Archives June 2009

“The Wisconsin Condominium” Enthusiastically Supports the Adoption of the White Flint Sector Plan

The Wisconsin Condominium announces today its enthusiastic support for the White Flint Sector Plan that is promoted by the Friends of White Flint.

In May of 2009 the Friends of White Flint was invited to present on the White Flint Sector Plan.  The turnout for this presentation was unusually large due to the strong interest in the future of our local community.  After a formal presentation of the Plan that evening and much informal discussion after the meeting by building residents, it was apparent that there was strong support for the Plan and the Condominium Board decided to join the Friends of White Flint Organization.

The Wisconsin Condominium is a 202 unit condominium situated in the heart of the White Flint Sector, one block from the White Flint Metro station.  With its close proximity to Metro and shopping many of the residents purchased units to take advantage of mass transportation and close shopping and now wait with excitement for the opening of new dining, entertainment and retail opportunities that could be realized through the new Sector Plan.

The Board President asked the immediate past Board President to represent The Wisconsin Condominium and strongly support the Friends of White Flint in its efforts to bring “New Urbanism” to White Flint and thereby enhance the lives of
Wisconsin residents.

Paul Meyer

Wisconsin Representative to the Friends of White
Flint Organization

Wisconsin Board President (May 2005 – May 2009)

“White Flint Community Coalition” Opposes White Flint Growth

A new organization, the White Flint Community Coalition, says it is “Representing the wishes of the people of the White Flint area.” The Community Coalition testified before the Montgomery County Planning Board at a hearing on the proposed new Montgomery County Growth Policy. 

The Community Coalition said in a press release that the proposed Growth Policy would “generate unacceptable levels of traffic congestion to the detriment of the people now living in the county.” The group’s release quoted John King, a Garrett Park resident, as saying “we are not against smart growth or in favor of sprawl. It is just that the growth has to be managed in a way that does not seriously degrade the lives of thousands of people who are already residents of the area, many for several decades.”

In addition to the criticism of the Growth Policy being discussed last night, the Community Coalition criticized the White Flint Plan (probably meaning the White Flint Sector Plan): “The coalition also took issue with the Planning Board’s contention that the White Flint plan would benefit older neighborhoods and bring little change. Such neighborhoods, the Coalition notes, ‘will have to cotend with the unmitigated traffic. That’s neither a “benefit” nor “little change.”‘”

The Community Coalition release and “fact sheet” is available here (apologies for the annotations; that’s how I received it): WF Community Coalition Growth Policy Statement

The Community Coalition describes itself as “launched in April, 2009, is comprised of seven community bodies representing more than 2,300 homeowners living in or adjacent to the White Flint Sector. They are: Crest of Wickford Condominum Association, Garrett Park Estates – White Flint Park Citizens’ Association, Luxmanor Civic Association, Sterling HOA, Timberlawn Homeowners Association, and Wickford Community Association.”  

During the hearing, Chairman Hanson and Commissioner Alfandre noted that the principal cause of the school overcrowding moratorium is not the growth policy, but turnover in communities and the desires of people to move into certain areas. Hanson: should we have some impact tax on turnover? Cmsnr Presley: it doesn’t matter where the students come from, the larger question is where the money comes from. A cutoff was determined because at a certain point, they can’t support the level of service and programming we hope to deliver in Montgomery County.

UPDATE: Kevin Kline, a member of Friends of White Flint, released a public letter opposing the position of the Community Coalition. Kline’s letter, reprinted with his permission, reads:

As a Randolph Hills resident with no developer ties, I attended White Flint Sector Plan hearings, and appreciate the time (two years) and effort it took by the Planning Board, civic associations, and developers to develop a good Plan.   

However, at a recent Park & Planning meeting (June 22, 2009) on County Growth Policy, testimony veered off onto White Flint development.  This change in venue is unfair to citizens like me who participated in the White Flint process.

  The White Flint Community Coalition spoke at this County Growth Policy meeting.  As its name implies, this Coalition is newly created by those dissatisfied with the White Flint Sector Plan, and want to continue their opposition at unrelated hearings.  The Coalition started a mass email campaign to you and the Planning Board.   

Their testimony and their emails are unrelated to County Growth Policy, and I urge you not to let them pressure you on White Flint decisions.

New Photo Essay on FoWF Home Page

I have added a new photo essay to the Friends of White Flint home page: www.friendsofwhiteflint.org. The essay is made from pictures from the Planning Staff draft of the White Flint Plan, plus pictures of various proposed projects for White Flint. The essay begins with the existing state of Rockville Pike, and moves through plans, projects already underway and finishes with proposed project from north to south across the Sector.

Comments welcome.

Barnaby Zall

Staff Background Materials Available

The Montgomery County Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in “worksessions” arranged around various topics. Generally, the planning staff prepares background memoranda and materials for the Board to use to prepare for these sessions.

The staff background materials for the June 4 and June 18, 2009 worksessions is now available on-line. Almost all materials are generally available on the White Flint Planning Page: www.whiteflintplanning.org.

The June 4 materials are available here:

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint/documents/June4PPpresentation.pdf

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint/documents/20090604_Item5.pdf

The June 18 materials, including the staff memo and the PowerPoint presentation (here offered in .pdf format) are available here:

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint/documents/20090618whitememo.pdf

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint/documents/June18.pdf

Barnaby Zall

Randolph Hills Civic Association Supports Draft Plan with changes

Randolph Hills Civic Association is the largest community organization in the White Flint area, representing almost 5,000 people who live just to the east of the Sector boundaries. RHCA has been active in the White Flint Plan development process, and is a member of Friends of White Flint.

RHCA has now sent a letter of support to the Montgomery County Planning Board, but suggesting some changes in the draft Plan to reflect the needs of the community to the east:

Randolph Hills Civic Association Letter on White Flint Plan.

Briggs: I don’t see a shovel turning ground within two years.

Live-blogging from June 18, 2009, worksession #13 of the Montgomery County Planning Board; topic is implementation requirements and staging. Streaming video is available at www.montgomerycountyplanning.org.

Pre-requisites: Chairman Hanson: the Board must establish an Advisory Committee and monitoring program. The question here is whether we want this to happen or not? Don, will you come up here please and discuss this?

Don Briggs, Federal Realty, our issue is that we’ve waited 3 years for a Master Plan. I don’t see this funding mechanism and all the details being done by May next year such that the private sector will spend significant money on site approvals. We wouldn’t spend that money without knowing where it was going. You want to incentivize all parties to come to a conclusion, but there’s no way that will happen by May next year. Robinson: if funding mechanism gets in place, it applies to everyone. Briggs: I don’t see a shovel turning ground within two years.

Hanson: working on this three years. From the first day, we all agreed there must be a funding mechanism. Problem has been that we’ve been talking to Executive since November, and thus far our agreement is that there must be a funding mechanism. It’d sure be nice. I don’t see a funding mechanism on the horizon without a hammer on it. If we’re not going to fund the transportation infrastructure and the transformation of Rockville Pike that’s essential to the Plan, then we’ve got no plan. We’re just spinning our wheels.

Cmsnr Alfandre: hammer must be in the hands of the negotiators, public-private partnership. Cmsnr Presley: do you agree with TIF? Briggs: Special assessment and TIF are probably right. Qualify that if the Executive makes a CIP commitment that these will be available in the first stage, we’d be satisfied with that. Cmsnr Cryor: We’d all like that, but it won’t happen. Briggs: our requirements for commitments are not extraordinary.

Cryor: only two reasons to improve community and improve the economic base, but if you destroy the quality of life here because it’s too dense, then there’s no point in doing it. We need to know that the Executive is as committed to this as we area. I keep hearing that he’s sliding away from that. I don’t to hear that. Briggs: I’m not sliding away from it. We have a capital problem the way we’ve identified the capital problem. We’ve got a plan that implements the vision we’ve come up with 3 years ago. But it’s unrealistic to expect this all to come through within twelve months. We, both public and private side, have to work on making this happen. This timeline is too strict. 18 or 24 months from the time this is adopted, that keeps the hammer on but gives us the time needed. What you are removing by making this a pre-requisite is the ability of people to move forward before then. Presley: but we’re guessing six months out. I like making it pre-requisites because a lot of people with interests become lobbyists.

Hanson: what about 12 months from adoption of sectional map concepts for the public entities? Robinson: limits methods of exaction. But I’d agree. Hanson: we have a decision.

Gary Stith, from County Executive’s Office: Executive is not saying he’s opposed; he is working on this.

Cryor: Advisory Committee “ensuring”? Hanson: they should recommend actions by the Planning Board and the Council. That’s what advisory groups do.

Hanson: when do we do that?

Live blogging from the June 18, 2009 worksession of the Montgomery County Planning Board, the thirteenth worksession on the White Flint Sector Plan. Live streaming video is available at www.montgomeryplanningboard.org. Topics for today include staging and implementation and beginning the detailed review of the staff draft of the White Flint Sector Plan.

Staff presentations by Piera Weiss, Master Planner for White Flint and Jacob Sesker, financial wizard. Dan Hardy, head of the Move Division (transportation) joined the discussion. June 25 session on review of the CR Zone (the new zoning pattern used in White Flint), separate from White Flint. July 9, complete the review of the White Flint Plan, and July 23, request to transmit the sector plan to the County Council and Executive. Some discussion of the July 23 schedule. Only 20 minutes scheduled on July 9 for discussing the Plan. Cmsnr Robinson: I would be surprised if we get through the whole plan today. Chrman Hanson: there has to be enough time to review the Plan. Robinson: most important plan in years. Hanson: somehow we’ll make time for what has to be done. Maybe a Sunday meeting.

Weiss: cover memo identified 3 issues with staging, financing and administration. #1: TIF (tax increment financing) and special assessment district. 2: sufficient connec tion between staging and ginancing with some new recommended text for the staging. 3: new text for financing and administration. Gary Stith from County Executive’s office joined the discussion.

Sesker: take up issues 1 and 3 together. discusses risk/interest rate trade-offs inherent in each combination of tools for financing. Decision of which tool to use will be made following extensive analysis and legislation will be needed to implement this choice. Staff can’t make a recommendation because the analysis hasn’t been completed. Some analysis presented to Board. Pages 2-5 of the June 12 cover memo (available at the agenda for June 18, 2009, on www.montgomeryplanningboard.org) include this discussion. Cmsnr Cryor: what’s the downside of each of these choices? Sesker: we are recommending TIF and special assessment district; it is possible that the Executive will choose other tools as preferable. The downside is that some other tools will be used to implement the Plan, but we have mitigated that downside by establishing some rules in the financing section of the Plan. Arguments against each tool is that Montgomery County has not used these. Staff’s memo wasn’t intended to exclude the possibility of using regular financing terms to implement this Plan, but there is a disagreement among attorneys about whether it is possible to do what we recommend. Some private sector attorneys think the charter limit won’t permit these tools; others think it can.

Hanson: upside and downside of development districts? Sesker: downsides: “fully developed” under the legislation is unclear. Not intended to be used in a place like this; it was intended to be a financing infrastructure tool. Some limitations on the amount of revenue it can generate from existing uses. Director of Finance believes that many shortcomings of financing legislation were addressed in 2008. Two ways to initiate a district, either developer asking or Council applying; in both cases, requires consent of 2/3ds of landowners. A special assessment district could be imposed, so in many respects could be cleaner. Hanson: so it could provide an incentive to develop. Sesker: an advantage over development district. Cryor: will there be a challenge? Sesker: the Executive believes that any district implicates the charter limit. Attorney General opinion that any tax which is not ad valorem will not implicate the limit. So it depends on what type of tax is imposed. Front foot benefit, for example, or number of trips generated, would not touch the limit.

Stith: Executive Branch having series of meetings with agencies and property owners in the area to come up with ideas about what would be best for this area. these mechanisms are very complex, so combine them to offset shortcomings with advantages. Not easy to come with financing mechanism that is several years out. Decision would be made at that time depending on the conditions at that time. Hanson: how much direction should we give in the Plan? Concerned me that if the plan is not directive about the specificity so a reasonable person would know what to do and when to do it. If we just say something poetic, and everyone agrees, that doesn’t give me an enormous degree of confidence about how we set the stage for things to happen.  When do we do that?

Alfandre: what I did [in Kentlands, a New Urbanism development in nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland] is build a couple of neighborhoods, and people saw that and got confidence in the rest. We need to do that here.

[extensive discussion about particular facilities and phasing, lost to connection issue]

Stith on Executive: some things in the phase one list aren’t necessary. The Fire station isn’t essential. the Library also isn’t essential to doing other things. I wouldn’t specify it in the staging section.

Hanson: what infrastructure has to be in place at each stage in order for anybody to advance to the next stage? Separate out infrastructure that produces capacity from infrastructure that is nice but doesn’t produce capacity. For White Flint to work, there has to be enough transportation capacity for things to work. Either infrastructure or a surrogate. Got to separate them or getting nowhere. Running in circles here. What is necessary for us to do anything in White Flint?

Robinson: need bonded revenue for anything. Won’t get that from community facilities. I would take out fire and library from phase One. Can’t take that piece of paper to Wall Street, no matter how much the Executive wants it. Any developer must anticipate that an amenity will be required. Presley: so we are assuming that a library that would ordinarily be funded through public funds will be provided wholly by private sources? Robinson: yes, because at 5,000 sq. feet it is doable within a single project. Hanson: we did this at Wisconsin Place, where 20,000 feet was reserved for a recreation center. The library is a good example in this case. But if someone comes in and proposes it for the southern part of the Sector, we’d probably say that is the wrong area and we’d want it near the core area.

Alfandre: do this through the zoning. Only difference I’m talking about. Presley: we should weight the order of amenities. Robinson: list of amenities and prioritize in Phase Two. Wouldn’t want to delay if we don’t get dedication. Clearly visible projects. Weiss: not that many amenities within each district. Alfandre: why not use Wall Park as a civic green. Sesker: $50 million building site not on Civic Green, but where Market Street intersects Rockville Pike.

Hanson: in phasing, development can go ahead now once certain things occur, if P. 69 conditions have been satisfied, less the bullets for public entities. Robinson: should be “additional” development, not existing. So a moratorium until these conditions? Hanson: yes. Weiss: so Phase One should begin after the third bullet. Hardy: don’t need the Pike study in Phase One pre-requisites because we’ve said it must be completed in Phase One. Sesker: we need alternatives for pre-requisites.

Hanson: any disagreement on the first three bullets? No? Good, we have a decision.

Planning Board Worksession – June 18, 2009

The Montgomery County Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in “worksessions” arranged around topics. Today’s topics are implementation and staging, and the presentation of the staff Draft of the Plan. Live streaming video of today’s session is available at www.montgomeryplanningboard.org.

Live blogging from the worksession. The big question for today is whether the Board can resolve some of the staging and timing issues (including some financing questions) in time to keep to its schedule for moving the Plan forward. The Board had announced its intentions to finalize the Plan in July. There has been some discussion that the Plan might be delayed as the Board works out the timing issues, but that simply moved the timetable back from July 9 to the end of July.

Barnaby Zall