Archives September 2009

FREE Membership Opportunity ENDS this Wednesday.

The Friends of White Flint Board of Directors voted to waive FoWF membership fees for residents and community associations for the recent White Flint Town Hall, but only through September 30. On October 1, membership fees will apply again.

So, if you want to take advantage of the free FoWF memberships for residents and community organizations, do so by Wednesday of this week.

Why join FoWF?

Members get more information. Although we post a lot of our policy and educational material on the FLOG, members get access to much more information, including preliminary drafts of policy statements. And most of our events are first publicized to FoWF members.

Members get more participation. Some of our meetings are limited to members. If you want to have influence over Friends of White Flint, becoming a member is your best bet.

Members can vote (except associate members). FowF Directors are evenly divided between classes representing residents and community organizations, businesses, and property owners and developers. Members can vote for directors in their classes (that is, residents vote for resident Directors, businesses for business Directors, etc.). Non-members can’t vote.

And, most of all, members help our community.

Please join us.

And, best of all, right now it’s free. But that opportunity is fleeing fast. Catch it while you can.

Barnaby Zall

How Should the White Flint Sector Plan be Improved?

How would YOU improve the White Flint Sector Plan? There’s a general consensus on the elements of the Plan: walkable, sustainable, transit-oriented. (Not coincidentally, those are the goals of Friends of White Flint as well.) You can get a copy of the Plan at: www.tinyurl.com/WhiteFlintSectorPlan.

But there are those, including both supporters and opponents, who say the Plan can be improved. In Friends of White Flint’s official testimony to the County Council last week, I promised recommendations for improvements, to be delivered at the Council’s public hearing on the Plan on October 20.

We would like to hear from you before crafting FoWF’s recommendations to the Council.

So, what, EXACTLY, would you do to improve the Plan? Please be as specific as possible.

You can comment here (by clicking the “comments” button below) or send your comments to one of the three FoWF Co-Chairs, Barnaby Zall (bzall@friendsofwhiteflint.org), Suzanne Hudson (suzanne.hudson@friendsofwhiteflint.org) and Evan Goldman (evan.goldman@friendsofwhiteflint.org), or any FoWF Director (e-mail addresses available on the Friends page at www.whiteflint.org).

Barnaby Zall

FLOG Readership Soars

If you look back a couple of months, you’ll see that we were happy when the FLOG and other Friends of White Flint electronic publications had 300 readers. Just a couple of weeks ago, we had 1,350 readers, which we thought was quite a lot.

Last Thursday, we had 1,603 readers across our web publications.

 Many thanks to our readers, and we invite you to join our conversation. Posting and commenting is easy and free!

Barnaby Zall

How will the new White Flint pay for the costs to accommodate new students?

The Sector Plan proposes 12,020 new residential units including those that have already been approved.  Assuming 25% of these units will be low-rise 4 story multifamily buildings and the remaining 75% will be high-rise multifamily buildings, the following is the calculation of school impact fees.  $10,431 in impact fees per low-rise multifamily unit multiplied by 25% of the 12,020 units equals $31.3 million in impact fees.  $4,422 in impact fees per high-rise multifamily unit multiplied by 75% of the 12,020 units equals $39.9 million in impact fees.  This results in $71.2 million in total impact fees over the life of the Sector Plan.    

Montgomery County Public Schools projects 1,111 new students from White Flint.  This would result in $64,100 per new student to expand existing facilities or build new schools.   The new Garrett Park Elementary School costs $25 million to build and will serve 662 students upon completion.  This equates to $37,764 per student in school construction costs.  Using this cost multiplied by the 1,111 new students, White Flint will need to fund approximately $41.9 million in new construction or renovation costs to house the students generated by the Sector Plan.  This leaves a surplus of $29.3 million to be used to expand existing schools or build new schools to accommodate the school age population growth generated by the existing single family neighborhoods surrounding White Flint.   

Said another way, the impact fees from White Flint would build almost three new elementary schools while producing demand for less than two schools.   In addition to $71.2 million in impact fees, White Flint is expected to produce roughly $1.5 billion in increased property tax revenue.  Only 10% of that $1.5 billion will be used to fund local infrastructure which leaves $1.35 billion for other Montgomery County programs.  50% of the County budget typically goes towards schools, so the White Flint Sector Plan could produce an additional $675 million to fund school costs County wide including your teachers’ salaries! This also means that if the $71.2 million is not enough to cover new school costs, the County will have a pool of money to tap into that wouldn’t be there without new development. 

Evan Goldman

White Flint Town Hall

More than 120 White Flint residents turned out to hear Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson and former Vice-Chair John Robinson discuss and answer questions about the White Flint Sector Plan at Wednesday’s White Flint Town Hall. The session went for two hours, and much of the audience stayed throughout.

The event began with a brief presentation about Friends of White Flint.  You can find a narrated, automatic version of the PowerPoint presentation (requires Microsoft Office PowerPoint software or compatible) here: Introduction to White Flint Town Hall

Dr. Hanson presented the White Flint Sector Plan for half an hour, and then Mr. Robinson opened the floor for audience questions. The questioning was civil, and wide-ranging, including questions about staging and phasing of infrastructure, school congestion and siting, new parks, bikeways, affordable housing, and most of all: traffic congestion. The Q&A went all the way up to 9PM, and probably would have gone on much longer if we’d let it.

Here are some preliminary pictures (better ones will be available later):

Dr. Royce Hanson     Paul Meyer Asking a Question 

 Questions     Audience  

     Robinson         Hanson 2

 Many thanks to all our volunteers who helped make this an interesting and informative event, including Dan Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Ed Rich, Ken Hurdle, Paul Meyer, Evan Goldman, Craig Ciekot, Dave Freishtat, and most of all to Mike Springer and his colleagues from our host, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Barnaby Zall

Council Hears From Everyone on Growth Policy

The Montgomery County Council usually warns participants that it rarely hears more than 30 people during a public hearing, but last night’s public hearing on the 2009-2011 Annual Growth Policy featured almost 50 speakers, and they all were heard respectfully and fully.

council-agp-hearing-9-22-09-wide.jpg

Here the Council listens to Jim Humphries of the Montgomery Civic Federation (flowered shirt) say that the Annual Growth Policy, which measures the amount of traffic going through intersections, was not an appropriate measure for the County to use to address carbon emissions.

Most of the hearing was devoted to an attack by many witnesses on the traffic congestion measurement known as the Policy Area Mobility Review, or PAMR. PAMR is the regional test of traffic congestion, measured by county staffers driving at various times of the day up and down various routes, timing how long it takes to get from place to place. The local version of PAMR is known as LATR. County Executive Ike Leggett told the Council that PAMR was “fundamentally flawed.” GiGi Godwin of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce said that PAMR “does not provide a solution to problems.” Sharon Dooley of the Greater Olney Civic Association said that “PAMR is too easy” to be useful, and that no intersection ever fails PAMR testing. Ben Ross of Action Committee for Transit said that “PAMR treats the symption — congestion — not the underlying problem: too many cars.”

In my testimony for Friends of White Flint, I noted that “PAMR might produce uncoordinated and piecemeal infrastructure investments,” and that the Annual Growth Policy process was “automobile-centered policy” which could endanger a sustainable, walkable community plan like the White Flint Sector Plan.

It wasn’t all PAMR all night, however. Other issues brought up included school funding and congestion, with many speakers requesting more money for school construction and others pointing out that the White Flint Plan will generate $50 million in school impact fees from development. Liz King, a parent, said that the $50 million “was a good start,” but Paula Bienenfeld, an opponent of the White Flint Sector Plan, called it “a drop in the bucket” and a “Ponzi scheme.”

In my FoWF testimony, I said:

“Quality of life is not measured by how fast cars move. We must reduce our environmental impact, increase walkability, and utilize our investment in transit. The [Annual Growth Policy] is a blunt instrument; the White Flint Plan is much more precise and holistic.”

“The White Flint Plan, for example, considered congestion at local intersections, but also considered how best to move traffic. Not just “fastest,” but “best.” “Best” includes walkability, sustainability and community amenities — in short, quality of life.”

“Hundreds of us, working over three years, using some of the finest walkability and sustainability consultants, have finally created a modern community for White Flint. Sustainable. Walkable. Pedestrian-friendly. Transit-oriented. Let’s not use an automobile-centered growth test to condemn it before we even start.”

The evening’s long parade of witnesses ended with Jennifer Ramsey, a forty-year resident of the Forum, a high-rise condominium on Rockville Pike. She began: “It’s appropriate that I bring up the caboose, because we bus riders always have to go last.” Ramsey noted that she used transit to commute for decades, beginning with the old D.C. Transit bus service, and continuing until her retirement five years ago “when I bought a car.” Ramsey endorsed the Rockville Pike redesign proposed by the White Flint Partnership as part of the White Flint Sector Plan, because she said she supported the additional transit lanes proposed in the median of the new Rockville Pike Boulevard.

On the whole, it was a long, but interesting evening. Dr. Royce Hanson, Chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board, and speaker at tonight’s White Flint Town Hall, noted that Montgomery County was projecting a substantial increase in the number of residents and jobs. He said that using “smart growth” was necessary to meet all the competing goals of carbon reduction, traffic management, and maintaining quality of life. Gary Stith, representing County Executive Ike Leggett, praised the Council for considering quality of life issues. Sally Roman, of the county’s Housing Opportunities Council, endorsed all the new affordable housing opportunities in recent master plans such as the White Flint Sector Plan.

Paul Meyer, representing the Wisconsin condominium, discussed the overall needs of the county in terms of amenities for residents. But he also said he works closely with Friends of White Flint, which brings all sides into the discussion, because he knows that businesses are essential to the health of the community. “I want them to make a lot of money,” Meyer noted. He also said that developers were an important part of any discussions about the future of White Flint.

Some observers had predicted that opponents of the White Flint Sector Plan would use the Growth Policy hearing as a way to attack the White Flint Plan, and they apparently tried. Many of the individual witnesses predicted that there would be congestion in White Flint, which would affect their ability to drive. The Mayor of the Town of Garrett Park, Chris Keller, one of the first witnesses, told the Council that his community already had the “quality of place” which the Planning Board intended for White Flint, and they were concerned that improving White Flint would disturb their “fragile” quality. He predicted a “sharp rise in traffic congestion” from White Flint development.

Natalie Goldberg, a member of the former White Flint Advisory Group which worked on the White Flint Sector Plan, wrote her assessment on a list-serve late last night:

The public hearing Tuesday night lasted three hours, and while there was community support for continuing to balance new development with the infrastructure to support it, there were hoards of developers, business organization, Friendsof White Flint, out there supporting exceptions for White Flint. We need to let the Council know that our message has broad community support.

If you wrote to the Planning Board on this subject, write again. You can even say the same thing.

Many of the proposed policies affect both schools and traffic. There is a lot of pressure coming from the development community to substitute Smart Growth criteria instead of the usual traffic and school capacity analysis. The current proposal exempts the White Flint Sector Plan area (between Montrose parkway and Edson) from traffic analysis and allows development to proceed based on a preconceived plan that hasn’t been decided yet. It also raises the congestion standard at Edson Lane and Security (meaning its okay to have more traffic).

Friends of White Flint’s full statement from the hearing is available here: AGP Statement

Barnaby Zall

Reminder: White Flint Town Hall Tomorrow

It’s a busy time for the White Flint Sector Plan. Lots of meetings. County Council hearings in October. On Friday, former Gov. Parris Glendening, now with Smart Growth America, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency senior policy analyst John Thomas, with County Councilmember Roger Berliner moderating, discussing “smart growth” and the White Flint Plan.

Please come and hear about the Plan from two of the authors: Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson, and former Vice-Chair John Robinson.

Tomorrow night, 7PM, at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission auditorium on Rockville Pike. Directions, parking, security and program info all at: www.townhall.whiteflint.org.

See you at the White Flint Town Hall meeting.

Barnaby Zall

Fall Photo Essay Ideas?

As long-time readers know, the Friends of White Flint website changes themes with the seasons, and one of the biggest changes are the photo essays on the home and White Flint pages: flowers in the spring, farmers markets in the summer.

So, what should we showcase about White Flint in the fall? Leaves is the default, and traffic or roadwork not specific enough to fall. Someone suggested coffee shops, but there aren’t many of those.

Looking for ideas. Let me know, by commenting here, or directly at bzall@friendsofwhiteflint.org.

 Thanks, and hope to see you at tomorrow’s White Flint Town Hall. www.townhall.whiteflint.org.

Barnaby Zall

FoWF Statement on Annual Growth Policy

Every two years, Montgomery County considers whether its public facilities are “adequate” to support the planned growth in the county. This is the Annual Growth Policy process, and the County Council will hear public comments on the 2009-2011 AGP tomorrow night.

The AGP has become a sort of proxy fight over the White Flint Sector Plan, as some persons who oppose some or all of the White Flint Sector Plan testified to the Planning Board during its AGP hearings. Similar sentiments are expected to be voiced at the AGP hearing tomorrow night. As discussed in earlier FLOG posts, some residents believe that the White Flint Plan will cause congestion in intersections and crowding in schools; most of the official White Flint Steering Committee (set up by the Planning Board last year) support the White Flint Plan even in the AGP process.

Friends of White Flint will testify in favor of the White Flint Sector Plan tomorrow night. FoWF’s 17-page statement begins:

            Where will Montgomery County be in twenty years? We already know some of the answers: more people, more jobs, more things to do, less focus on D.C. The big question: how do we accommodate that change in a very green and strategic way?

The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and the Growth Policy review process are welcome attempts to address that question for the County as a whole. The White Flint Sector Plan demonstrates how the County can answer that question in the context of one specific part of the County. One major difference between the two analyses is that the White Flint Sector Plan is a very precise, holistic approach to a sustainable community, tailored to the facts of one particular area.

Perhaps the most important innovation in the ground-breaking White Flint Sector Plan’s analysis is that the range of public facilities and needs which were included and balanced in the White Flint Plan was much broader than are measured in the AGP process. The White Flint Plan did consider, for example, congestion at local intersections (the hallmark of the AGP process), but also considered how best to move traffic through those intersections. Not just “fast,” but “best.” “Best” also included walkability, sustainability, and community amenities – in short, quality of life in the surrounding community as well as congestion. In AGP terms, the breadth of “public facilities” reviewed was considerably wider, as was the definition of “adequacy.”Friends of White Flint strongly supports the Planning Board’s attempt to broaden the AGP process beyond traffic congestion to assess other measures to insure a high quality of life in the County. We urge the Council to adopt this expansion of the AGP process to include sustainability, urban design, and other elements which actually gauge the adequacy of public facilities on more than a few, narrow measures.

Montgomery County needs to know how congested its intersections may be, but quality of life in this century is not measured by how fast cars move around town. Modern urban planning recognizes that reducing congestion is only one element in urban design, and that reducing our environmental impact may require a much more targeted approach, particularly in areas which are being transformed into sustainable, walkable communities.

We believe the White Flint Sector Plan illustrates that Montgomery County can do this, that we can engage in a modern, sustainable urban planning effort. The White Flint Plan is a specific set of innovative answers that adapt sustainable and engaging ideas proven in other communities to a White Flint-specific walkable community plan.

 FoWF will also testify at tomorrow night’s hearing. Its testimony will be much shorter.

 You can find the full FoWF statement here:

 AGP Statement

 Barnaby Zall