other options.
 
I urge you all to attend the October 24 meeting.
 
Barnaby Zall
Co-Chair for Business

Busy Tuesday Night at the MAC

The White Flint Implementation Committee (WFIC) will hold its October monthly meeting at the Montgomery Aquatic Center in Wall Park (Nicholson Lane and Executive Blvd.) at 7:30PM on Tuesday, October 11. (The meeting is on a Tuesday instead of the usual Monday because of the Columbus Day holiday.)
 
Nkosi Yearwood, chief White Flint planner for the Montgomery Planning Board, advises that the WFIC will discuss the County’s public facilities plan as well as the latest development updates. One can also expect discussion of the County Council’s surprisingly-long discussion of changes to the CR Zone, and perhaps some discussion of the future of citizen participation.

Nkosi Yearwood (c) chairing April 11 WFIC meeting, with (from left) Mike Coveyou of the County Executive's Office, Jacob Sesker of the Planning Department and Dave Freishtat, Co-Chair of WFIC (and FoWF Board Member)

Prior to the meeting, Federal Realty will be presenting some changes in its plans for Mid-Pike Plaza. Not sure what they are, but Evan Goldman suggests that they are “minor.” Federal Realty is seeking community input on the changes before offering them to the Planning Board for review.

Mid-Pike Plaza

Artist's Rendition of planned Mid-Pike Plaza, courtesty Federal Realty

And after the meeting, the Friends of White Flint Board of Directors will hold a brief, informal meeting to discuss a process for considering and evaluating various proposals for the community organization’s interaction with the County government and the Planning Board. Some have suggested that the website whiteflint.org be operated by, or in conjunction with, the County; others have proposed that FoWF itself become closer to one or more County agencies.

Reaction to the proposals has been mixed. County Councilmembers and others who have reacted to these plans have cautioned against losing the organization’s independent voice. So the FoWF Board is trying to determine how to proceed on these suggestions. Tuesday’s meeting will just determine whether a FoWF meeting is warranted and set a schedule.

Barnaby Zall