Many months ago, I sat with Phil Andrews, who was then the President of the Montgomery County Council, and several White Flint residents at the opening of the new Marriott tower on Marinelli Avenue. A festive atmosphere swirled around us, fueled by some really weird finger foods, and an equally-strange Joan Rivers who greeted people in the lobby (this was before her odd turn on the Apprentice TV show). But our residents’ conversation with Andrews was kind of intense, since we were talking about the White Flint Sector Plan and the future of White Flint.
(Councilmembers George Leventhal (left) and Phil Andrews)
Andrews was not then, and apparently isn’t now, the most vociferous proponent of the White Flint Sector Plan. He said he was reluctant to commit to support the White Flint Plan because he wasn’t sure that the Plan was crafted with enough community input. (This was back when a few residents were still complaining that their concerns hadn’t been considered; actually they had been heard, but just not been accepted by the broader community.) John Fry (a Friends of White Flint Residents’ and Community Associations’ Board member from the Fallstone community), Karl Girshman from the Wisconsin, and I spent some time discussing that very point with Andrews, explaining the process and how residents had helped shape the Plan from the beginning. Andrews said he’d reserve his decision until the Council consideration of the Plan, which he accurately predicted was more than a year in the future.
Well, since then, we held LOTS of meetings with White Flint residents (really — Evan Goldman and I counted more than 200 residents meetings). And had a full set of Planning Board, Council and Committee meetings. And public opinion polls showing 82% of respondents in favor of the Plan. And public hearings where residents supported the Plan by a 4-1 margin. And long, long reports (some from Friends of White Flint — at least the longest ones were) about public participation and the Plan. And urban planning awards based on the high level of public involvement in the White Flint Plan.
Andrews was necessarily absent from the recent unanimous Council straw vote in favor of the White Flint Sector Plan, so we didn’t know, for certain, until today how Andrews would come down on the White Flint Plan. Andrews was telling people in private meetings he supported the Plan, so we had a good idea, but he wasn’t public with his support. Now he is.
Today’s Gazette has a column in which Andrews has changed his mind, both about citizen participation, and the White Flint Plan:
Ask North Bethesda residents about the proposed White Flint Sector Plan and they will say the plan was done with them. . . . In White Flint, there was a meeting of the minds . . .
Major property owners and community residents were partners in the White Flint Sector Plan, a transit-oriented development around a Metro station. The vision for White Flint includes an attractive urban center with plazas, a street grid, and excellent pedestrian and bicycle connections to neighboring communities. The Sierra Club, the Action Committee for Transit, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, business owners, and many civic groups support it.
You can find the Gazette column here:
The Andrews op-ed is actually about something else: the contrast between the White Flint process and the process for the new Gaithersburg West Plan. But as the quote above shows, it appears that Andrews has made up his mind to vote for the White Flint Plan.
So the County Council debate on the White Flint Plan on March 23 should be pretty quiet, and the vote in favor of the White Flint Sector Plan may be unanimous.