On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Montgomery County Council voted to change the Annual Growth Policy to reflect more of the holistic, sustainable approach pioneered by the White Flint Plan. The AGP is the review undertaken by the Council every two years to determine if there are adequate public facilities (originally water and sewer, now roads and schools) to support levels of population in each area of the County. Unfortunately, the AGP mobility testing process has deteriorated to a simple measurement of how fast cars can move on various roads in the County. For example, one prominent measurement used is how long it takes for a car to move between two intersections along Rockville Pike; this policy perversely results in “sprawl,” as new growth is driven into areas where cars move faster now. In September, Friends of White Flint testified in support of the Planning Board’s new approach to measure “quality of life” indicators such as walkability, sustainability, and urban design features, in addition to traffic speeds.
On Tuesday, the Council voted to adopt this approach in the future, principally by agreeing that development density should be concentrated in walkable development around Metro stations. The Council has been moving in this direction, and endorsing walkable areas, in order to meet new carbon emission reduction requirements which will really begin to clamp down in the near future. Tuesday’s vote can be seen as a way to address that problem along with other, more traditional regulations of development in the County. This is the approach Friends of White Flint promoted both in its AGP testimony and in its Oct. 19 Report to the Council on the White Flint Sector Plan. www.tinyurl.com/FoWF-WFSPReport.
Unfortunately, the Council also voted to delay actually making a final decision on this shift in the AGP process. The County Executive has hired a consultant to review the traffic measurements being used in the AGP, and the Council will revisit this question after the consultant reports back to the Executive and Council next year. This leaves open the question of whether the Council (and the County) have moved forward in recognizing New Urbanism and smart growth principles. We cannot yet say that the County has embraced New Urbanism until we know whether the County will continue to measure and regulate development by seeing how fast cars move, as opposed to looking more broadly at measures related to building a walkable, sustainable community.
You can read the Washington Post article on the Council vote here:
UPDATE: Here’s the County Council’s own media release on their actions: