Archives December 2010

Upcoming Meetings in Early January

The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board will meet jointly with the County’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee on Thursday, January 6, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  The meeting will focus on local community pedestrian safety concerns. The meeting will be held in the BCC Regional Service Center at 4805 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda (big building at corner of Old Georgetown and Wisconsin by the Bethesda Metro station). For more information, Richard Bingham at 240-777-8207 or Richard.Bingham@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Also, a reminder that the White Flint Implementation Committee will meet on Jan. 10 at 7:30PM. 

[UPDATE: the meeting will be held at the Montgomery Aquatic Center in Wall Park, across from the Conference Center, at 5900 Executive Blvd. Thank you Diane Schwartz-Jones and Nkosi Yearwood for finding a place in White Flint for this meeting.] Topic will be parks, libraries and other community amenities. The City of Rockville has also been invited to discuss coordinated activity on Rockville Pike.

There will be a Friends of White Flint Board of Directors meeting in January, time and date not yet set, but perhaps as early as Jan. 10, just before the Implementation Committee meeting (a large number of the members of the Committee, as you might expect, are also active in FoWF). Topics will include 2011 Board of Directors elections, and the revamping of the FoWF web sites (including this FLOG). I’ll announce more information as it becomes available.  

Barnaby Zall

Automatic Parking in Budapest

Montgomery County Planning Director Rollin Stanley is fond of discussing automatic parking systems which stack cars vertically, like a gigantic vending machine. Here’s another option from Budapest, showing a narrow town square which has been “reclaimed” by putting parking below ground, but with a much more sophisticated automatic parking system.

Barnaby Zall

Cycling on a Roll in the District

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Today’s Washington Post Metro Section headlines the continuing growth of commuting by bicycle. Jim Sebastian, cycling coordinator for the District of Columbia, told the Post: “This is not bicycling for the sake of bicycling,” he said. “We view bicycling as part of our transportation system, like the Circulator [bus service] and Metrorail. We want to give people an alternative.”

As Casey Anderson discussed at a recent Friends of White Flint Board meeting, bicycle commuting is growing. The Census figures released this week show that bike commuting doubled in the last ten years.

But there’s still a long way to go. Bicycle commuting only makes up 2.2% of commuters. Still, that’s a start, because every bike commuter takes a car off the roads.

Barnaby Zall

What Would YOU Do?

With the approval of the White Flint Sector Plan and the first, tentative steps on the long path to a walkable, sustainable, transit-oriented community, the Friends of White Flint Board of Directors has decided to revamp its on-line offerings.

Friends of White Flint’s main goal is to provide information to the White Flint community. FoWF offers several web-sites, including the FLOG (what you’re reading now), a main site, and special sites for White Flint Town Hall meetings. Hundreds of people visit these sites every day, with just about 50,000 “page views” each month on average. FoWF policy presentations are generally offered for public comment on one or more of these sites, and usually attract hundreds of readers and dozens of (mostly helpful) comments.

Live-blogging

Some of these changes are driven by unfortunate security concerns, but the Board wants to provide more information to the community about the ongoing revitalization of White Flint.  We will likely reduce the amount of information about the White Flint Sector Plan development and approval process (which provides interesting historical background, but we have limited space on-line).

Some of our design concepts include a gallery of proposed projects, including those in the “sketch plan” process of public outreach and comment, a listing of meetings and events, and a description of the existing and planned White Flint.

What would YOU like to see on the FoWF site?

  • Community bulletin boards/discussion groups?
  • More pictures and photo essays?
  • Business directories?
  • Ads for local businesses and organizations?
  • Maps?
  • Videos?
  • “Tags” or more structure on the FLOG?
  • Anything else?

Please let us know, by sending an e-mail to BZall@friendsofwhiteflint.org, or by commenting here. If you are registered to comment on the FLOG already, you may click “comment” below and enter your comment. If you are NOT already registered, new security rules require you to request registration by sending an e-mail to BZall@friendsofwhiteflint.org; please include in your e-mail your full name, e-mail address, any appropriate organizational affiliation, and a “user name” to appear with your comment.

We will likely begin making changes early next year.

Thanks to all our loyal readers, and we’d love to hear from you.

Barnaby Zall

Who’s On First?

Is there a little bit of confusion about White Flint planning?

Throughout the Montgomery County Planning Board’s and Council’s considerations of the White Flint Sector Plan, it was a given that there would be intense monitoring of the progress of the Plan. Monitoring, among other things, gives residents the confidence that infrastructure will match development. The Plan itself limits development in each stage to do just that. The Plan also creates a new biennial review process, the Council required the Board to set up a new White Flint Implementation Committee to help monitor and oversee progress, and last Monday, Dan Hardy, a top planner for the County, discussed the new CLATR transportation issue review process with the new Implementation Committee.

Hardy even mentioned that the planning staff was intending to have a public database with all development and infrastructure projects. Friends of White Flint (which is revising its Web site to reflect the newly-approved Plan) is exploring how to make that database easily accessible to the public. All of that involves fairly constant monitoring, or at least knowledge of what’s happening in White Flint.

So it was a little surprising to see Francoise Carrier, the new Chair of the Planning Board, tell the Gazette that she doesn’t think it would be “practical” to monitor the development of the Plan. “I am reluctant to have our staff track every single project,” she said.

Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier

But how else will the planning staff know when the staging limits are met? That was what Dan Hardy asked the White Flint Implementation Committee on Monday night.  

Perhaps Planning Board Chair Carrier might meet with the White Flint Implementation Committee? It would be the first time any of the Planning Board has met with the new Committee.

The next Committee meeting is Monday, January 10, and the main topic of discussion is parks, libraries and other community amenities. The Committee has asked to hold the meeting in or near White Flint, which would help Carrier attend; she is a White Flint resident.

Barnaby Zall

“I’m Dreaming of a White [Flint] Christmas”

OK, so it isn’t much snow, but it’s enough to cause people to worry. At lunch today, a cashier at Trader Joe’s was quite worried, asking everyone coming through the door whether Montgomery County was closing schools early. The answer, as of now, is no.

County Executive Ike Leggett blasted out a letter with a new County brochure about snow. I love some of the tips: e.g., shovel snow to the right so the snowplows don’t push it back into your yard. Actually, if I do that, my neighbor to the right will get the snow.

Ah, well. It’s just a little winter storm. Here’s a photo from December 09 to put it all in perspective:

Snow - December 09

Not sure how I shoveled that: to the right or the left.  

Barnaby Zall

CLATR On the Rooftops

(Sigh, yes, that obvious holiday cliche was used last night, and I apologize for repeating it)

White Flint Implementation Committee Meeting, December 13, 2010

At its second meeting last night, the new White Flint Implementation Committee heard from Dan Hardy, head of “Vision” and transportation planner extraordinaire for the Montgomery Planning Board, about transportation issues in the new White Flint and the new CLATR transportation review process. (And he used the cliche first.) 

Planning Director Rollin Stanley and Transportation Planner Dan Hardy

(Dan Hardy (R) and Planning Director Rollin Stanley) 

The Comprehensive Local Area Transportation Review (pronounced “clatter”) is the new form of transportation measurement and evaluation created by the White Flint Sector Plan. Unlike earlier reviews, which looked at particular major intersections and judged how fast cars moved through them, CLATR is intended to be a more inclusive evaluation of congestion and traffic movement within White Flint, and to consider bicycles and transportation modes other than automobiles. The new CLATR will be coordinated with other transportation surveys, such as the City of Rockville’s Master Plan for Rockville Pike and the Subdivision Staging Policy (which used to be known as the Growth Policy).

CLATR will include some of the older transportation tests, like PAMR, the area-wide performance test, LATR, the specific intersection test, possibly the County Executive’s new TPAR (which would feature “directionality” of analysis, always a desireable feature) and the “mode share analysis” which judges how many workers and residents use transit vs. driving. (It is an iron-clad rule in Montgomery County that acronyms multiply like rabbits and policy names must change every few years.)

The CLATR analysis area is bigger than the actual White Flint Sector boundaries, stretching from I-270 at Montrose, up into Twinbrook, across Randolph Hills to Rock Creek Park, and down into Grosvenor, almost to the Beltway. The area covers virtually all of the area Friends of White Flint uses to define White Flint (across almost a dozen traffic analysis areas).

Although CLATR analysis is just starting, Hardy pointed out that in White Flint, most intersections are not “failing” as they are in other parts of the County. There are only two intersections within the Sector boundaries that are considered marginal: Nicholson/Tilden at Old Georgetown Road, and Nicholson Lane at Rockville Pike. The new White Flint traffic grid is expected to take some of the pressure off these intersections.

There was also a vigorous discussion of the new Montrose Parkway intersection at Rockville Pike and Hoya Street (which used to be called “Old Old Georgetown Road” and runs behind Mid-Pike Plaza). Although some Committee members pointed out that much of the traffic congestion at these intersections is gone with the opening of the new Parkway intersections, others pointed out that the lack of signage results in lots of near accidents. Committee member Della Stollsworth, from Luxmanor, pointed out that she had almost been hit over the weekend, as someone zoomed around a corner without looking. Committee member Greg Trimmer, from JBG Companies, pointed out that the high speeds and massive asphalt road system meant that there would never be any sustainable development “on any of those four corners” and that pedestrians were endangered as well.

And, although the Commitee looked like it was off to a good start, there were also hints that older problems might surface again. The former White Flint Steering Committee had internal disagreements between groups of residents, which contributed to the eventual demise of the Steering Committee. Some of those questions came back, as Committee member Natalie Goldberg interrupted the transportation discussion, to ask whether the Forum Condominium, whose residential association President Todd Lewers is also a Committee member and was taking the notes for the meeting, was getting a “free-ride” for future development by being exempted by the County Council from the new Special Taxing District, as were all condominium communities in White Flint. County Executive Assistant Diane Schwartz-Jones, also a Committee member, piled on, declaring this a “fairness” issue. After several minutes of animated discussion, Planning staffer Nkosi Yearwood pointed out that this was a transportation discussion, and directed the group back to Dan Hardy’s presentation.

The next meetings of the Implementation Committee will be held on January 10, 2011 and February 14, 2011. The January meeting will discuss parks, libraries and other community amenities, and the February meeting will discuss schools. The Committee asked to have future meetings held in, or at least closer to, White Flint. All meetings are open to the public.

Barnaby Zall

Hoffman, Freishtat Elected Co-Chairs of White Flint Implementation Committee

At its second meeting last night, the new White Flint Implementation Committee (which seems to be the new working title) elected two co-chairs, one from the residential communities in White Flint and one from the business community.

Dan Hoffman, a young activist who is well-known in County government circles, will be the residential Co-Chair; Hoffman is a member of the County’s Structural Review Commission, which will soon report on ways the County can save money and improve services, Chair of the new Citizens League of Montgomery County, set up to get more young and diverse residents involved in County activities, and a long-time activist from the Randolph Civic Association, the largest residential community group in White Flint.  He has also been active in Friends of White Flint outreach activities to the White Flint community.

(Dan Hoffman (l), Councilmember George Leventhal (c), and Council President Nancy Floreen)

(Dan Hoffman (L), with County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen) 

Dave Freishtat is also well-known, from the business community side. He is the representative to the White Flint Implementation Committee from the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, an attorney as the law firm of Shulman Rogers, and an advisor to the County government on bond financing. He is also active in Friends of White Flint, and serves as a director from the Business Class of members.

Dave Freishtat - picture from Shulman Rogers 

Freishtat and Hoffman were nominated by Evan Goldman of Federal Realty and the White Flint Partnership. Greg Trimmer, from JBG Companies, explained that there were several groups which were active in White Flint advocacy, including Friends of White Flint, the White Flint Community Coalition, and others, and he felt that the co-Chairs should be seen as relatively independent of the advocacy groups. Both were elected unanimously to two-year terms.

Barnaby Zall

Huge News from County Executive

At least it is if you’re from Minneapolis.

metrodome-collapse.jpg

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1 p.m.

Executive Office Building

Chief Administrative Officer’s Conference Room, 101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor, Rockville

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will announce the launch of a new, online tool that will make it easier for residents to decide when to safely venture out following a snowstorm.  The map tool will show the progress of snow plows throughout the County and indicate when emergency roads, primary streets and neighborhood streets have been cleared. 

Barnaby Zall 

Recycling Lights Up Whitman Parking Lot

Cold. Rain. Redskins going down against Tampa Bay. Not a lot of publicity.

All the elements were there for an epic fail when Montgomery County and Bethesda Green teamed up for an electronics recycling day on Sunday.

So here’s just a little of the constant traffic in the Whitman High School parking lot about an hour and a half into the four-hour event:

Electronics Recycling Day 12-12-10

That’s a full semi-trailer full of stuff, plus a dozen or more massive boxes full of recycled electronics of all types. Plus there were shrink-wrapped pallets of old-style CRT computer monitors, hundreds of old analog TVs, and a constant parade of cars pulling in to drop off more.

Give people an option to be sustainable, and they’ll try.

 Kudos to the Montgomery County Dept. of Solid Waste Services and to Bethesda Green, www.bethesdagreen.org, for making this a holiday event.

Barnaby Zall