Thursday, July 31, 2008

guest blog: pushing into the patuxent's backyard (updated)

Ryan Homes, whose Whitehall Square development in White Oak is pictured above, will be among those building condominiums on a site at old Route 29 and Dustin Road. Developer Tom Norris presented his proposal for Patuxent Ridge to local residents last night at the Praisner Library, raising concerns about its proximity to the Patuxent Watershed. I wasn't able to make the meeting, but Burtonsville resident and children's songwriter Barry Louis Polisar, who lives near the proposed development, graciously offered to write a guest blog recounting what took place. Click here for Norris's response.

The developer for a new housing complex in Burtonsville met with local residents on Wednesday night at the Praisner Library to introduce plans to obtain a "Special Exception" to build five four-story buildings and a community center on 9.5 acres on Old Route 29 between Bell and Dustin Roads. This property is in the rural cluster agricultural area and is currently zoned for one home. It is now occupied by a farm and produce stand. The developers plan to build a High Density Condominium complex that could only be purchased by people who are either disabled or over 62 years of age. They intend to provide 156 paved parking spaces for residents, care-givers, and staff.

Despite little advance publicity about the presentation, the library meeting room was filled with area residents who voiced concerns about the impact this development would have on the nearby Patuxent River Watershed and on the local roads. There are currently about 90 single family homes in the corridor from Rt 198 to the Patuxent River and the developer and Ryland Homes have plans to build 86 mostly two bedroom units, which will effectively double the density overnight.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The developer stressed the need for housing for an aging population in Montgomery County and stated that the County's Master Plan encourages this kind of development here, however some local residents at the meeting pointed out that the proposal being planned is effectively a Condominium development with restrictive covenants against anyone under 62 years of age.

The developer's proposal states that their development "will be in harmony with the general character of the neighborhood considering population, density, design, scale and bulk of any proposed new structures, intensity and character of activity, traffic and parking conditions." Many local residents strongly disagreed with this assessment.

Since there is no public bus service from Dustin Road, residents will need to drive their own vehicles to get to local shopping areas. While some senior residents might walk to shopping, many will not and local residents were concerned that not only does this put additional vehicles on Old Columbia Pike which has been designated a local access road, but all vehicles traveling south will have to first go north and maneuver around the recently installed traffic circle. There was additional concern voiced at the meeting that in order to facilitate this new housing complex, sewer and water would have to be brought onto the site along Rt 29--and would have the effect of opening up the entire Old Rt 29 Corridor to development.

None of the local residents attending the meeting voiced approval of these plans and at times the exchange became a little heated. Some residents suggested that concerned citizens write to the planning board to voice their disapproval and make plans to attend the upcoming zoning hearings scheduled for September.

Apart from density issues, the main concern voiced at the meeting is the impact this building will have on the Patuxent Watershed. Once again it seems that an environmentally sensitive area located in the last rural cluster in Eastern Montgomery County is being offered up for development--rather than acreage in an area that is already developed with sewer and water and already has a real public transportation system in place.

If you've got something to say, Just Up The Pike is always looking for guest bloggers. While I don't always agree with the statements made, guest blogs offer an opportunity for all sides to be heard on East County issues. Contact me at danreed at umd dot edu if you're interested in contributing.

23 comments:

retgroclk said...

In 1976 during the 8th district U.S. Congressional race, two candidates(one Republican-Abe Kalish, and one democrat-Robert Fustero) warned the voters about further development on Rt. 29.
They were both against it.
They both warned about over crowded roads and the lack of proper sewer and water systems.

They were ignored.

Abe Kalish went on to write a number of books, and I do not recall what happent to Robert Fustero.

Rumors have it he is now a curmudgeon and cynic writing blogs under an assumed name.

The problems of over develoopment in certain corridors of Montgomery County have existed for over 30 years.

The is stil no satisfactory solution and some people will never be happy.

Eventually the developers win(The ICC is a good example ) and life goes on.

Perhaps one day- there will be an aswer- but until then- crowded roads, over burdened sewers and increasing taxes are a way of life.

Cavan said...

This is just another day in the life of sprawl. This same old friggin' cycle just keeps going on and on. That's what happens when you build stuff that's not in a town and isn't near other functions of life. You get more cars and traffic and negative social outcomes. It's a shame that Ryan doesn't build in places like Silver Spring or Wheaton or Glenmont, you know places with transit access. It's quite simple... if we want to keep this up, we keep approving development away from existing human settlements. Oops! That's not such a good idea in the (permanent) era of $4/gal.

It's such a shame that someting that could be beneficial (senior housing) is going to have so many bad consequences because of it's in a poor context (auto dependent sprawl) rather than a good context (town/urban neighborhood on a street grid).

Dan Reed said...

A lot of the big national builders are, in fact, moving into closer-in areas. Ryan built homes at Forest Glen station about five years ago, and Pulte built townhouses off of University Boulevard in Wheaton a few years after that. And, of course, Centex Homes are redeveloping the old Good Counsel High site, also in Wheaton.

While most of what they build aren't of high quality (though I think the Pulte townhomes are decent), it's good that they're doing infill development - and often at a more affordable cost than local, high-end builders like EYA, making close-in places more accessible to people who'd otherwise be snooping around Frederick.

But, then again, if you've made up your mind to move further out, a few tract houses in Wheaton aren't going to convince you otherwise.

Cavan said...

Dan,
That's fair. Thank you for clueing me in on more recent developments in that company's business model. I applaud them for adjusting to the times.

Changing the subject, I stand by my comments about sprawl creating traffic, rather than development creating traffic. Most of the negative consequences that most have come to associate with "development" are associated with auto-dependent sprawl development. Buildings built on a street grid and served by transit do not induce traffic like detached auto-dependent environments.

barrylou said...

What I find sad is the developer said this spot was chosen because there are very few open spaces left in Eastern Montgomery County.


First off, I don't think this is correct and secondly, have we so completely abandoned the value of green space and open land that the only thing we can think of to do with it is to build on it? Somehow our culture has reduced forest and land as only being important for its potential for making money. The reason this strip of land remains rural is because it is in the Patuxent River Watershed and should be protected.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family lives on Dustin Road--but on the far western side that used to be all farmland and forest. We won't be impacted by the development much--except perhaps for added traffic and congestion as a result of doubling the density by building this here. But we are concerned about how that density affects the watershed and I think this is something that everyone should be concerned about. One by one, we've seen the larger properties sold off and subdivided into smaller lots--but still with RC zoning of five acres because of the need to keep the area rural and protect the watershed.


I know there is a need to provide senior housing, but why put 86 units in the watershed? And why pave all those parking areas when there is such a concern for issues such as run-off into the streams and rivers? It makes little sense to me. The WSSC has spent the last 30 years trying to purchase all the land around the Patuxent River and has been trying to discourage development in the watershed; now along comes this project which puts 86 units on 9.5 acres of land. The exisitng 90 homes between Rt 198 and the River are spread out over 1,000 acres. This kind of density is wrong for this location.

I question why the County is advocating this kind of use in the first place. I understand assisted housing for the elderly. I understand nursing homes for people who need help. But this is just a housing development. There are no plans for nursing care or support services. I don't see why the County has chosen to advocate for a Condo development for people over 62. Why is this a special use? Why wouldn't any Condo be appropriate for someone of that age? What is the logic behind the County endorsing a Condo Community that excludes people under 62? How does that serve the needs of an aging population? It sounds like the County thinks elderly people are a cranky population who want to isolate themselves and live amongst their own.


As I edge closer to that age myself, the thought of "retiring" to a "community" of people who are all the same age seems to contradict the very nature of community Montgomery County should be interested in building.

Here's a thought: why not use that land that is designated as rural cluster for a true rural use? Why not open it up for community gardens or a CSA....something that people around here would really enjoy and benefit from. Look how people have flocked to the Dutch Market because they see the value in home grown crops. As gas and food prices skyrocket there is a whole movement towards buying (and growing) your own food locally and not getting in your car everytime you need to go somewhere....and guess what: that would be a rural use.

Come to think of it. There is farming and a produce stand there now.

Anonymous said...

Cavan said...

Dan,
That's fair. Thank you for clueing me in on more recent developments in that company's business model. I applaud them for adjusting to the times.

Changing the subject, I stand by my comments about sprawl creating traffic, rather than development creating traffic. Most of the negative consequences that most have come to associate with "development" are associated with auto-dependent sprawl development. Buildings built on a street grid and served by transit do not induce traffic like detached auto-dependent environments.

August 01, 2008 2:40 PM

RE: Heavy traffic will continue to be an existence whether they develop outside city limits or not There are SEVERAL Rural Roads that have mass backup traffic and there is little to no development along the corridors. The issue is that Montgomery County FAILED to complete Highway building/widening projects in which it forces commuters to drive on rural back roads such as MD 108,MD115, and MD 28/198 Connector.

Anonymous said...

barrylou said...

What I find sad is the developer said this spot was chosen because there are very few open spaces left in Eastern Montgomery County.


First off, I don't think this is correct and secondly, have we so completely abandoned the value of green space and open land that the only thing we can think of to do with it is to build on it? Somehow our culture has reduced forest and land as only being important for its potential for making money. The reason this strip of land remains rural is because it is in the Patuxent River Watershed and should be protected.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family lives on Dustin Road--but on the far western side that used to be all farmland and forest. We won't be impacted by the development much--except perhaps for added traffic and congestion as a result of doubling the density by building this here. But we are concerned about how that density affects the watershed and I think this is something that everyone should be concerned about. One by one, we've seen the larger properties sold off and subdivided into smaller lots--but still with RC zoning of five acres because of the need to keep the area rural and protect the watershed.


I know there is a need to provide senior housing, but why put 86 units in the watershed? And why pave all those parking areas when there is such a concern for issues such as run-off into the streams and rivers? It makes little sense to me. The WSSC has spent the last 30 years trying to purchase all the land around the Patuxent River and has been trying to discourage development in the watershed; now along comes this project which puts 86 units on 9.5 acres of land. The exisitng 90 homes between Rt 198 and the River are spread out over 1,000 acres. This kind of density is wrong for this location.

I question why the County is advocating this kind of use in the first place. I understand assisted housing for the elderly. I understand nursing homes for people who need help. But this is just a housing development. There are no plans for nursing care or support services. I don't see why the County has chosen to advocate for a Condo development for people over 62. Why is this a special use? Why wouldn't any Condo be appropriate for someone of that age? What is the logic behind the County endorsing a Condo Community that excludes people under 62? How does that serve the needs of an aging population? It sounds like the County thinks elderly people are a cranky population who want to isolate themselves and live amongst their own.


As I edge closer to that age myself, the thought of "retiring" to a "community" of people who are all the same age seems to contradict the very nature of community Montgomery County should be interested in building.

Here's a thought: why not use that land that is designated as rural cluster for a true rural use? Why not open it up for community gardens or a CSA....something that people around here would really enjoy and benefit from. Look how people have flocked to the Dutch Market because they see the value in home grown crops. As gas and food prices skyrocket there is a whole movement towards buying (and growing) your own food locally and not getting in your car everytime you need to go somewhere....and guess what: that would be a rural use.

Come to think of it. There is farming and a produce stand there now.

August 01, 2008 2:42 PM

RE: Somewhere in that statement reads Contradiction.......

Thomas Hardman said...

barrylou makes an excellent point.

Montgomery County is in danger (I guess that's the word, more or less) of becoming a very non-diverse place in terms of age groups.

From where I sit -- about three stones' throws from Leisure World -- "East MoCo" is practically two different countries.

I'm at the bottom end of the Baby Boom, having just turned 50. In this particular neighborhood where the average family stays in the same home for about 8 years, I've watched people moving in and people moving out, and have only a few remaining homeboys from back in the day. These mostly are folks who grew up here, graduated from my high school, moved out into the world, and then for some reason moved back into the neighborhood, perhaps to take over the family home after their parents passed on either from this world, or to Leisure World.

Over the years, I have watched an awful lot of the parents of my homeboys moving on to Leisure World, though generally they sell their place to someone looking to move in from out-of-town. And so the character of the neighborhood hasn't much changed -- it's still the sort of place that is more or less affordable to police officers of middle rank or career Federal workers or people who own their own successful small business -- but the demographics have changed.

There are almost no people of northern-european ancestry left, if you ignore the sort of folks who live here only because they got kicked out of Baltimore for being too much of an asshole. Within about 6 to 12 years from now, the overwhelming majority demographic will be children born in the US to parents quasi-legally here from Central America, primarily El Salvador. And if I am properly translating El Tiempo Latino and La Prensa, the second they turn 18 they will overwhelmingly vote to officially make MoCo what it is unofficially called in San Salvador, "the Fifteenth Province". When you consider that approximately one-fifth to one-fourth of all working-age Salvadoran nationals are residing in the US, and that most of the rest who remain in El Salvador are effectively unemployed, that "fifteenth province" carries a lot of weight in the affairs of that nation and raza.

And when that 12 years has gone by, like the vast majority of MoCo's northern-european-ancestry population, I will be 62... and remember, I am at the young edge of that demographic.

I'm sure that we doddering relics -- of a day when the vast majority of MoCo were English-speaking "anglos" -- will be very happy to have our little enclaves reserved for ourselves. Well, that may be true for most people, but if the Power is willing I shall be taking care of myself in my own house for so long as I can. But how I have strayed from my point.

Many of these places such as Leisure World or other Retirement Communities are serving a purpose, of absorbing the immense demographic bulge of the Baby Boom, and concentrating the populations whose needs will likely only increase and concentrating them near to major facilities such as hospitals is sensible. Indeed, it might make a certain amount of sense -- if sense were an operant factor in the plans of developers and the Planning Board -- to promote infill development of Elder Care high-density housing/care facilities quite near to hospitals. Yet, are we seeing this? Not in this case, as best I can tell, unless perhaps there are plans for a new hospital in or near Columbia.

In any case, for years after my own birth, the numbers of the elderly will probably begin to decline somewhat, and those born anytime much after the time of the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision put the cap on the previous gains in the Reproductive Rights movement and allowed us native-born citizens of that era to achieve Zero Population Growth, the numbers of the elderly needing major care will decline to a very predictable steady state. What will we do with all of the capacity we're adding now, once there are no longer enough elderly to fill Leisure World and Florida?

I expect that a lot of these places might become condos for the wealthy, where they can "age in place", but maybe not. Demographics will be stood on its head Real Soon Now, as it were. Last year recorded the highest number ever of live births in the US, surpassing the peak of the Baby Boom years by a wide margin. We can just wait a century, and a little fixing-up can repurpose these places again to the needs of an immense elderly population... assuming that at the end of the century we haven't all died of bird-flu or resorted to cannibalism in order to reduce the population (and eat) after the fuel for our utterly mechanized means of food production and distribution is exhausted by the immense population explosion that began in the early years of the twenty-first century.

To conclude, "what, me worry?" Will it matter in a hundred years? If so, most importantly, to whom.


So

Tom Norris said...

Special Exception for 86 units of Senior Housing:

I was disappointed to see so much anger and deliberate disinformation displayed at this meeting to discuss a small Senior Housing Project. It was obvious from the start that there was an orchestrated campaign of falsehood and misinformation taking place.

Consequently, as the developer, and a participant at this meeting, it is my responsibility to correct a number of false and misleading statements that have been put forth.

1. The first correction that must be made is the name of the builder; it is Ryan Homes, not Ryland as incorrectly reported.

2. The second error is to pretend that this is a "high density" project when it is not. In 1998, the County Planners recommended approval for 291 units, in three, four story buildings on this same parcel. (Special Exception S-2322). While the County planners made the determination that this site was compatible and necessary, the Board of Appeals did not approve the submission because neither the ICC nor the new Rt. 29 had been funded or finalized as yet.

While 291 units on 10 acres does indeed represent "high density," our proposal of 86 units on the same site cannot possibly be placed in that same category and it is misleading to pretend otherwise. This is NOT a high-density project, especially for 10 acres surrounded by highway on three sides and anchored by two Shopping Centers to the South.

3. Another error promoted at this meeting was to pretend that this project is in an agriculture zone. It is not. The Rural Cluster is a residential zone that is different from the agriculture zone and this fact needs to be honestly acknowledged. It is not a point of debate.

4. Furthermore, it is not true that this project would harm the watershed, nor open the door to large amounts of future development. This area already has very strict guidelines in place to protect the watershed, and these rules are not mitigated, revised, or removed in any way by the use of Sewer in this area as some claimed.

This is just another dishonest diversion by those who want to stop all development, ignore the shortage of Senior Housing, and allow the County's tax base to erode away. For what purpose?

Moreover, it is a fact that there is very little land left to develop in this area. Why? Because there are so many streams, which are protected by the PMA restrictions that are in place to protect the watershed. This greatly reduces the available land for development.

So here is yet another false argument that must be corrected. There is very little development possible in the Burtonsville area because of the extremely tough environmental regulations. And this project does not change this fact.

5. While some also tried to raise an incompatibility issue, it cannot be denied that this property is surrounded by major highways on three sides, even as there are a number of commercial sites and churches to the West and South, including two large shopping centers. This area north of the Shopping Center is obviously neglected and thus it needs revitalization because the status quo is well below the standards of most other areas in the County.

Moreover, this claim that a 4-story building is too high for the neighborhood is only wishful thinking, as a dispassionate view of the skyline will prove. In fact, abutting this land to the North is a very visible 50' fire tower, which is close to the street and in full view of those on both the old and new 29.

This tower has been there for many years in plain view of the neighborhood. Has anyone complained that it is too high or taken action to remove this tall structure? This tower has become a fixture and a landmark in the community, and thus it is not correct to try and claim that anything as high as 4 stories is not compatible with the neighborhood. That is obviously not the case.

In addition to this tall tower, there is another, even taller structure further south; here is a 60' Communications Tower for all to see. But there is more. This second tower is followed by a number of very high, and very visible towers of gigantic proportions a little more south. Thus, there are a number of 12 story transmission towers that cross both the old and the new 29, behind the shopping center. They are very visible throughout the entire neighborhood.

For anyone to ignore these numerous and very large 12 story towers, along with their accompanying strings of wires in the sky, is utter nonsense. Why pretend that they don't exist, and why ignore the shopping center, with its 4 story office buildings or pretend that this area is not full of many tall towers?

This is not a little county area anymore, and there is no use pretending otherwise in order to push the seniors away from the Eastern part of the County. Don't they have a right to live in the County?

The fact of the matter is that this community is full of tall towers-- all in excess of 4 stories. The Community also contains a pair of 4 story office buildings and a large-4 story Giant Food Store. Such obvious facts disprove this notion of height incompatibility. It was just another excuse to stop any and all development, no matter how necessary or lawful. This is shameful behavior.

If ever there were a site that works for Senior Housing, this would be it. Patuxent Ridge is a low-density, clean and quiet project that would be an asset to any Community or County. The project will also be connected to the Shopping center by a sidewalk, which will give some additional and much needed character to this neglected portion of the neighborhood.

6. While it is true that no one stood up to defend the project at the meeting, it was only because the crowd was so hostile and rude. I am pleased to say that after the meeting numerous people came up to me and apologized for the lack of civility. (Some even called later). A number said they supported the project, but they had no desire to stand up in such a hostile environment and be ridiculed by those with such a rigid and uninformed agenda.

So it is very misleading and false for anyone to write: "None of the local residents attending the meeting voiced approval of these plans." Like so many others things that have been said, this is not true, even though it was unfortunately correct to state that "at times the exchange became a little heated."

In conclusion, the County is falling far behind in Senior Housing. The present situation forces many to move to the adjacent Counties where there are numerous choices available for such Active Adult projects. However, this unnecessary erosion of the tax base will drive up taxes for the rest of us, even as it separates us from those that are forced to retire in other locations outside the County. This makes no sense.

This senior project is low density. It has been reduced from 291 to 86 units. It is compatible with this unique configuration of land that is surrounded by highways on the North, East, and West as well as a Shopping Center to the South. It is a smart use of the little remaining land that is left in this area.

I hope this information will clear up some of the propaganda that has been so irresponsibly promoted by some. It is obvious to many that the Burtonsville area needs to be dramatically improved and rehabilitated, and this small Senior Project is a good start.

Neither the County, nor the Community, should ignore the growing needs of its Senior Citizens. As the Baby Boomers age, they should not be discriminated against, nor pushed out of the Eastern part of the County by those with other agendas. Such action is obviously against public policy as well as common sense and decency.

I think the Burtonsville Community can do better. I think they should do more to encourage Senior Housing, not less.

Thank you for allowing me to correct the record and share my viewpoints.

Tom Norris, for Patuexent Ridge,LLC
301-439-1066

barrylou said...

First of all, my apologies on misidentifying the name of the builder in my posting on the library meeting last week. Mea culpa.

I've never reported on anything like this before and I tried to paint an accurate picture of what I saw and heard at the meeting. Emotions were heated because this proposed development represents a big change to the neighborhood. The comments I heard voiced were all against this proposal. People had all sorts of questions and concerns and I did not include them all in my summary. I thought the point of the meeting was to present the developer's plan to the community and listen to the community's concerns. I don't know if it is fair for the developer to characterize people's opinions as propaganda; the questions people raised were valid ones.

No one said that seniors don't have a right to live in the County; people were saying that there should not be development in the watershed and this project should be built next to public transportation and sewer lines.....not in RC zoned land.

I was one of the people who introduced myself to the builder and the land planning consultant after their presentations and I personally thanked them both for appearing, recognizing that they stood before a fairly hostile audience. I appreciate their willingness to address the neighbors, but I think the community's concerns were genuine and heart-felt.

As for the density issue, 86 units and 156 parking spaces is certainly less than 291 units, but if there are only 90 homes in the entire corridor between 198 and the Patuxent River now, building 86 units on a 9.5 acre parcel does doubles the density overnight. Many people think this area is already thick with traffic and congestion.

The developer is correct that the property is not in the Agricultural Preserve which is located in Western Montgomery County, but it is in the area that Montgomery County defines as an "agricultural wedge" and is in the Rural Cluster Zone (one house per 5 acres). The property is also in the watershed. I consider building 86 units on a property that is zoned for one home to be high density.

It is unfair to compare the impact of the fire tower with what is being proposed. That tower was there before most of the houses in the area were built, whereas this development is new and will have an impact on the area.

Personally, I am thankful for the streams and creeks that empty into the Patuxent River because, like so many of my neighbors, I live here because of the rural feel this area offers and the green space the watershed was meant to insure. The very fact that this corridor is filled with streams that flow into the Patuxent is why there is a lot of concern from the neighbors....and that concern was voiced repeatedly at the meeting.

I recognize that builders, developers and property owners would like to maximize their profit on their investment, but just because the land is vacant does not make it "neglected" and in "need of revitalization and development."

I would like to ratchet down the name calling and ill will and have an honest and civil discussion about the plans that were presented. The developer has a right to be heard and the neighbors have a right to respond.

Thomas Hardman said...

I'd agree with the developer that Burtonsville is in fairly desperate need of some revitalization, or rehabilitation and improvement. However, as I've stated elsewhere in recent days, anything much north of the intersection of MD-198 and US-29 should be left in more or less the present state.

There's seems to be this prevailing notion among a lot of developers that amounts to Corbusierianism; they have a property in mind and they have a design or set of possible designs in mind, and like Corbusier, frequently they seem to have the idea that what's important is the facility, and never the context or the continuum.

Or, worse still, you have the people who are only concerned about maintaining the extant continuum or gestalt, but who don't stop to see how the local gestalt fits into the greater gestalt. The classic case for that one is the new townhomes ploppd down in Redland just east of the intersection of Shady Grove Road and Muncaster Mill. They're perfectly sited, or so you'd think, in terms of the walkability to the stores right across the street... but they also make it impossible to rationalize transportation in Redland, and the lack of rationalized transportation and roads means that there's endless traffic and congestion on dangerous curves that are very hostile to pedestrians.

Burtonsville, as we all know, has a screaming need to have its transportation system and infrastructure rationalized. This really needs to happen before any other development is considered. Right now, the State Highway Administration is planning public hearings and accepting input from a variety of sources on new alignments for the MD-28/MD-198 corridor. There's significant room for improvement and it's pretty likely that the obvious realignment near Burtonsville will be favored, even if not actually finalized. "Downtown" Burtonsville has an immense traffic problem mostly because the state highway goes through it, rather than around it. The most reasonable re-alignment is almost perfectly east-west to the north of town,, west of US-29.

Why mention this?

Well, why build an Active Seniors facility where any new road construction from Realignment would be more or less going right past the front door?

This isn't a bad project, but in my opinion, it's premature.

Let's say that the road realignment never happens and Burtonsville west of 29 is totally unchanged. The place is a madhouse already for most of the daylight hours, due to the high volume of traffic on MD-198 west of US-29. Adding 80 or so "seniors" driving safely and cautiously through the madhouse of "west Burtonsville" isn't going to improve the situation, which at present frankly calls for a steely determination and catlike reflexes, not to mention good gearing, tires, and brakes.

So, let's all start working together on a plan to get MD-198 realigned to something rational that can support additional development in the area. We will definitely be needing more facilities in East MoCo for our aging Baby Boomers, whether those facilities are residential or mostly daytime operations. We're also going to need surface streets that can handle all of the driving traffic as well as being amenable to stop-and-go public transit vehicles. But all of this is in the future, and it needs to develop as a plan rather than as one thing at a time being plopped into place and making it harder to restructure and rationalize Burtonsville into something more suited to the 21st Century and not so much stuck in the early 1940s.

rickyr1983 said...

Thomas Hardman,

You're beginning to show your xenophobic and dare I say, RACIST, views.

The idea that the English language is disappearing from Montgomery County is simply laughable. In the US's short history, first-generation immigrants have always and often struggled with the English language or kept to themselves in ethnic enclaves. Especially blue-collar ones, which make up the bulk of the residents in the Aspen Hill area. But guess what? Their children almost ALWAYS learn English and speak English just fine. The bemoaning of the loss of "Northern Europeans" is also suspect. Are Northern European Americans the only Americans of value? Who cares who's of what descent? I thought the point of America wasn't where you came from but that you had a love for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

As for this project, I have to ask why does this condo have to be senior only? Don't we have enough senior communities with Riderwood, Asbury and Leisureworld? Why not make a specific number of the units available for seniors and open the rest to the public? The idea that seniors need their own place to live is hilariously stupid. In other parts of the world, old folks live alongside their younger family members their whole lives and they're just fine.

Thomas Hardman said...

Rickyr1983,

I'm not surprised that someone for whom English is a second language can't read adult level English. Don't feel bad, neither can one third of US college graduates read "deeply".

That your repertoire for expressing political disagreement consists only of squawking "racist and xenophobic" does not at all surprise me. That evidently the blog owner deleted a post full of history on why we have retirement centers at all in their current form actually astounds me as nothing else has in years.

Retirement centers evolved mostly as a racist and xenophobic reaction to German-American culture which tended to build retirement homes on their own properties to house the elders so that they wouldn't be disturbed by the very active life of the traditionally extremely large families. We quite frequently live to very ripe old ages and tended to simply build more houses on our own properties. The "English" didn't; they had a tradition where people didn't get married until the man had his own house and generally those houses were on different properties, very much like the modern pattern of people moving out into a house across town or in another part of the country.

The "English" didn't like the German-American habits of simply filling up the yard with spare houses, and legislated against it. This is the origin of most of Montgomery County's Housing Code.

Since we had to put our elderly somewhere, and generally nobody could see the point of buying an entire house suitable for a raising a large family and populating it with only an empty-nester elderly couple, someone came up with the idea of retirement communities, which can be immensely taxed and the properties resold multiple times with a very high turnover rate. Realtors love it, the management loves it, especially the county tax collector loves it.

As time went on, what started as discrimination against "immigrants" (for which read, German-Americans and Irish-Americans and Catholics in general) came to be thought of as the natural course of life.

As you point out, in most of the world, the idea that people would send their parents off to die in an old-folks home and leave them there for actual decades, that's unthinkable and generally viewed as practically sinful.

Yet, the elderly have become accustomed to the idea, and the powers-that-be make buttloads of money off of it so that's what we shall have.

So, when is the County Council and the powers-which-are going to start enforcing laws prohibiting "dawdy houses" (traditional houses for the elderly built in the same yard as their former home) against people other than German-Americans?

I call that failure to enforce nothing but blatant institutionalised racism against German-Americans and other people who traditionally cared for their elders at home rather than buying into this newly manufactured institution of "Retirement Communities (tm), Inc".

Dan Reed said...

What?

Seriously, what? You have completely and utterly lost me.

Thomas Hardman said...

Dan, sorry about losing you. Let me try this again.

A previous post was deleted, if it wasn't you, better change your password. I saw it accepted and on the page. It's gone now.

There was once a tradition which dated back to the colonial days. This was called "the dawdy house".

Basically, a homesteader would build a house, have lots of kids, and in a tradition dating back to the day of indentured servitude (pre-revolutionary to maybe the 1830s) there was consolidation of income and densification of habitation.

Eventually, the parents would get a bit too frail to be living in the same space with perhaps 3 generations of descendants. The tradition was to build a house out back for the elders. This was the "dawdy house". As each generation aged, they got their own house out in the back yard. See also the houses built at King Farm for the kids, this is sort of the reverse of that.

Some people got really tired of this, and considering that the American subculture which had been doing this the longest was the German-American culture, they had the largest numbers affected when new occupancy and housing codes were enacted in the then-semi-rural Montgomery County (and other jurisdictions as well). In urban areas this disproportionately affected Irish-American and Italo-American (and their immigrant parents) families. But basically the government said "only one family can live in one house" and the way it was done, it totally disrupted the ideal of the "dawdy house" which was to build a second house for the retirement of the elderly of a family, where they could have a place appropriate to the couple. It would give them privacy, be screened from the road and the hustle of business and community other than what they might choose to seek. It would "keep them out of the hair" of the younger generation but they would be available for the consultation of the elders if the "current generation" wanted that.

This is not an uncommon pattern throughout the world.

I don't know what happened, not exactly, maybe the rich landowners of Montgomery just got tired of old folks living in small houses in everyone's back yards. But "accessory apartments" and "accessory buildings" became almost anathema to the County Code. At almost exactly the same time that such arrangements became legally deprecated, fortuitously such places as "retirement communities" started to pop up. It's a very recent invention and very American. Retiring to Florida didn't start until maybe the 1930s when the swamp-filling efforts got started in earnest.

Due to settlement patterns, and cultural precepts inherited from the Old Country, different people had different approaches.

In particular, the English tradition came from an island and they had the notion that until a couple had their own place, they oughtn't to reproduce. The logic of this is that it helps keep the population in slow-growth mode on an island with limited resources and low mortality rate. But this wasn't understood this way, it was just a cultural precept that people didn't start a family nor end one on the property of their parents. Other cultures had other ideas. Most of the Continental Europeans had the idea of multi-generational shared domicile.

If this is confusing you, go ask the Amish at the market how they house their elderly. Then once they tell you, try waxing lyrical about the benefits and wonders of Retirement Communities. They may have some curious questions about the concept of "retirement" and "active seniors" may come across to them as an oxymoron. If you think I've lost you in the discussion, you may come away from them wondering how we got from the way they live -- and almost everyone else in the world lives -- to our present situation where there's a huge industry creating enclaves for old folks where mostly all they see is other old folks and all of their money goes into the industry rather than being conserved to the family, as was traditional here at one time, and is traditional in almost all cultures outside of the US and places influenced by the modern US.

But my point, strange as it may seem if you don't understand the precursors in the debate, is that a lot of the County Code dealing with home occupancy came about at a time when two World Wars pitted the hardcore English Speaking English-American Tradition people against "them darned foreigners", some of whom had been here since the Revolutionary War and still persisted in living in Old Country ways and speaking in Old Country languages at home. The way to destroy the danger of German Influence (this goal was spoken of openly as being both desirable and patriotic) was to destroy the core family, and that meant that you limited the number of buildings on a property, you limited the number of occupants, and effectively you made it impossible to have the 3 to 4 generations in cohabitation which ensure transmission and perpetuation of culture.

Thus, County Code enforces a sort of synthetic, manufactured, marketable, and taxable industrial culture. Schools are big money, young adults are big money, parents with kids are big money, etc. The days when Traditionalist Old Country culture families could live all in one house to save money and retain wealth across generations are illegal... for some people.

See also the well-known anti-german sentiments which afflicted German Americans through WWI and WWII. Of the once vibrant Germanic culture which at one time comprised almost a third of all US-born American citizens, almost nothing remains except the Amish, and they remain only because of religious exceptions... which so far as I know, they can't get in MoCo.

Thomas Hardman said...

Sorry to follow myself:

See also http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/lp/ges/en1544734.htm
and more informatively, http://www-lib.iupui.edu/kade/adams/toc.html

A lot of people who came to the US since the 1960s or 1970s have very little idea of the ethnic animosities that existed here before that time.

rickyr1983 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rickyr1983 said...

Oh, thank you for the history of the nursing/retirement homes.

I'm partly of Portuguese descent and we don't throw our old folks away in retirement homes, unless they're truly ill and need constant medical attention. I've always found the nursing home trend in America to be quite callous and cruel.

rickyr1983 said...

Thomas,

What on earth makes you think that English isn't my FIRST language?

You're only proving me right. I don't know how else to take comments that bemoan the "loss" of Americans of Northern European descent and view the influx of latinos and other minorities as an erosion of the "good ol' days." Not to mention your preposterous claims that Salvadorans would make MoCo their 15 district or that the English language is in danger of disappearing from Montgomery County. Give me a break.

I'm not one to throw out the racist and xenophobic labels, but if the shoe fits, wear it.

Thomas Hardman said...

Ricky1983,

I think it's a reasonable presumption that Portuguese was your first language -- and I am not knocking either Portuguese as a language, nor Portugal as a nation nor would I cast aspersions on the nation of Brazil or other former colonies of Portugal.

Your blog, despite the fact that you've changed the text color to be the same as the background color, is still easily readable if you "view page source".

In the meantime, try to not plead ignorance: you may not be able to do so once you read Raphaƫlle Bail's article on the Salvadoran Diaspora It seems that "La Prensa Grafica" -- a major Salvadoran newspaper -- has a section devoted to Departamento 15. Heck, why don't you just go ahead and read the La Prensa Departamento 15 website? It's pretty blatant. It's big business.

Further, you are either not a clear thinker, or you are attempting to set up and defeat a strawman. Such rhetorical ploys are things to which I have become accustomed, sadly they require an answer which makes for an effective troll from the topic of discussion.

I don't in any way suggest that the English Language will disappear from Montgomery County as after all the English language is in fact the global language of science and business. More people are learning English now in China than speak it natively in Canada and the US combined.

I don't suggest but rather declare that on my street in Aspen Hill, while all of the children raised here do speak English well enough, their parents as a rule do not speak it well, and few speak it more than passably. This is particularly the case in the families originating in east Asia. I must point out that the majority of the African immigrant parents spoke English already when they came here, as it is the official language of about half of sub-saharan Africa.

Many of these adults don't have any elders to care for here in the States. As for the Spanish-speaking adults here, probably their elders back in the old country can not survive the rigors of an illegal entry to the US and US immigration law tends to prevent the importation of elderly unless the sponsors can demonstrate very significant financial resources. Thus, for perhaps the majority of Salvadorans (immigrant US citizens, or otherwise), their elderly remain at home, and with the migration of nearly a majority of all working-age Salvadorans to the USA, there's no need at present to build nursing homes for elderly Salvadorans; El Salvador itself is their retirement community, and those elders both enjoy the remittances sent home by their children, a lower cost of living than in the USA, and they are physically present to attend to legal affairs or maintenance of the family home.

Now put that in your pipe and smoke it. I actually study the issues and you parade your ignorance every time you call me a racist and a xenophobe. Try to stick to the subject at hand with only minor digressions, and incidentally, I find it a trifle hypocritical that you are calling people names when you betray your own xenophobia and contempt for a retirement system that many consider a grand tradition (even though it may not be that).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hardman

Reading your comments would be a lot easier it they were not endless and mindless rants but instead cohesive statements. I would have thought you would have learned from the last election where a geezer three times your age handily beat you. Don't beat down on other people for being ignorant and not able to read your garbage when the only person your garbage makes sense to is yourself.

Thomas Hardman said...

An anonymous coward suggests that I would not have lost an election to someone three times my age if I wrote in a manner easily read by persons without reading comprehension skills appropriate to any junior-high student.

Please allow me to assure the anonymous coward that Mr Praisner is not three times my age. Mr Praisner is 75; I am 50.

Evidently the anonymous coward is not only deficient in reading, but in math.

Further, I note that an article in the Post confirms a contention which Rick1983 characterized as ridiculous and xenophobic and racist:

[In the Under-5 Set, Minority Becoming the Majority, Aizenman, NC, the Washington Post, August 7, 2008]

A surge in Hispanic immigration over the past decade has dramatically altered the racial and ethnic composition of the region's youngest residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released today.

[ ... ]

The implications for governments and communities are wide-ranging, demographers said. As the current crop of youngsters reaches kindergarten age, school systems that would otherwise be losing students will continue to grow or remain stable. They will also need to accommodate an ever-larger number of students who were raised in immigrant households where English was not spoken. [Italics mine]

[ ... ]

n addition, although most Hispanic children younger than 5 are native-born U.S. citizens and therefore eligible for government health care and other benefits, research indicates that if their parents are not U.S. citizens, they will be less likely to claim assistance, said Michael Fix, director of studies at the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

"All of this really reinforces the importance for counties to increase their investment in early childhood development now," Fix said ."If you don't make that investment, one of the penalties you pay down the line is that you have kids in school who don't speak English well and whose overall performance lags behind."

Fix pointed to studies indicating that as many as 75 percent of elementary school children learning English as a second language were born in the United States.

"Even more worrisome is that over half of the English-as-a-second-language learners in high school were native born," Fix added. [Italics mine]

And so, anonymous coward who probably has also posted here as "Sanjay", note that my "rants" are in fact quite supportable. In this case, my "rant" is supported by none other than NC Aizenman of the Post.

Nice try, troll.

Thomas Hardman said...

Ah, boredom has caused me to notice that the anonymous coward is in even more astonishing logical error than I had noticed before.

In the recent race for County Council District 4 representative, I was not in any contest with Mr Praisner, a fine gentleman.

In fact, I was defeated by not only front-runner Mark Fennel, but by all other Republican candidates in the Republican primary. Indeed, the widespread perception is that I was the most-unpopular Republican candidate because I was far too Centrist.

In fact, most of my positions were comparable to those of Mr Praisner, a slow-growth champion and someone who was very concerned about the degradation of life in District 4's older suburbs where single-family homes were being turned into boarding houses far outside of County Code, and the streets were being turned into parking lots for tractor-trailers.

All this election proved is that you can't impress Republicans in Montgomery County if you're opposed to runaway over-development and enforcement of County Code. I was, probably because of my issues and concerns, the most-unpopular Republican in the race.

Thus, I have re-registered with the State Board of Elections as "unaffiliated".

Keep in mind that "unaffiliated" voters in Montgomery may outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined.

Time to go gather some signatures, anonymous coward.