Last week’s attempt by Montgomery County Council staff to amend the County’s Growth Policy to block implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan by using the old tests of how fast cars move through intersections has been withdrawn. Originally scheduled for last Tuesday, the amendment would have put a “hard stop” on White Flint’s transit-oriented development if cars moved too slowly through other, non-transit-oriented areas outside White Flint.
Council sources report that there were “legal and language problems” with the proposed amendment. That’s certainly true. For example, the Montgomery Civic Federation first claimed that the County was violating its own laws if it didn’t apply the car speed tests to stop White Flint’s transformation; then the Action Committee for Transit responded that the County was actually violating its own laws in implementing the car tests by applying them to a broader area than the specific “subdivision” or building involved.
Ironically, by raising the legal issue, the Civic Federation may have inadvertantly opened the County up to lawsuits by those who claim that they were injured by inappropriate implementation of the existing law. And the same principle (the County can’t use the car speed tests outside the immediate examination area) would be exacerbated under the proposed White Flint amendment.
After all, if it’s illegal for the County to apply the car speed tests a little ways out from the specific building, it’s going to be much more illegal for the County to apply the speed tests to White Flint for clogged intersections miles away.
This isn’t my area of legal specialty, but I’ve been defending and attacking statutes for three decades. I’d hate to have to defend this law, and its implementation, before a judge. I can see it now:
“No, Your Honor, it doesn’t make any sense to choose whether a transit-oriented community like White Flint should live or die based on how fast cars move through intersections. Yes, Your Honor, the first part of the Adequate Growth Policy does say that the most important factor is safety for pedestrians. No, Your Honor, the car speed test has nothing to do with safety for pedestrians, or anyone else either. Well, no, Your Honor, nobody thinks these car speed tests actually do what they’re claimed to do. And, no, they don’t really do anything useful. Yes, Your Honor, they’re going to be replaced any day now; the Council just has a really busy schedule and hasn’t gotten around to it.”
I don’t know any judge in Montgomery County Circuit Court who wouldn’t hand the lawyer for the County her head if she supported the proposed amendment on that argument.
So how much longer will this car speed amendment keep walking around White Flint?