Friday, June 27, 2008

b'ville charrette: stuart rochester responds

Part THREE in a series about last week's Burtonsville Community Legacy Plan Charrette. Check out parts ONE and TWO, where we discussed the charrette and plans to revitalize Route 198.

Wednesday's Gazette says there "seemed to be a consensus" for keeping Burtonsville more or less the same among residents at last week's charrette, but I don't think it was so cut-and-dry. I was disappointed that writer Amber Parcher couldn't find anyone - and there were quite a few - that endorsed more dramatic changes to Burtonsville's struggling village center.

That being said, I wanted to offer a different take on the revitalization of Burtonsville and the greater debate over how East County should grow. Local activist Stuart Rochester, who helped guide the 1997 Fairland Master Plan, was concerned about how he was portrayed in Part Two of our series on the charrette. He asked me to post the following responses, which I have not edited.

Dan: I have had a lot of respect for you until your recent characterization of my remarks at the Burtonsville charrette, which were inaccurate to the point of caricature. First of all, I was speaking at the charrette on behalf of my table; you may have offered your own opinions, but we were instructed to convey the consensus of our table, not our own individual views.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Secondly, neither I nor anyone at my table used the word "undesirables," nor did was this even implied except in terms of an undesirable housing mix or jobs-housing ratio from the standpoint of PRECISELY a healthy, DIVERSIFIED community. (Nancy Navarro's reference in her blog comment to alleged use of code-words when she was not even present to hear the exchange was irresponsible, and I will let my disappointment with someone who aspires to be our councilmember taking a cheap shot in absentia go at that.)

Third, your characterization of me being "worried" as I approached you in the parking lot when in fact all I wanted to do was clear the air was the worst kind of racial profiling that you yourself rightfully find so offensive.

Finally, I stand by my position that communities and schools that work are ones that are balanced socio-economically and demographically; if you feel otherwise or want to argue, we could have a fair debate but if you feel otherwise or want to argue semantics, we could have a reasonable debate, but don't demonize or caricature views you do not agree with. I would appreciate your posting this as a response item on your blog, which I was not able to access to post. Thank you, and I hope we can continue a mutually respectful conversation on this important subject in the future.

Later, Stuart Rochester e-mailed me again with another response which elaborates on what we first talked about after the charrette ended Thursday night.

I appreciate your response to my concerns. To continue to have influence and credibility, you have an obligation to report accurately. I am not denying there is racism in our society, among some residents of Burtonsville as well.

But the argument I was making goes beyond race and even beyond references to "affordable housing." The thrust of my conversation was that too many RENTAL units, as has occurred on the east side of US 29, adversely affects the community and its schools, and not because people who live in apartments are somehow inherently bad or undesirable but because proportionately they are not as vested in the community and because they create a turnover/mobility problem that affects PTAs, the continuity and quality of instruction in the classroom, teacher load and morale, etc. And they are not as likely to improve and maintain the properties they inhabit, for understandable reasons (I mentioned Tom Friedman's point, that "no one ever washes a rental car").

Moreover, this is not to say we should not have rental housing in the area but that we should not have disproportionate concentrations, which result in exactly the kind of segregation that rightfully upsets you. So the situation, and my views, are much more complicated than you portrayed them.

What really disappointed me, angered me, was your gratuitous comments about getting into a "white Lexus" and approaching you "after dark" and "looking worried". That kind of racial profiling I find every bit as offensive as you would, and has no place in civilized discussion; I still do not even understand what you meant by that crap. So let's both try to do better to explain what are earnest, legitimate concerns on both sides.


Adam Pagnucco said...

According to the Census of 2000, Montgomery County had 324,565 occupied housing units, of which 223,017 were owner-occupied and 101,548 were renter-occupied. That means 31% of the county’s occupied units were rentals.

Also according to the Census of 2000, zip code 20866 (Burtonsville) had 4,043 occupied housing units, of which 3,136 were owner-occupied and 907 were renter-occupied. That means 22% of Burtonsville’s occupied units were rentals.

There is no evidence to support the allegation that rental housing is over-concentrated in the Burtonsville zip code.

Dan Reed said...

The Burtonsville zip code (20866) doesn't include most of the Briggs Chaney-Greencastle area, which is where most rental housing is located in East County. I'd also look at the numbers in 20904, which would cover the rest of Briggs Chaney and probably all of White Oak as well.

Anonymous said...

via Census 2000 data for 20904... zip code 20904 had 18,134 occupied housing units, of which 7,983 were renter-occupied. That's 44%. But 20904 is pretty broad, covering Colesville to the west. see map from the census site

Dan Reed said...

Okay. Zip code 20904 is nearly half renter-occupied, which is well above the County average. But, at the same time, it's home to million-dollar homes in Springbrook and Quaint Acres, and slightly less expensive homes in Colesville, not to mention new developments like Cross Creek Club in Calverton or Whitehall Square in White Oak.

What does this mean? I'm not sure. It's late. Anyway, Stuart asked me to post this in response to what Adam said (he couldn't get the comment to post, he explained):

I suggest you compare the mobility (transiency) rate at Burtonsville's schools with others in the county. It's an eye-opener. I also suggest you compare Burtonsville with other areas of similar density; your figures include high-density urban areas such as Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring. You are comparing apples with oranges.

Thomas Hardman said...

I don't have population data handy, but I can tell you anecdotally, from about 7 years working in the community. The rental properties in the 20906 part of Aspen Hill tend to have all of the problems with turnover and a higher crime rate that seem to be common to most rental communities.

Taking a look at the crime stats associated with Peppertree Farm and the surrounding apartment/condo communities, I'd imagine that anyone planning further development would look at history, and take a scattered-site approach to rentals, rather than doing high-density rental complexes.

It's interesting how the zip-code boundaries are drawn in Aspen Hill and I would imagine comparable arbitrariness exists elsewhere in the County.

If you stand at the corner of Aapen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue, you can throw a rock into two other zip-codes. Someone could assault someone on one side of the street, cross to the other side and assault someone else, and cross the other street and do the same. Without actually mapping the locations to the crimes, a local hotspot becomes lost in the statistical noise of three different zip codes. This is a perfect example of how statistics can be totally misleading compared to reporting from someone actually familiar with the actual situation.

Anonymous said...

Dan, Stuart,

I applaud both of your strong emotional commitment to the issues at hand in northeastern Montgomery County. I'm also glad to see your discussions resolved in a very positive manner, and I am confident that it will have a positive impact on what happens in Burtonsville.

I believe that the by-pass will ultimately improve Burtonsville's identity as a place, but with the socio-economic dynamic up there, it will take a steady hand to guide the development properly. I encourage you to continue overcoming the emotional burden of this issue and keep Burtonsville on the right path.