The Montgomery County Council has set a public hearing for Tuesday, September 22, on the county’s Annual Growth Policy. The AGP controls development in the county through an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that mandates what level of development can be supported by existing and planned public schools, water and sewer facilities and transportation options. Friends of White Flint supports a shift of the AGP process from considering only traffic congestion and school crowding to including other factors which make up quality of life in a community, such as sustainability.
The AGP has become important in the White Flint Sector Plan because the White Flint Community Coalition, a group of residents from the southern portion of the White Flint area, has opposed the White Flint Plan during the AGP process. As explained by Suzanne Hudson, Co-Chair of Friends of White Flint for Residents and Community Associations, their objections fall into several categories:
School redistricting. Residents are concerned that areas currently within the Walter Johnson High School “cluster” would be redistricted into a different high school’s area, which is thought of as less desireable. The Planning Board included language in the White Flint Sector Plan which suggested that Montgomery County Public Schools consider redistricting. Friends of White Flint, acting on a request by residents, requested the Board to remove the offending language, but the Board retained the language. In addition, there is substantial concern that the impact fees paid by developers to offset the costs of new schools and transportation in the new White Flint will be diverted to other areas of the county because the funds are deposited into the County’s General Fund, and not reserved to mitigate the school impacts in White Flint. Friends of White Flint supports using the impact fees for their intended purpose: to fund the public amenities in the area where the fees are raised.
Transportation and Transit: The White Flint Sector Plan expressly keys development on the preparation of the necessary infrastructure. Thus, roads would be built before development. Some residents are concerned that the County’s history suggests that promised infrastructure does not get built before development. In addition, some residents, including Suzanne Hudson, have long pointed out that the main public transit agency, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, known as Metro for short), is not ready for the increased ridership projected in the White Flint Sector Plan. Hudson notes that Metrorail will require another 96 rails cars just to carry the projected new riders from the White Flint Station; in light of the recent fatal accident, Metro is unlikely to expand its fleet in the near future, concentrating instead on making its current fleet less vulnerable.
Friends of White Flint is scheduling a public Friends meeting for the third week in September to discuss a position on the AGP.