Thursday, August 3, 2006

they aren't my Neighbors

"Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing! There is evidence that neighborhood associations in several areas of the county have been co-opted by development interests. Understand that neighbors of yours who have jobs in development related fields have a vested interest in controlling your association." - Where Are The Brakes?, p.10

The Neighbors for a Better Montgomery has published their list of endorsements for the Democratic primary in September. Each candidate is endorsed based on how much developer contributions they are willing to take, and that alone. I doubt they care if the candidate can read so long as they don't take checks from Evil Developers. Just look at their main goal for Montgomery County:

"Our first goal therefore should be to stabilize [population] at existing or nearby levels as soon as we reasonably can . . . Redevelopment [in Montgomery County] will continue, so long as any increase in jobs or dwelling units in one project or area of the county is balanced by an offsetting decrease elsewhere." - Where Are The Brakes?, p. 6

What they're saying is that if you've got some land out in Clarksburg and you want to put up a few hundred houses, they're cool with it - but a high-rise in Downtown Bethesda has to be imploded first. Or let's say you run a dentist's office and you want to hire a new assistant. NBM wants that to happen, but they're going to run one of those pupuseria trucks in Langley Park across the County line first. I may be a tax-and-spend liberal, but I think that's too much government intervention for my tastes.

Maybe calling them fascists is going too far. But as an aspiring architect and urban planner, I find their propaganda to be destructive. Whether or not the self-possessed NIMBYs of Montgomery County understand, this remains one of the best places to live in the country. That is the result of decades of sensible planning that, even today, remains light-years ahead of other communities. That we would have the gall to propose this kind of solution to the problems that come with growth suggests that people truly are desperate to protect little more than their property values.


montgomery slacker said...

Thank you for the explanation. NBM aren't fascists, just a cyclical re-emergence of NIMBYism - a factor to be expected in local politics.

The group that really disturbs me is Action In Montgomery - a troubling blend of religion and political activism that intimidates elected officials through their “revivals”. At these events, attended by 800-1000 of the faithful, politicians are commanded to rise and state “yes or no” whether they support AIMs “action agenda”.

By the way, the most recent item in this agenda is free college tuition for any kid earning a C+ or greater.

Bethesda Guy said...

Interesting. Sounds like the old 'Zero Population Growth' crowd in a new guise. The fallacy with ZPG was that economic activity is dynamic-- some business grow, some shrink, so a bias against growing businesses actually means a bias toward shrinkage.

Anonymous said...

Light years ahead of other communities? If you mean northern VA, maybe so, but that's not saying very much. The Ag reserve, the new development in Silver Spring (that is NOT a MegaMall as developers proposed), the absence of 95North cutting through the center of Takoma Park - these outcomes are the result of hard fought wars by citizen activists, not the result of careful planning by developers. The developer influence is what has recently turned this county in the WRONG direction. I applaud Neighbors for A Better Montgomery for pointing out who is beholden to that special interest group.

thecourtyard said...

Royce Hanson deserves his due for the Ag Reserve, and developer Milty Peterson was the one willing to actually take a chance on Downtown Silver Spring after the community rejected the megamall. As for I-95 - you're right, that was citizen activism. And how dare you equate the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, a group of soccer moms with a bit too much time on their hands, to the activists of Takoma Park in the 1960's. Those were working-class people who actually had a purpose.

Anonymous said...

Also the result of hard-fought battles by local citizen activists:

Ugly parking lots where there could be townhouses or mid-rise apartment buildings behind the stores along Wisconsin Ave. in Friendship Heights.

A renovated Bethesda library that eliminated its front door and now can only be entered through the parking lot.

A Shady Grove master plan that prevents housing from being built at the Metro station until a stupid and impossibly expensive overpass is built at 355 & Gude Drive.

A three-year delay in building stores and apartments where the Bethesda Giant used to be.

And of course...

No Purple Line.

Anonymous said...

Neighbors for a Better Montgomery is a group of soccer moms with too much time on their hands? Either you haven't read anything about the group, or you are deliberately distorting it. Either way you are just plain W..R..O..N..G!

Anonymous said...

If Soccer moms are the ones pointing out that our development has outpaced our infrastructure and that candidates that are in deep with developers might tend not ignore that fact and to put the interests of the citizens second, then their purpose is a good one. Can we examine what Smart Growth means in the context of suburbia, where metro stations exist along major thoroughfares, not within in a grid system like the city where car traffic has alternative paths. Although it seems intuitive to want to develop around the Metro system, what is so smart about creates more traffic jams at major intersections? Wanting to have development done right doesn't mean no development at all.

Anonymous said...

Soccer moms? The current Executive Committee is composed of five MEN! I give you an "F" in research, and an "A" in hyperbole. Try some facts

Silver Springer said...

To Anon 4:26 PM: What is so smart about greenfield developments like Clarksburg and your soccermom subdivisions that NBM doesn't care to complain about?

A Highrise building and smarth growth will have 10 times less the negative impact and actually helps mitagate traffic than your single family tract home.

Subdivisions and greenfield developments are the MAJOR causes of traffic, environmental damage, school overcrowding, sewer, roads and other burdens on our infrastructure NOT highrise buildings (especially those in an urban atmosphere) that also help revitalize cities. Please get it straight.

Anonymous said...

Up the Pike Guy, you ought to try to get it right. The current Council gutted the much touted planning that you speak of. Check out their recommendations to the Council in 2003 and 2005 and note that the Council discarded them. The planners, and I'm not talking about Derrick, are very unsatisfied with what's happened. I'm sure someone can lead you to the information if you're really interested. Second, to Silver Springer, no one in NBM is supporting sprawl growth and greenfield development. NBM is not opposed tothe Purple Line. Whether or not a high rise mitigates or worsens traffic actually depends on where it's built and the nature of the transit connections - which is a big part of the problem in the county, terrible transit unless you work on the red line.

Anonymous said...

The current Council rejected the planners' recommendations and caved into the anti-Smart Growth NIMBYs when it weighed down the Shady Grove Master Plan with impossible conditions like the overpass at Gude Drive.

It's a fact of life that developers who own land want to build on it if they can make money by doing so. That's so whether the growth is good or bad. Our local NIMBYs are the ones who let them go forward with sprawl subdivisions and block transit-oriented development.

Members of the community have every right to participate in the political process. But that doesn't make what they're asking for good or bad. It has to be judged on the substance. I agree with the neighbors of the ICC who object to it, I disagree with the less numerous but richer and more influential neighbors who object to the Purple Line. Who's right depends on whether each of those projects is a good idea, not on whether some developer will make money from it.

thecourtyard said...

That is the point exactly. I want examples of what NBM thinks is good development in Montgomery County. We have a lot to speak for - the revitalization of Downtown Silver Spring and new communities like King Farm and Kentlands. All three have been a roaring success, dealing with needed homes and jobs in a responsible manner while also encouraging people to get out of their cars. And, most importantly, all three are vibrant communities. Why don't we hear about this?

And if NBM is so concerned about transit, why aren't they calling for more of it? Why aren't they joining with Action Committee for Transit in calling for the Purple Line? Doesn't that do a lot more than trying to put a hold on new development?

Their "steady state system" will promote sprawl outside of Montgomery County. It's going to happen somewhere, and it's still going to have a negative effect on our county. Stopping development will only hurt existing residents who find their housing and employment choices have been severely limited. It would prevent new people from coming to the County, including immigrants. We cannot put the brakes on this without destroying what we already have, good and bad. The Montgomery County I have grown to love is one that has to grow itself. We can't keep the County in its pristine 1950's-suburban condition.

And the worst part is we know better, but we keep going on these anti-developer witch hunts.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they will need a correction in that Wash Examiner article, Dan, as you have far surpassed your 7 comment record! I guess people are paying attention after all.

Anonymous said...

Is it really developer dollars that "Neighbors" care about? Let's take a look at who they DIDN'T endorse.

Tufail Ahmed said he would take ZERO dollars from special interests. You can read his questionnaire at:

When asked for ideas about how to build more affordable housing, he said:
"The parking lots in commercial centers are huge. We should build parking garages in these centers and allow use of the other land for affordable housing. Route 355 is an example of these opportunities."

When asked about the new Mixed Use floating zone, he said:
"Yes, it is useful. Zoning which separates residential, industrial, and commercial areas in suburban communities has led to longer road trips than necessary."

In his other answers, he supported everything that Neighbors says it wants.

Yet he didn't get endorsed, while candidates who DO take developer dollars were endorsed. Even Howie Dennis, whose biggest supporter and advocate is land use attorney Harry Lerch.

It's clear that it's not developer dollars that really bother NBM, it's smart growth.

Anonymous said...

I would take you a lot more seriously if you could actually spell the last names of the candidates you mention. Are the rest of your facts as reliable?

Russ said...

Montgomery Slacker is apparently intimidated by people who participate in the politcal process and also go to church/synagogue.

That's too bad. Personally, the thought of the 30,000 well-organized people represented by AIM's congregations getting involved in their communities sounds more like democracy in action than intimidation.

Anonymous said...

Neighbors for a Better Montgomery has been providing a valuable service to the Citizens of Montgomery County for more than four years. I searched their web site thoroughly ( and found NOTHING about their being for or against the ICC or Inner Purple Line. For that matter, I was unable to find any evidence that they are for or against any project. It seems that their only agenda is to make sure that there is a level playing field for all citizens. They certainly have a lot to say about “process” and citizen inclusion (or the lack of it) in that process. I also find it encouraging that they are not zealots, in that they don’t have a litmus test for the candidates they endorse. Some of their endorsed candidates receive no money from developer-types, some up to 25% or less and some 33% or less. If you read their questionnaire, that 28 out of the 38 executive and council candidates responded to, they are NOT solely focused on developer cash to candidates, but where those candidates stand on the issues and how responsive those candidates will be to average citizens. If you have any questions about the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, their web site really does say it all.