Friday, June 29, 2007

is this moco as good as it gets?

Over the past two weeks, the Montgomery County Council held hearings for the Annual Growth Policy, a yearly review of how fast we're growing and how fast we should grow in the future. This past Tuesday, I testified before the County Council about heeding the Planning Board's recommendations (seen in this whopping 321-page PDF).

Our friend Henry over at the Silver Spring Scene provides full coverage of the hearing, while "guest blogger" Adam Pagnucco explains how the AGP works. And eventually, the County Council website should have a transcript and video of the hearings.

The following is my testimony, taken from the notes I'd prepared beforehand and the adlibbing that actually took place:
Good evening. My name is Dan Reed and I am a junior at the University of Maryland. For the past year, I've been writing about the pace of development in Montgomery County - with a focus on East County - on my blog, Just Up The Pike.

I'll admit: as fortunate as I've been to grow up in Montgomery County, I'm not happy with the traffic in my neighborhood. I wasn't happy that my high school added portables barely after it was built. But I don't think stopping development - or, in this case, slowing it down - would make any of that better.

There's a vocal minority in this County that whether out of fear or simply nostalgia wants us to go back to being a 1950's, white-bread, sitcom suburb. You know as well as I do that that's not going to happen. So why keep fighting the people and jobs that want to come here? This is a great place to live. But do we think this is as good as it gets?

I embrace change. I want to see the revitalization of our existing communities so people who live here have more places to live, work and play. I look forward to seeing the development of new communities for more people to have places to live, work and play. It's your job as elected officials to make sure that this development is accomodated - not to dump our share of growth on outlying counties becuse a few people have decided they've had enough.

Is the Montgomery County we have now as good as it gets? I don't want to be that arrogant. That's why I urge you to heed the Planning Board's recommendations for the Annual Growth Policy - in terms of creating a more urban County and recognizing that we are one part of a region with many forces acting on us. And they all want to come here.

People are coming here - and we need to find new ways to accomodate them. This growth policy, more than any before it, is a call for innovation in a County with a history of innovative planning. The question remains: is this as good as it gets?


Anonymous said...

Absolutely right! I was reading some old M-NCPPC planning guides from the 1950s and was amazed by how planners then actually predicted the sprawl and congestions of today and how they intended to ameliorate the consequences of growth. Unfortunately, not all their recommendations were followed, including their recommendation for subway lines within the county, and a commitment to transit-oriented development (only of recent fruition here).

Better planning to focus development into the correct areas would not only provide the necessary population densities to make transit financially viable, but would also reduce the congestion-producing car dependency that results from the layout of much of the county.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is a privalige to own land in Montgomery County and an even greater one to develop it. I think that concept sits better than is "moco as good as it gets." Every one knows that MoCo is full of amazing areas like Bethesda and piece of shit areas in some parts of Silver Spring. But there is only so much developable or redevelopable land in MoCo. Very few places in the world have the MoCo quality of life, its schools,parks, transportation system, etc. The fact is that developers are lucky to have land in Montgomery County to develop. The County should get the most out of them. I'm talking about streetscaping, public improvements, and please please please better architecture. We need to stand out from NoVa and not create boring and sterile urban environments like Ballston and Crystal City.

Sligo said...

Out of curiosity, which areas do you consider "piece of shit"?

Anonymous said...

sligo, you're from the area, right? I think you know what I'm talking about. That area around the CASA day labor center on University is pretty shitty, so is Montgomery Hills, South Silver Spring near Georgia Ave, Downtown Wheaton, and the list goes on. Unless you are from PG or NoVa you know very well that MoCo has multiple depressed areas (don't worry, Fairfax and Arlington have maybe worse).

Sligo said...

I'm definitely not disagreeing that there are bad places. The area around University & Piney Branch is pretty bad - when you hear about particularly bad crimes in Silver Spring (such as machete rapes), they usually occur around there.

Wheaton, well, is Wheaton. Although some or all of it is technically in "Silver Spring", I like to consider it a separate geographical entity.