Today the Montgomery County Council approved a resolution adopting the White Flint Sector Plan. The resolution as introduced is available here: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/agenda/col/2010/100323/20100323_5.pdf.
The session on the Plan was opened by Council President Nancy Floreen.
Floreen expressed her thanks to the Planning Board for an award-winning plan, to the staff who put in countless hours in working through these issues in eight worksessions, two worksessions on the Council, and tremendous engagement by the community and all the stakeholders. These cooperative efforts brought us forward with a real statement on where Montgomery County is going. This creates a real vision of a sense of place. Then the Council began the last phase of its consideration of the Plan, by reviewing “technical corrections” to the Plan.
Council staffers Marlene Michaelson and Glenn Orlin raised a few technical changes in the Plan resolution. Orlin noted, for example, that “in a year or so” the Council would be replacing Policy Area Mobility Review (PAMR), so he suggested making references to PAMR more general, into “policy area review.”
Councilmember Roger Berliner was concerned that government do its part in providing needed infrastructure. He asked that the biennial review conducted by the Planning Board include specific recommendations on intersections and other public facilities which needed improvements. He moved that the Planning Board conduct a comprehensive policy review to identify needed county actions.
Councilmember George Leventhal asked if this motion was simply reinstating the Local Area Transportation Review (LATR) which was to be removed after a financing plan was approved for White Flint. Planning staffer Dan Hardy pointed out that the effect would be to increase the priority of county projects needed for specific implementation. Councilmember Marc Elrich supported the motion, not as much because of what the County was obligated to do, because that list was very short, but because the list of privately-funded projects was quite long. It’s important that we understand what will happen as things go forward.
Council President Floreen asked how this “comprehensive review” would fit in with the other planning reviews available to the Council. What exactly would this do that’s different from what you do now? Hardy: this will tell us what will be different from what we had planned. This is more detailed than a highway mobility report. Diane Schwartz-Jones, for the County Executive, said this might be interesting and helpful information about particular intersections. The concept makes sense to us. The motion passed unanimously.
Councilmember Elrich then offered an amendment to declare the Plan in “balance” if relative arterial mobility was 39%, as the Council had indicated earlier. The motion passed 8-1 (Ervin opposed).
Councilmember Trachtenberg then offered an amendment to rezone a part of Nicholson Court to allow redevelopment along with the new MARC commuter rail station. This would remove the I-4 zoning in the area in favor of residential development. Floreen noted that this was substantive, and it should have been raised during the worksession. Staffer Michaelson pointed out that the Committee recommended retaining the I-4 zoning, because there was a shortage of I-4 zoning in the County. Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson said that it was a good amendment because it took the language back to what the Planning Board had intended. Elrich said it was a bad amendment because the Governor’s Plan doesn’t include the MARC station until 2035, so this is premature. We may need more I-4 zoning in the future, so there’s no urgency to do this now. The motion failed 4-5.
Councilmember Mike Knapp thanked many people, including the tremendous outreach to the public. Everyone worked well together to reach a very good result.
Councilmember Elrich thanked the residents for sticking with the process to make this a lot better Plan than it was at the beginning. He also thanked the Council for accepting amendments he and Berliner brought forward to satisfy the community members nearby.
Councilmembers Phil Andrews and Nancy Navarro thanked everyone on the Council and staff for a good plan.
Councilmember Berliner said “this is a big day.” Not only have we made our community more liveable, but we’ve generated more revenue. And we did it the right way. Councilmember Trachtenberg reminded everyone that there was a lot of work still to be done, including the financing of the Plan. “I live in the White Flint area, and everyone is very excited about the vision for this community.” Floreen cited Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park and Luxmanor communities for their help with the Plan.
Planning Board Chair Hanson came forward and thanked the staff, including Piera Weiss and Nkosi Yearwood. He talked about the Advisory Group and the Steering Committee, six months’ of Planning Board meetings, many discussions with civic groups. In the end this provides both a serious vision for how this County can develop and change in a positive and effective way, and shows how the Council is moving the planning paradigm in the County from one that has been the development of raw land and suburbanization, to one that recognizes that the future is improving on many existing centers to make them more urban, more walkable, more transit-oriented, less automobile-dependent, and more aware of the environment. He thanked the Council.
Council President Floreen then thanked Evan Goldman in particular for his help and congratulated him on a new baby who joined us last night.
The Council then voted to adopt the resolution. The vote was unanimous in favor. The Plan was adopted.