When Piera Weiss, Planner-Coordinator for the White Flint Sector Plan, finished explaining the Planning Board’s expectations for the new Steering Committee it appointed, a very loud “THUD” reverberated throughout the hearing room. It was the sound of seventeen jaws collectively hitting the floor.
As you can see from the previous notes, members of the Steering Committee (myself included) had envisioned the Steering Committee as an active entity, with lively discussions about structure and ethics, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering for support. Think “Survivor” without voting off the island.
But Piera and Nkosi Yearwood, the other main White Flint staffer, had spent Tuesday morning touring White Flint with Chairman Royce Hanson and Planning Board member Jean Cryor. And at the Steering Committee’s first meeting last night, she reported back on the “Board direction” for the Steering Committee. From the reaction, it was different from expectations.
Piera said that the Board expected the Steering Committee’s role to be “interactive,” “not a committee, or a Chairman, or subcommittees.” It was to be a “voice” for the communities the members were appointed to represent, to speak with the Board “on issues it was grappling with.”
The main activity of the Steering Committee was to be participating in Planning Board work sessions (the meetings where the Board hashes out the details of its plans, as opposed to hearing views from the public). A welcome role, certainly, and one which the Steering Committee had requested.
But not necessarily the ONLY role that had been envisioned. Was the Steering Committee to have “no need for structure?” Was it to be “just 13 voices from the groups you were appointed to represent?”
It took about an hour for the Steering Committee members to revive from Piera’s bombshell. Mike Smith, from LCOR, began the process by saying that he had expected a more active Committee with a different role. Other members jumped in, discussing whether to seek consensus on issues, or whether just to present individual voices. I made the point that the Board was seeking “solutions,” not just further lists of problems, and that solutions should be crafted together, rather than just being proposed.
Eventually, the desire for concerted action won out. The Committee resolved to meet outside Piera’s timetable to see if there were some issues which could be resolved, and others which needed to be highlighted for the Board. That meeting will be held on January 13, at 4:30PM at the offices of Federal Realty Investment Trust in Rockville. For more information or directions, please contact Evan Goldman: firstname.lastname@example.org.