Montgomery County's outgoing Planning Board Chairman, Dr. Yes, and sidekick Rollin Stanley - in league with the developers and the County Council - are touting "smart" growth. This involves not only massive projects like White Flint (Carmageddon East) and Science City (Carmageddon West), but, increasingly, having your neighborhood's commercial strip bulldozed for a new "walkable town center."
Never mind that only 15% of residents use transit (and before you start criticizing, I am a supporter of transit, just not one who is out of touch with reality). But the "smart" growth plan is really about two things: more property taxes from more units with wealthier residents, and gradually reducing the number of single family homes and farms in the county.
Neighborhood shopping centers are gathering places for the neighborhood. "Smart" growth turns them into regional destinations, which actually increases congestion on roads.
Here are some quotes from a USA Today article on a new "smart" growth movement in China; tell me if they sound familiar to a Montgomery County resident:
"Wang [Weiguo]'s attitude is to bring on the bulldozers."
(In Montgomery County, we can say that in 3 letters: ZTA: Zoning Text Amendment).
"The [Chinese] government plans a makeover dubbed the 'Beijing Time Cultural City,' which will create a large public square, museum, shops and underground parking garage in the neighborhood." (!!!)
Critics call the resulting town center "soulless...just a film set."
(Like many failed "town centers" recently built in the county, right? The outstanding exception, of course, is Bethesda Row. Bethesda Row is an example of good planning, combined with a well-thought-out effort to match demographics with businesses that appeal to those individuals. Furthermore, while traffic in Bethesda continues to be a nightmare, the city does have the transit infrastructure in place. It was enhanced by adding the free Bethesda Circulator, which is a fantastic example of how the right transit options and design can increase usage and mobility).
(Some people in Beijing are being "relocated," just as many current residents and businesses will be shut out of the "new" Wheaton, and have been in the "new" Silver Spring. That's just plain wrong).
In short, a growth policy designed to solely benefit developers and politicians is wrong, no matter what country or county you are talking about. Another strategy, make transit expensive - but make driving super-expensive through artificial means (mileage tax, parking rates, parking tax - Nancy Floreen's was $250) to force you out of your car, draining your wallet on transit costs.
We need a new Growth Policy based on reality and sound planning, and that protects rural/suburban/urban livability, mobility, schools and the environment for all residents of Montgomery County - not just a select elite who can afford Lexus Lane tolls.
Join me in this crusade, to bring Change Beyond Belief to Montgomery County. The future of our towns and neighborhoods depends on it.