For the second day in a row, the Washington Post has a story on “smart growth.” Yesterday it was a report that Maryland’s “smart growth” policies have no “teeth,” so sprawl continues. Today, in an apparent Web-only story, Post Montgomery Bureau writer Miranda Spivack discusses how difficult it is to promote a “smart growth” vision in an auto-dominated county.
Spivack’s story centers on Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson, who presented the White Flint Sector Plan to the Friends of White Flint’s September 23 White Flint Town Hall.
Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson, a nationally known thinker about growth and planning and the father of the county’s 93,000-acre agricultural reserve, thinks he can meet the challenge, even though Montgomery is almost out of vacant land that is available for development.
Hanson’s proposal, now being debated by the County Council, would reward developers who build near transit by giving them a series of discounts and allowing them to avoid the usual requirements to fix congested roads nearby or make improvements so their developments don’t add to congestion.
Much of what is available for development are lucrative shopping centers that could be converted into small villages, as long as there are incentives to idle the properties while construction takes place, Hanson said.
If the proposal is adopted by the County Council, Montgomery would be in the vanguard of communities in the Washington area to try to apply urban solutions to suburban problems. Instead of delaying development until roads are built or requiring a developer to pay for fixes if roads are too crowded — the usual practice in most suburbs in the region — Hanson said his plan would encourage developers to build near transit and create walkable, bikeable communities.
“Knowing that the population and tastes are changing in terms of what people want in living style, we think it makes a lot of sense to move from a system that has been historically based on what you can’t do, based on capacity of mainly roads, to a system that focuses on what you ought to do and where you ought to do it,” Hanson said one recent day as he prepared for another marathon session with the County Council committee reviewing the Annual Growth Policy.
Ben Ross, from Action Committee for Transit (a member of Friends of White Flint), thinks the Plan does not go far enough. “They’re just tinkering,” Ross told the Post. County Council President Phil Andrews rejects the whole idea: “For the foreseeable future, most people in Montgomery County will continue to drive,” said County Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville). “I believe it is a critical measure of the quality of life and it is a crucial one for many of our residents.”
You can find the Post story here: