Friday, June 29, 2007

peterson backs down, but hassled photographers persist

SIDE NOTE: I was accosted by security this afternoon while attempting to photograph the atrium of an office building on 12th Street in Downtown D.C. - while at work there . . .

This morning, the Peterson Companies has offered an olive branch of sorts to the photographers and bloggers it has recently slighted in Silver Spring (a detailed play-by-play of which can be found at the Baltimore Sun):
"We welcome photography, videography and other filming at our Center. We permit all of these activities, as long as our patrons and tenants are neither harassed nor photographed or filmed over their objection. Also, any activity which would interfere with pedestrian or vehicular movement requires advance management approval. We continue to encourage patrons to report inappropriate behavior to police and security personnel. We reserve the right to modify this and other policies."
Peterson, owner of the Downtown Silver Spring complex, recently came under scrutiny for its "no photography" policy on Ellsworth Drive after security guards accosted photographer Chip Py two weeks ago. Py was unimpressed by the Peterson Companies' reversal. On the Free Our Streets blog, he said that the photographers' protest planned for July 4th on Ellsworth will go on as planned.

JUTP guest blogger Adam Pagnucco helped to broker the compromise between Peterson and the photographers. His take on the Peterson Companies' attempt to respond to community needs comes AFTER THE JUMP . . .

In evaluating the above policy, it is important to consider the exact legal status of Ellsworth. Ellsworth between Fenton and Georgia is owned by the county. However, it is leased by PFA, the partnership that built and now manages the development. The lease has a broad management rights clause for the partnership. However, it is also contingent on a public use easement that allows right of passage to the public and declares the street to be "public use space." More information on the exact language pertaining to the development can be found on Free Our Streets.

PFA has an option to buy the development outright. After ten years from the signing of its lease, the sale price will be one dollar. PFA could buy it now, but they would have to pay a higher price. The point is that this street could be 100% private property at any time.

PFA's new policy allows substantially the same photography practices that would prevail on a public street. The only difference is that PFA is not conceding that the First Amendment applies directly to what it considers to be its private property through its lease. Some believe that it should concede this right. I do not know of a real estate company that would surrender First Amendment rights on its private property without a court battle.

The organizers of deserve credit for winning a much-improved photography policy from the company. The debate of the past week has also raised a compelling issue: what rights do citizens have on land controlled by public-private partnerships? Shouldn't those rights be addressed in detail in future agreements? The agreements applying to Ellsworth were negotiated prior to 9/11. We live in a different world now and we must closely examine the balance between commerce and liberty in our government's dealings with business.

PFA also deserves credit for acting in good faith and crafting a new policy that will prevent the sort of incident endured by Chip Py. PFA has told the Baltimore Sun that it will now welcome photographers rather than discourage them. PFA could have hired an army of lawyers and fought tooth-and-nail, but they instead chose to listen and change. As someone who has spent his life in the labor movement, I wish more businesses conducted their operations in that way.

Adam Pagnucco

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?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

if there's a boom, i didn't hear it

ALSO FROM THE GAZETTE: "Mandatory busing" hearing for Hampshire Greens delayed; Jerry McCoy says "nothing sexy" about chains in Silver Spring; and "the Turf" is dead.

pictured: the new WesTech Village Corner in "booming" White Oak.

"Burgeoning FDA campus at heart of White Oak boom," screams today's Gazette, which holds a trio of stories about how East County's getting a new Washington Adventist Hospital along with police and fire stations, in addition to the massive Food and Drug Administration headquarters being built on New Hampshire Avenue.
"We look at that area as a national asset," said Pradeep Ganguly, the county’s economic development chief. "We have opportunities to attract major research institutions and companies, manufacturing companies, high-tech companies and more."
The key word is "opportunities." Boom? I didn't hear one. The FDA isn't even finished yet. It has yet to reach its 7,000-employee capacity. Companies aren't knocking down the gates to locate here yet. And the kind of high-end shops and restaurants we demand here - the kind that need a substantial (and well-heeled) office population to support them - haven't even signed leases yet. (That is to say, of course, they'd want to locate in one of our many charmless strip malls.)

The Gazette fails to realize is that a hospital, a police station, or a community center are merely infrastructure. They do us who already live here a lot of good. But they also help to support an increasing population that isn't here yet. This isn't a boom. This is more like the match that lights the spark that sets the fire.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

it's been a whole year . . .

since the great storm that inspired me to write my first rant, thus creating Just Up The Pike. I've been taking some time off to concentrate on work and school, and to think about the future of this blog. I've had a lot of fun this year, and I hope my readers have gotten something out of it as well.

Your support means a lot to me - if you've introduced yourself at a meeting or event, or offered any advice or tips - or, for my fellow Silver Spring bloggers (and our "guest blogger" Adam), collaborated to give the news or make it ourselves. The readers make this site what it is, and I hope we can keep working together in the years to come.

But for now, I'm afraid, I have to go to bed.

Thanks and take care,
Dan Reed

Friday, June 22, 2007

east county buses: everything in transit? (updated)

HIATUS! Just Up The Pike is taking a brief vacation from The Blog and venturing outside for a couple of days. We'll be back later next week, but in the meantime . . .

UPDATE: One bus rider in the Tamarack Triangle writes Dr. Gridlock to protest the loss of the Greenbelt-Glenmont line.

The rumor mill in East County's been churning for the past few weeks with talk that Metro, in addition to its latest round of route changes, will consider discontinuing its Greenbelt-Glenmont Line, also known as the C7 and C9 - and its "worst performing regional line in Maryland."

Greenbelt-Glenmont, which runs along congested Randolph Road between the two Metro stations, averages thirteen passengers a trip. I can't help but wonder which is worse: that it could be replaced by a church van, or that a Randolph line could get such pitiful ridership.

And why? Because East County commuters headed into the Downcounty or D.C. would rather catch the Metro at Silver Spring, while Rockville-bound commuters find themselves having to switch to another bus or (gasp!) the Metro at Glenmont. And no one's actually going to Glenmont, at least until it becomes the mini-downtown we've been promised.

AFTER THE JUMP: Was light-rail supposed to come to East County?

But as the Post's Dr. Gridlock and this Metro staff report point out, money from the Greenbelt-Glenmont Line would go to the Z routes, including the Z2 and Z6, which will both see service cuts starting next week. The Z Line, which runs up Route 29 between Silver Spring, Burtonsville, and Laurel, is by all means a success: it not only attracts commuters, but shoppers as well. By serving all three Northeast Consortium high schools, it's a huge hit with young people. You'll be hard-pressed to find a seat on some Z buses at any time.

The Route 29 corridor is starved for better transit. As recently as 1981, a light-rail line was planned to connect Burtonsville to Silver Spring via the Wheaton Metro. Thousands of apartments were built in the Briggs Chaney and White Oak areas in anticipation of it. But the line was scrapped (not enough riders for the cost, they said), and today we're left with a bus network that can be both very useful and very inconvenient.

While light-rail may unfortunately be a fargone conclusion for East County, it might be time to look at our bus system beyond a few service changes. The new Ride On Route 21 (above), which starts Monday, is a good example. It anticipates the loss of the C7 and C9 by serving neighborhoods along Randolph Road, but due to concerns about noise in Tanglewood, adjacent to Route 29, it's taken over part of the Z6 route. The result is a line that attempts to please everyone and, in doing so, will probably fail to make anyone happy (or on time).

Some 150,000 people live in East County - the population of a small city. Wouldn't it be a given that our transit needs might be as varied and diverse as that of a city? If Metrobus wants more Z6s and fewer C9s, it'll have to take our needs into consideration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

will progress arrive on foot in historic ashton?

BUT FIRST: Burtonsville's working on a town center of their own - the Burtonsville Business Association meets 7 p.m. THURSDAY at Long and Foster, Burtonsville Crossing.

A model of the proposed Ashton Meeting Place, at New Hampshire Avenue and Route 108. Photo courtesy of

"You're going to hear words that are unfamiliar, like density," says Michelle Layton to her audience, a "town meeting" held Monday night in the cafeteria of Sherwood Elementary School in Sandy Spring.

With an introduction like that, it's easy to write off the Sandy Spring-Ashton Rural Preservation Consortium as another NIMBY group. But in a town filled with history and surrounded by progress, any development just won't cut it.

For the past several years, the cumbersomely named civic group has been fighting the Ashton Meeting Place, a mixed-use development at New Hampshire and Route 108 that developer Fred Nichols calls a "neighborhood village center." Some detractors, though, prefer to call it the "Ashton Mall."

"This group is trying to keep the density at what we think is a reasonable level," says Ashton resident David Hartje. "The guy that wants to build the shopping center wants it to be more dense than we do."

AFTER THE JUMP: Who walks in Ashton?

Miche Booz and Brooke Farquhar's "counter-proposal" for the Ashton Meeting Place, designed to emulate the existing 18th-century village center.

The Meeting Place, which has been rejected by Park and Planning several times already, is going up for review again June 28th. It would 100,000 square feet of shops, offices and condominiums, along with a small grocery store.

Residents complain that the proposal is too big for the community; that grocery stores in nearby Olney, Cloverly and Clarksville make a new one unnecessary; and that the developer, a Sandy Spring resident himself, has ignored their concerns.

"We're up against a very conventional-thinking developer," says planner Brooke Farquhar, who with
Brookeville architect Miche Booz created an alternative proposal for the Meeting Place (above). At only 72,000 square feet, the Farquhar-Booz plan looks like an extension of the 18th-century town center, with smaller buildings and a large village green at the corner of New Hampshire and Route 108.

"I think it takes a little imagination," Farquhar says, referring to her plan, "and probably a financial risk."

An earlier, "compromise" plan with the community included sidewalks and a village green. However, Nichols' latest proposal looks more like a regular strip mall, including a 228-foot-long blank wall where a grocery store would back to Route 108 that has many residents furious. The scale of the project - and its ambiguous commitment to urban design - has put the County's "Rural Village Overlay Zone" in effect in Ashton to the test.

"Everyone's been wrestling with this definition of what 'Rural Overlay Zone' means," says Booz.

The overlay zone, created specifically for Sandy Spring and Ashton as part of its 1998 Master Plan, grew out of a charrette led by architect Andres Duany in 1995. Duany - best known for the ground-breaking Kentlands development in Gaithersburg - stressed the need for narrow, pedestrian-friendly streets, a mix of building types and uses, and buildings that face the street.

Only a small part of Duany's plan was realized: Wyndcrest, a small subdivision on Route 108 that residents say should be the example for the rest of the town center. In Wyndcrest, County-subsidized townhouses sit next to restored 19th-century farmhouses, and front yards have been replaced by a commons. And everything is close to the street, making walking easy and pleasant.

"That's the wave of the future," says Booz (pronounced Bose), who also designed the Sandy Spring Museum. "It's been an uphill battle explaining to people what that means . . . that the road has many uses - pedestrians, bicyclists, cars."

At Monday night's meeting, it appears that many residents have gotten the idea. Beth Garrettson, whose family was one of several to found Ashton in 1728, walks frequently. "Not many people do because it is a dangerous intersection [New Hampshire and 108]," she says. "But I do it because I think you should be able to."

Garrettson suggests that despite the spread-out nature of the villages, the Meeting Place would attract a lot of pedestrians. "People will walk up to a half-mile for entertainment," she says.

"I see them [walking], at least the high school students," adds Farquhar.

One resident, however, questioned the need to reduce density at Ashton Meeting Place. (After all, higher-density development encourages people to walk more.) "If I was the owner of this property and I was told I would lose 25% of my income because there's less space I can rent, I wouldn't be very happy," she says.

For Layton, it seems, density might not be so unfamiliar to some Ashton residents. She acknowledges that the community hasn't completely rallied around her cause. "I think the opinions vary," she says. "There are people looking for convenience, but there are people who want it small."

But above all, everyone wants the Meeting Place to fit in. "We would like a center that looks like it belongs here," she adds.

Monday, June 18, 2007

you can't say anything bad about the peterson companies, but . . .

UPDATE: Marc Fisher from the Post interviews the photographer.

Two weeks ago, a few of us in the "Silver Spring Blogging Collective" were asked by the Peterson Companies - who own the Downtown Silver Spring "complex" - to post an ad for their Silver Spring Swings summer concert series, held in Silver Plaza. In February, we'd all gladly put up press releases for the Silver Spring Restaurant Week (also sponsored by Peterson). But after four months of being ignored (not having e-mails replied to, and the like), some of my fellow bloggers wondered if compensation was due.

I called Stacy Horan, Peterson's Marketing Manager, to ask what she could do for us. "I'm sorry, I didn't think we should pay you for posting this on your blog," Horan said. "Does it take a long time to post? I just figured it would be a nice thing to do - sending this out to you - seeing as you're a 'community bulletin board'."


While I was disappointed by her indifference to what we as bloggers do, I came to realize it's just reflective of the Peterson Companies' general attitude towards their public, which is: if you're not making us a profit, go away. Sure, that's understandable for a developer of shopping malls, but when those malls are marketed as mini-downtowns - complete with the civic life of a city - you begin to wonder how people could be given such short shrift.

What I'm talking about is the local resident who last week reported being accosted by security on Ellsworth Drive for taking pictures. Ellsworth - or at least the block between Fenton and Georgia - is owned by Peterson, but I think being open to other, public streets, it is a de facto public space. Nonetheless, when Hans Riemer ran for County Council last year, he wasn't allowed to hand out campaign literature. (Or, at least, he wasn't supposed to.)

And, of course, younger patrons aren't welcome in the semi-public realm. Many other so-called "lifestyle centers" throughout the country are requiring anyone under 18 to be chaperoned by a parent or guardian. A lifestyle center outside of Phoenix says its chaperone policy enables them to "provide a safe, comfortable, fun environment for ALL of our guest[s]," nevermind the inconvenienced adults or embarassed teens that may result. I can't help but wonder if Downtown Silver Spring - whose popularity with teenagers is cited as a "drawback" to the area by Washingtonian Magazine - could follow suit.

Ten years ago, Silver Springers came out in full force to make sure we didn't get a mall downtown, and looking at the half-naked kids playing in the fountain in Silver Plaza, it's easy to think we succeeded. But Peterson can only profit by keeping us under control - through nosy rent-a-cops, opportunistic marketers, and whatever else they can scrape together.

This is our Downtown. But how do we tell that to the people who hold the title?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

BGE gets reamed at citizens involved meeting

MONDAY: Revitalizing Burtonsville Town Center - how does the Amish Market fit in?

As threats of golf-ball-sized hail loomed over the stormy skies of East County, emotions ran high Wednesday night as local residents bemoaned rising energy costs at Citizens Involved's monthly meeting, held at Paint Branch High School.

Last month, Baltimore Gas and Electric - which provides energy to 13,000 households in Montgomery County - was allowed to increase rates by fifty percent, and representatives from various energy companies and the Public Service Commission were brought in to discuss the higher costs. Despite the best attempts of Eileen York, founder of the East County civic group, to quell the audience, many could not contain their frustration.

"Why did you allow them to do such a stupid thing?" asked one frustrated resident of Jim Boone, representing the Maryland Public Service Commission, who approved the rate increase. "The [new charge] is for the benefit of the company."

In an attempt to help customers pay their electric bills, BGE is urging them to select a payment plan that would defer the rate increase until January. But residents say the deferral plan is hard to understand and won't save them any money. One resident's accusation that the electric company posted 72% profits last year further sparked the ire of the audience.

Retired engineer Ron Smith brought the meeting to a halt, screaming at Boone until he was red in the face. "I say they profit air - and a 1000% increase charged to BGE!" he bellowed.

Charles Segerman, CEO of Clean Currents, discussed "green" energy sources, such as wind and biofuels, which can be purchased by eco-conscious individuals or companies at fixed rates. Some of Clean Currents' clients include local institution Gifford's Ice Cream and the AFI Silver, whose Silverdocs film festival is completely powered by wind energy.

"We're not in control of our own energy - we're being dictated to," said Segerstrom.

The meeting ran well over time, ending an hour behind schedule. York says that the theme of "Green Energy" will be carried over into next month's meeting, to be held July 11th.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

in the fight of his life, al wynn hops a train

GET YOURSELF INVOLVED: Citizens Involved, the "East County umbrella group," meets WEDNESDAY at Paint Branch High School.

Congressman Al Wynn (right) walks through the Silver Spring Metro with MoCo field director Ira Kowler. To see more pictures of Wynn's campaign kickoff, check out Just Up The Pike's "Purple Line" slideshow, featuring this and other explorations of the proposed transitway with local politicians and concerned residents.

Additional coverage at the
Silver Spring Penguin.

Barely nine months after a
bitter campaign that nearly led to his defeat, Congressman Albert Wynn (D-Dist. 4) is back for what could be the fight of his life. With the 2008 presidential primary moved up to next February, Wynn has put his campaign engine into full force, and he's out to prove a clean fight can be had. Yesterday, he rode the Metro and a bus between rallies in Shady Grove and Silver Spring to show his support for mass transit and energy independence.

"We're not going to run a negative campaign. We're going to have a clean fight, and we're going to talk about the issues," the eight-term Congressman said at both rallies. "We're gonna focus on transportation, we're gonna focus on climate change, we're gonna focus on ending this war."

AFTER THE JUMP: Wynn talks about the last time he rode a bus.

A cadre of local politicos have quickly thrown their support behind him, including State Delegates Roger Manno (D-Dist. 19) and Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20). In Shady Grove, County Executive Ike Leggett urged voters to "recognize what this man has done for Montgomery County," while in Silver Spring, State Comptroller Peter Franchot listed Wynn's influence "from bringing the FDA to White Oak . . . to funding the revitalization of Silver Spring."

And in transit between rallies, the Congressman is just as quick to point out his accomplishments. "I got funding for the first Blue Line extension out to Largo," he notes. Wynn lives in Mitchellville, a few miles from Largo, meaning that he could even take the Metro to work on Capitol Hill if he wanted.

The last time Wynn rode mass transit was "probably several months ago, I think," he says. "I can't even remember what it was for." But his work doesn't involve the usual nine-to-five commute, making Metro use an infrequent occurrence. "When I get off work, my day just begins," Wynn laments. "And unfortunately, mass transit doesn't work in all the communities I visit."

In Wynn's sprawling, gerrymandered Fourth District - which includes such far-flung communities as Germantown and Oxon Hill but also most of East County - he's been working to secure funding for three rail projects: Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, and rail across the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge. 'That bridge is rail-ready," he says. And Congress is quickly beginning to recognize their importance. "We're in the age of Metro now," he says. "I think people get it . . . you don't really have to sell people on the Metro. You have to find the funding."

On the J2 Metrobus from Bethesda to Silver Spring, Wynn and I discuss the current state of the bus system. "We gotta find ways to make [mass transit] work with people's lifestyles," Wynn says, and rail isn't the only answer.

"One thing people don't talk about enough is buses." He uses the example of a parent who has to pick up a child from soccer practice after work. "If the mass transit doesn't get you to soccer practice, you won't ride the bus . . . if we're gonna make it work, we gotta have more buses."

"But to have buses running more frequently," I ask, "we'd have to have higher density in order to create the ridership, and a lot of people don't want density in their communities."

"We already have the density," Wynn replies, "and with gas prices rising, we'll have the people." The Congressman goes on to explain a number of things that could be used to increase ridership. "If you have designated lanes at rush hour," he says, "and you have a lot of buses, you'd attract people . . . I don't think we need more density. We need an education campaign, and more convenience."

"If you think about rush hour and everyone's standing hip-to-hip, and there's a pickpocket, all you think about are the negatives," Wynn explains. "We have to make the bus physically attractive."

As he says this, well-dressed passengers are quietly admiring the scenery of Rock Creek Park visible through the bus's large windows. A few rows behind us, a little girl and her dad are playing on a Game Boy together. The whole scene looks decidedly normal and - dare I say it - a good advertisement for the bus. But when Wynn stops speaking, I can't help but notice that a few people are giving him very strange looks.

Nonetheless, when Congressman Wynn gets off at Silver Spring, he stops to thank the bus driver - who, like his fellow passengers, didn't seem to know who he was - before striding across the bus turnaround to a small crowd gathered in front of the Metro entrance. At the second rally of the morning, Wynn stresses his faith in public transit.

"There's a reason I'm riding the train and the bus," Wynn proclaimed. "Mass transit is something we have to have in the energy independence equation and something we have to have in the global warming equation."

"And I'm excited to be a part of the solution."

Monday, June 11, 2007

this is what i looked like at fifteen

In tenth grade, Congressman Al Wynn (D-Dist. 4) came by my alma mater - with a C-SPAN camera crew in tow - to talk with my Government class. It was a big deal for the school (free publicity!), for Wynn (election year!), and for a pubescent me, who suddenly found a picture of the two of us slathered all over his campaign material. (Not to mention, of course, a brief appearance on C-SPAN 3 in which I asked Al Wynn a question about affordable housing.)

Now that Al Wynn is seeking re-election for his umpteenth term, I've come for payback: check out Just Up The Pike later this week for coverage of the Congressman's campaign kickoff today. If you're riding the Red Line - or the J4 Metrobus - today, look for him and ask: when's the last time you rode public transit?

ALSO GOING DOWN IN EAST COUNTY: This week, Silverdocs might be bringing highbrow films to Downtown Silver Spring, but you can catch a highbrow film - or at least a stage adaptation of a Disney film - right here in East County as good old Blake High brings back their fall production of High School Musical for four more showings this weekend. And if you don't know what HSM - which the Gazette called "the clean Grease" - is, this blog cannot do much to help you.

Come back soon! There's lots to see.

Friday, June 8, 2007

guest blog: annual growth policy debate 2007 (part two)

It's pretty easy to be overwhelmed by the pace of growth. Maps like this from Trulia Hindsight show how rapidly East County has developed over the past few years - resulting in overcrowded schools and roads. So how do we pay for all of these things? Next month, the County Council will be holding its Annual Growth Policy debates, deciding not just how fast the County will grow but who foots the bill for that growth.

Last week, Guest blogger and pedestrian advocate Adam Pagnucco explained how the County decides where new development should go. This week, he's back to discuss impact taxes - the developer dough that goes to new schools and roads - and whether they're here to stay in Montgomery County.

Take it away, Adam:

Impact Taxes

Impact taxes are charges paid by developers of new projects to the county. The purpose of impact taxes is to pay for new infrastructure capacity, such as schools and roads, that is necessary to service new projects. Montgomery County first used transportation impact taxes for projects in East County and Germantown in 1986, and expanded them to Clarksburg in the mid-1990’s. In 2003, the County Council passed a package of development policy changes that raised transportation impact taxes, created new school impact taxes, and applied them to the entire county. The new taxes were intended to allow development to pay part of its own costs rather than be subject to moratoriums, several of which were then in effect around the county.

The current impact tax structure for schools and roads is:


Type of UnitTax per Unit
Single-Family Detached$8,464
Single-Family Attached$6,348
Multi-Family Residential (except High-Rise)$4,232
High-Rise Residential$1,693
Multi-Family Senior Residential$0


Type of UnitTax per Unit
Single-Family Detached$5,819
Single-Family Attached$4,761
Multi-Family Residential (except High-Rise)$3,703
High-Rise Residential$2,645
Multi-Family Senior Residential$1,058


Commercial UseTax per Square Foot
Bioscience Facility$0.00
Place of Worship$0.30
Private Elementary/Secondary Schools$0.40
Other Non-Residential$2.65

Transportation impact tax rates are lower in Metro Station Policy Areas and higher in Clarksburg. All impact tax rates are adjusted for inflation every two years.

The new rates have been in effect for two fiscal years: 2005 and 2006. The total volume of tax collections has been lower than expected. For example, the new school impact tax was expected to collect $24 million in 2005 and $28 million each year thereafter. Instead, it collected less than $8 million in 2005 and less than $7 million in 2006. These amounts are small compared to the $271 million in school capacity expansion the county is planning over the next six years.

The county’s planning staff recommends substantial increases in the impact tax rates. The staff calculated the actual cost of projected school construction through 2012 and divided it by the projected number of new housing units to be constructed over the same period of time to determine the impact tax rate necessary to actually pay for new schools. The new school impact tax rates advocated by the planners proved to be more than double the current rates. The staff performed a similar exercise for transportation. It recommended that transportation impact taxes be 40-60% higher for residences and 80%-120% higher for most commercial buildings (with retail rates going up by four times).

Several statistics put Montgomery County’s impact tax rates in perspective. Sixteen counties in Maryland charge impact taxes on development. On a per-unit basis, Montgomery County currently charges more per single-family detached dwelling ($14,283) than any other county except Prince George’s ($19,361). Last year, Prince George’s collected a much greater total volume of impact taxes ($43 million) than did Montgomery ($13 million). Frederick ($15 million) and Howard ($14 million) collected more impact taxes than Montgomery despite having lower per-unit rates. When impact taxes as a percentage of median home value is calculated, Montgomery’s ratio (1.8%) is lower than Richmond (1.9%), Prince George’s (4.4%), Frederick (3.2%), Charles (3.5%) and Jefferson County, West Virginia (6.6%).

The planning staff argues that their recommended higher impact tax levels are necessary to actually pay for the full cost of added schools and roads required by new development. Unless impact taxes were raised, the county would have to find another way to pay for new infrastructure – most likely through alternate taxes on existing residents. Developers predict that the higher impact tax rates would deter growth in the county through pushing up home and commercial building prices. Others argue that the entire concept of impact taxes is flawed because the revenues collected are not well channeled to actual infrastructure projects needed by specific developments. These are the questions to be decided soon in Rockville.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

amish market could move to upper marlboro

BUT FIRST: Residents talk buses, booze and bad poetry at last Saturday's transportation forum.

An e-mail sent out this morning by Eileen York, head of Citizens Involved, suggests that the Amish Market can stay in Burtonsville - but if the community, elected officials and developers don't get their act together, we may lose the market to Upper Marlboro, in southern Prince George's County.

Yesterday - following a Post article mourning the loss of the Amish Market - we mentioned a landowner who wants to help the Market relocate to a one-acre property behind Route 198. That landowner is Yoav Katz, former Israeli basketball player and current Bethesda resident who has drawn up plans for a new, 17,000-square-foot building to house the Amish Market on what is currently an auto repair shop.

The following comes from Eileen York's e-mail:

. . . The Amish need to make a decision re: Mr. Katz's proposal. I have spoken to Sam [Beiler, from Beiler's Structures] about looking for a pro-bono attorney to facilitate these options for the Amish, hoping that if we could find them an attorney working in their behalf, they would feel more confident making a decision asap, as there is no time to waste. To date, no attorney has been found . . . If we can not secure them a location here, they have already found a location in Upper Marlboro where they will be moving next summer when the market get[s] torn down, if it will happen in that time frame, as only a preliminary plan to-date has been approved from Park and Planning. . .

I just called Chris Jones [the owner/developer of the Burtonsville Shopping Center] and asked that we be kept informed of what is happening in our community, as it was disturbing to read about it in the Washington Post . . .

sleepy residents talk traffic at transpo forum

WHAT'S UP: The Amish Market is down, but not out; Guest blogger Adam finishes explaining the Annual Growth Policy tomorrow.

"BEAUTIFUL, AIN'T IT?" The proposed interchange at Route 29 and the InterCounty Connector will be over fifty feet high.

Check out additional coverage from
the Gazette which is, of course, a day late.

Many apologies were made for dragging local residents out of bed at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning and into last weekend's East County Transportation Forum, held at the Regional Services Center on Briggs Chaney Road. Several dozen sleepy people came by to hear presentations on transportation and land use in East County - and, of course - to yell at a panel of public officials and politicians whom they no longer seem to have faith in. Topics covered included the Route 29 reconstruction, a new Ride-On bus route, and the InterCounty Connector.

"The impacts of construction will be lower than what you've experienced for the past several years," promises InterCounty Connector Contract Manager Mike Jaeger, brought in to discuss the new highway whose bulldozers will quietly pass through East County next year.

Jaeger was also referring to construction on Route 29, which is currently being transformed into a freeway. Three interchanges have already been completed (at Cherry Hill Road, Briggs Chaney Road and Route 198) and six more are waiting for State funding.

But Stuart Rochester, best described as the "Voice of East County," questioned whether new or existing freeways were the answer. "We're really changing the face of our communities," Rochester says. "If we do this, we're not gonna be able to recognize our neighborhoods." Even County Councilwoman Marilyn Praisner (D-Calverton) says she was "unsure" about continuing construction on Route 29, given the congestion that still occurs on it.

AFTER THE JUMP: Praisner wants you to buy more booze; poetic NIMBYs lead to the creation of a new bus route.

Praisner was especially concerned about the InterCounty Connector's proposed interchange with Route 29, a sprawling, fifty-foot-high behemoth known to roadgeeks as a "three-level stack." You may have seen a "stack" interchange where the Baltimore Beltway meets I-70 (above, at right). But unlike that connection, "the aesthetics of this interchange will be greater," says Jaeger. "We can do landscaping."

"How do you landscape an interchange?" the councilwoman asks. "Big pots," calls out a member of the audience. "That's one way," Jaeger replies, laughing.

However, Marilyn Praisner did stress the importance of public transit, repeating her commitment to building the Purple Line "between Bethesda and some destination in Prince George's County," possibly referring to New Carrollton. Praisner also supports additional transportation funding.

"Keep buying your beer," Praisner says to a mildly amused audience. "Keep buying your alcohol, because it's helping to fund transportation projects in Montgomery County." (The Department of Liquor Control handles all beer and wine sales in MoCo; the proceeds pay for county services.)

One of those transportation projects likely paid for by your last Bethesda bender is Ride-On's new Route 21, which serves Tanglewood, the Tamarack Triangle and Dumont Oaks - all on the same needlessly convoluted route to the Silver Spring Metro. It was created by cutting service on the Metrobus Z6 (one of many I took to work last summer) to my neighborhood due to excessive whining about noise and filth by residents of Tanglewood, who are notoriously defensive (and surprisingly poetic) about their tree-lined streets (at left).

One Tamarack Triangle resident (whose wife, seated next to him, turned out to be my English professor last semester, much to my chagrin) was unimpressed. "We're very happy with the current service to Glenmont," the resident says. "And we're very concerned we're gonna lose [the Metrobus] C7 to Glenmont and we'll have to take a longer trip to Silver Spring."

"I think someone is giving you bad information," replies Arthur Holmes, representing the Department of Public Works and Transportation, which manages Ride-On.

Ride-On Route 21 begins service June 25, and I plan to try it out. The Z6 took me to Downtown Silver Spring in forty-five minutes during rush hour; the Z8, forty minutes; the Z9 Express, thirty. We'll see if the 21 is worth your dollar-twenty-five - or if Tanglewood should have kept their poems to themselves.

I-695/I-70 photos courtesy of

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

the amish market: not endangered yet (updated)

"This is the closest thing we have to a town square." - Shelley Rochester, activist

MORE UPDATES: The Amish Market could move to Upper Marlboro: check it out.

With plans to redevelop the forty-year-old Burtonsville Shopping Center (pictured) - but without the locally revered Dutch Country Farmers' Market - the Post has declared "Twilight for [the] Amish Market." Or have they spoken too soon? I have word that a local landowner has been working with the market to keep this Burtonsville institution in Burtonsville. More info as it comes along . . .

UPDATE: The potential loss of the Amish Market has gotten attention from across the area. DCist, already smarting from the fire at Eastern Market, sends its condolences to Burtonsville; meanwhile, Columbia Talk and Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space consider luring the Market to their own communities.

As for staying in Burtonsville: the owner of a site behind Route 198 has approached the County, developers and the Market about re-locating the Amish Market there. The property is about an acre in size and would be accessed by the Burtonsville Access Road, set to start construction next year.

While the new property wouldn't give the Amish Market visibility on Route 198, it would hopefully continue to provide East County with the community center and quality fried chicken we've enjoyed for the past twenty years.

Monday, June 4, 2007

in search of a good milkshake?

THIS WEEK ON JUST UP THE PIKE: A look at last Saturday's East County Transportation Forum, and the unveiling of a new Ride-On route; some answers about a Colesville controversy I mentioned over a week ago; guest blogger Adam returns to further explain the Annual Growth Policy.

From Annapolis, former East County resident "Blue C" e-mails us to reminisce about the old Colesville McDonald's:
"Hey, thanks for the picture of the Mickey Dee's, where our kids grew up (we used to live across the street from Springbrook High School.) We got tired of waiting for the [inter] county connector, so after nearly 30 years, we left the county. It's a bit more backward where we are now, but there's less traffic, more water and better food!"
She's got us there. Sure, Anne Arundel County might have an eccentric, penny-pinching county executive, but they also have Ann's Dari-Creme (above), which may have the best milkshakes you can get anywhere. Maybe Blue C had the right idea . . .

MEANWHILE: Well, this week's Post Sunday Source did a feature on several area bloggers, including Rick from Laurel Connections and, of course, yours truly. You might notice that I didn't list any East County blogs as ones I read regularly.

See, I explained to Christina Antoniades, the reporter, that picking between them was like "choosing your favorite child," but of course that didn't make it into the story. I probably hit up each East County blog twice a day, but I must look like a turncoat to our beloved "Silver Spring Blogging Collective," as Henry from the Silver Spring Scene likes to call us.

Sigh. If only the Collective could forgive me.

Friday, June 1, 2007

goodbye, golden arches

In just four weeks, East County will see a whole new dimension of dining. No, Clyde's isn't coming: a new McDonald's, part of a nationwide roll-out of a new prototype restaurant, is opening in Colesville at New Hampshire and East Randolph. The million-dollar reconstruction aims to give the four-decade-old eatery a "forever young" feel, with the familiar Golden Arches giving way to what's called a "swish eyebrow," which is being lifted into place in the picture above. The best part: they're hiring! Hit up the store's own website for details.

Also happening in East County:

WE BET ROGER BERLINER IS PISSED: Yes, the McMansion-fighting County Councilman would be chagrined to hear that Maryland has the second-highest percentage of "Starter Castles" (homes with four bedrooms or more) in the nation. Only Utah, with its high number of large Mormon families, could manage to beat us. We're left wondering: is the bedroom boom related to another boom in the bedroom statewide? [Thanks to HoCo Hayduke for the heads-up.]

"You may have slower speeds, but you could pick up more people along the way." - Michael D. Madden, Purple Line project manager
LANGLEY PARK, NEXT FOUR STOPS: Downcounty neighborhoods like Woodside and Clifton Park may eventually have Purple Line stops to call their own as the State continues to tweak plans for the proposed transitway, adding potential stops and dropping unpopular alignments. And naysayers like one Meir Wolf - who got the town of Chevy Chase to fund a $250,000 study opposing the Purple Line - are being quieted as the Maryland Transit Administration realizes how many people might just use the line when completed.

This Post graphic (above) shows the currently proposed route, which splits in Bethesda, East Silver Spring and College Park where there are disagreements, but is largely set through most of Prince George's County. Is it because people don't know enough about the Purple Line to be upset? And is that a bad thing?