White Flint Financing Raises Questions

I have just returned from a finance meeting that involves the White Flint Sector Plan directly and the entire County indirectly today, but directly in the future.  These meetings are due to the approved White Flint Sector Plan and the need to come up with a financing mechanism to pay for the transportation an infrastructure improvements needed to move this sector plan forward and accomplish the goals that were laid out over the past 3 1/2  years.  

The three meetings I have attended so far, have been hosted by our County Executives office and involve the highest levels of finance, transportation, law, bonding issues, and administration on the County side and major property owners, developers, their attorneys, MNCPPC representatives that were directly involved in the sector plan, and citizens among others.

I am reporting on this because I was on the White Flint Sector Plan Citizens Advisory Group, appointed to the White Flint Sector Plan Steering Committee and I’m on the Board of Directors of this group (Friends of White Flint).  To say I have been involved in the White Flint Sector Plan process is an understatement, with participation in well over 100 meetings in the past 3 1/2 years.

What I heard today is very disturbing………………If you will remember, a key component for financing the transportation and infrastructure improvements comes from a special tax on the commercial and retail property owners, which they have agreed to.  These owners consistently stated that their financial models “DID NOT INCLUDE A SPECIAL TAX ON THE RESIDENTIAL PART OF ANY EXISTING OR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT.”  It seems that everyone during the past three plus years kept that in their equation even when there was push back from the County Executives office which was not on board because they wanted to control the way the money was raised and leave all options open.

Today, the Executives office presented their DRAFT financing plan and guess what…??? They propose that everybody in the White Flint Sector Plan gets taxed at the same rate because it’s easier, less complicated legally, and that’s what THEY want to do.  

When challenged about this, and the implied agreement we the citizens understood when the Sector Plan was unanimously approved, the answer was WE NEVER AGREED NOT TO TAX THE CURRENT OR FUTURE RESIDENTS OF WHITE FLINT.

To say I was shocked is an understatement.  When others in the room concurred with me as to their understanding of the tax, and who it was to be applied to, it wasn’t received very warmly.

The developers agreed early on not to figure the residential components in any special tax and they some how managed to make their proformas work.  Why can’t the County?  We all understand this is an expensive proposition and it will not happen overnight.

 I really feel betrayed that the Executives office is taking the easy way out by taxing everyone when the developers agreed not to include the residents in their projections.  I believe we have a very short fuse burning to get this right, and if we don’t, we will not get the White Flint we worked so hard on.

 Contact the White Flint Partnership (www.whiteflintpartnership.com), your citizens association or HOA leadership, the County Executives Office and ask them how can we make this work as it was proposed in the Sector Plan.

Do it now.

Ken Hurdle

White Flint, District 1, Councilman Berliner, Council President

As we head for the finish line with the White Flint Sector Plan, will we loose the advantage of having  District 1 Councilman and current Council Vice President  Roger Berliner if he is not appointed the President to the Council?  Yes.  White Flint, likely the most valuable piece of real estate for the County coffers and the first true transformation of ugly strip shopping centers and their seas of asphalt parking, needs Berliner in the drivers seat so to speak.  The tradition of succession from Vice President to President of the Council has a long history and should be maintained, and with the high stakes of so many master plans in play it is an imperative.

I’ve heard scuttlebutt about the possibility of this transition not takeing place and find it disturbing.  I’ve been very involved in the entire White Flint Sector Plan process and know Concilman Berliner understands what is in play for all stakeholders in White Flint and District 1.  My Luxmanor community has benefited from Councilman Berliner’s leadership and knowledge of the issues that impact areas adjacent to urban centers and is in a unique position to lead the White Flint Sector to a successful outcome as Council President.

Let’s let the County Council know this is not the time to let tradition slip away.  District1 make some noise.

Ken Hurdle

Is age the biggest determining factor in accepting change?

I had a real interesting conversation with a 22 year old today who has been following the White Flint Sector Plan very closely and this came out of our conversation.  When I asked her opinion of why people are either in favor of or against the proposed changes in White Flint, and very few are indifferent, here was her response.

“The majority of people in favor are young and the majority of those opposed are old!”

Now this is coming from a 22 year old so the view is somewhat slanted but in following up on that answer I asked; what’s the negativity about?

Her response was simple, “change”.

I had to probe further.  How do we communicate that these changes can be very good for the community, the environment and the economics of the area?

“That’s your job” she said in response.

So here’s our job fellow “Friends of White Flinters.”  We need to better communicate, better educate, probe deeper when we get negativity, as it might be from their past experience and ask the question what if?  You can fill in the blank.

There is a silent majority that is not writing to the Planning Board or the County Council, not calling them or showing up for meetings, presentations, briefings, etc.  and they say they are very much in favor of the proposed changes in White Flint.

Get them on this FLOG!!!

Here is another observation; most people say no to something when they have zero desire for what you are offering, they have too many questions and not enough time to ask them, there is an economic reality that they can’t afford it, or it does not satisfy any need they currently have.  There is also the combination of those things.

With all the diversity, opportunity, and selections being offered in the “New” White Flint I can’t believe there are many people just saying no.

Those are some of my observations!!!

Ken

Community meeting a success

I recently attended a very exciting March 25, 730pm informational meeting that was held for the owners of Old Georgetown Village HOA and the Georgetown Village Condominium Association at their clubhouse.  It was to apprise them of the status and plans for the White Flint Sector.  The briefing was done by Evan Goldman of Federal Reality Investment Trust, www.federalrealty.com, in has capacity as a member of a developers collaborative.  The developers collaborative is a group of commercial property owners in White Flint: Federal Realty Investment Trust, The JBG Companies; Holladay Corporation; White Flint Mall (Lerner Enterprises/The Tower Companies) and the Combined Properties, working in unison for; a people friendly, walkable,  environmentally sustainable, transit accessible, and an area of great design for the White Flint sector.

This very interactive session had a PowerPoint presentation that sparked many comments and questions.  As it was an overview of more than two and a half years of community, government, owner/developer interaction in the reformulation of the White Flint Sector Plan, so no stone was left unturned.

What was the reaction from the 54 persons that attended?  It was overwhelmingly positive with “when can we expect this” as the most frequent comment.  So in spite of what you might hear or read from a handful of others that it’s too much, or too tall or not enough something, this group was very receptive to the planned changes.  In fact the only negative comment was about the possibility of people parking in the neighborhood, which were not visiting the residents, and walking into this vibrant White Flint.  That concern was duly noted and Evan agreed it needed to be monitored and have a plan developed should it come to fruition.

The takeaway……….If you have questions or concerns about what White Flint might become, you owe it to yourself and your different associations, neighborhoods, HOA’s, etc., to hear about this exciting plan and schedule this briefing.  This change is good!!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been involved with this process from the beginning as a citizen member of a 50 plus person advisory group to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission on this sector plan, I’m now on the White Flint Sector Plan Steering Committee, appointed by the Planning Board, I’m involved with Friends of White Flint, check us out at www.friendsofwhiteflint.org  and was a past President and Trustee of the Luxmanor Citizens Association.  I really understand this from all sides and I welcome this change to a new White Flint.

Ken Hurdle

 

3/11/09 Gazette Article

F of WF Board of Directors Evan Goldman and Ken Hurdle were quoted in the 3/11/09 Montgomery County Gazette.  Please take time to read the article titled ” Developers propose new White Flint zoning Plan”.  The articles title is a little misleading in that the developers collaborative is not proposing a new zoning plan but an adjustment to the planning staffs opinions that takes walking habits and transportation options more into account.   Good reading!

[ The article can be found at: http://www.gazette.net/stories/03112009/bethnew194506_32476.shtml ]