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.