The White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee, a body established by the Planning Board, met on Monday, May 13th. Below are notes of the most salient points of discussion:
** Rose Krasnow, interim director of the Planning Department, made a rare appearance at the meeting. Also present was Ramona Bell-Pearson from the County Executive’s office and representatives from the county Department of Transportation. They were likely present because a draft implementation staff report that had been circulated by planners among the committee members had received a “less-than-warm reception.” The circulated draft appears to have not reflected the understanding of many, who also believed they were not being offered an opportunity to chime in on the report. As Krasnow explained, White Flint is a far different master plan from any other and has truly created a new way of doing business. So, these implementation staff reports are to be drafted periodically to check in on the progress of the plan, as well as to explore what has not yet been programmed into the Capital Improvements Plan but should be. Because the CIP works in 6-year cycles, it requires foresight to have the right projects in queue for funding and execution. Krasnow stressed that what was circulated was just a draft and that committee comments would either be incorporated or addended, but not discarded. This may bring some relief to committee members who expressed concern that they were spinning their wheels for naught during this time-consuming volunteer endeavor. The final report will be made public on June 6th and the Planning Board will review and approve it on June 13th.
** Another reason head honchos might have been present at the meeting is because of the infrastructure status in White Flint. Road planning and construction are integral to the project and involve both county entities and the state, who controls both Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road (and, therefore, every intersection with those roads, as well). Dee Metz reported that, because the design has now reached the threshold 35% of completion, conversations about funding and details can proceed. In preparation for a presentation on the roads plan, the design will first receive comments from the State Highway Administration, various engineers and the utilities. This concerns some because, though the White Flint Sector Plan was pretty specific on many points, it did leave some room for interpretation on issues like road width, bike lanes and the undergrounding of utilities. Folks who have been part of the planning process since its inception know that the intention for the roads is consistent with the rest of the New Urban vision for White Flint – just with some wiggle room to account for realities as they arise. It requires all involved to shift their thinking from a car-centered focus to a more urban one that accounts for all road users – including walkers and bikers. This, it was said, is not something that SHA is accustomed to doing and might require lobbying on the Gubernatorial level to ensure that roads, when built, stay true to the vision of the plan. The alternatives include running the risk that the roads are designed by engineers strictly concerned with moving cars — and we’re right back where we started with unwalkable highways dividing White Flint. Dee says they hope to have the design ready for release in June and stressed that, though design is behind, construction’s timeline has not shifted. Funding will be another issue, and one a financial consultant is tackling. The projects are restricted on bonding.
** Dee Metz also reported that a traffic study is nearly ready to be released but has received objections to some of the data and assumptions made. Therefore, the White Flint Partnership has commissioned its own study, as well.
** Rose Krasnow also proposed that the Advisory Committee create a non-substantive steering committee. Because there are multiple bodies working on White Flint’s redevelopment at this point, she suggested that this Steering Committee would optimize communications and include planner Nkosi Yearwood, committee co-chair David Frieshtat, county White Flint Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz and Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman (who coordinates the Downtown Advisory Committee). Between them, all bases should be covered so that Advisory Committee agendas could be compiled and circulated prior to meetings. Better coordination will allow for better issue vetting, direction and addressing of complexities as they arise.
** Finally, representatives from BF Saul and Co presented their sketch plan proposal for their White Flint properties. We’ll have more on this soon.
The White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee customarily meets the second Monday evening of each month at 7pm in the multi-purpose room of Shriver Aquatic Center. The next meeting will be June 10th.