The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board Meeting came to the Pike District last night, meeting at the Shriver Aquatic Center. It was an SRO crowd, but if you weren’t one of the folks in the room (after all, Dancing With The Stars premiered last night), here’s what you missed.
Councilmember Marc Elrich kicked off the meeting by talking about the county budget, BRT, and Westbard. Marc reported there is a controversial 7 1/2 cent increase in the property tax in County Executive Ike Leggett’s 2017 budget. Marc said, “the jobs and incomes that returned after the great recession aren’t the same jobs and incomes that left due to the recession.” The biggest problem is schools, including the persistent achievement gap and need to reduce class size. The County Executive’s budget includes money to help address those issues. In response to a question, Marc led a discussion about turf fields and pesticide use at schools, noting that the council yesterday moved $11 million in the MCPS budget from turf fields to school construction.
Marc voiced his strong support for a Bus Rapid Transit system on Route 355 and for the CCT, declaring that those two rapid transit systems are the most important. He noted that both the Science City and White Flint areas could be stymied if BRT isn’t built and that both would have a good return on investment. Marc said that studies have been done which demonstrate that BRT along Rockville Pike would have heavy use, especially when Ride On is reconfigured to go through adjoining neighborhoods to bring people to the Route 355 BRT.
There was a long and passionate discussion about Westbard redevelopment. Marc said the Westbard plan was one of the worst he’s seen because there is no transit on River Road. Marc thought Roger Berliner’s plan that cuts development in half is a good step in the right direction. Marc also spoke of the need to put community input back in the planning process rather than relying on charrettes which he called charades.
Gwen Wright, Director of Planning, explained that the planning department bases their work on demographics, and the current pipeline of development does not meet the county’s housing needs in 2045. The planning department is focusing on smaller, fine-grained plans to manage change and minimize negative impacts on the community. She said the White Flint 1 Sector Plan is a great example of positive, fine-grained planning. Gwen also mentioned that developer impact fees generate $40 million annually to support schools.
Nkosi Yearwood discussed the White Flint 2 Sector Plan which will link White Flint 1, Twinbrook, and City of Rockville.
Nkosi also talked about the need to revitalize the office space on Executive Boulevard.
David Anspacher presented work on the Master Bike Plan for the White Flint area. Their goal is to create ways for everyone to bike without having to navigate high-stress, high-traffic areas. He wants to connect neighborhoods, offices, schools, transit, and retail through bike paths and separated bike lanes.
Finally, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee led a roundtable discussion. Chair of the Downtown Advisory Committee, Brain Downie of Saul Centers, said there are 11 voting members and 3 ex officio members. Their objective is to eventually establish some sort of district, similar to the Bethesda Urban Partnership. Whether that entity ends up being a Business Improvement District, a Commercial District, or some sort of hybrid is yet to be determined. The Downtown Advisory Committee will present a recommendation for the type of district to the County Council in late 2017. A ULI TAP will be held at the end of the month to help the Pike District create an identity, and the committee is organizing a Fall Fest October 8 featuring music and food.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Bob Daley who serves on the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board recommended the Friends of White Flint blog as a great way to stay informed about the many comings and goings of the Pike District.