Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Labels: agriculture, Bethesda, Bethesda Central Farm Market, cheese board, cheese plate, dairy, farm, farmstead cheese, Food Wine and Co., Piedmont, Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, sustainable, west virginia
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Steven Pearlstein's column in yesterday's Washington Post ("Road to growth is out of the exurbs") not only used local developers' favorite talking points, but advocated measures so extreme they could have been from a Communist dictatorship.
He called on the state of Maryland to appoint a "development authority" that could "buy and assemble land (by taking if necessary)."
But even the pedestrian parts of the article are off base.
In touting so-called "smart growth" within the Beltway, Pearlstein combined all of the easily-rebutted arguments with another familiar ingredient in these developer-friendly pieces: elitism.
Those businesses run by average Americans trying to keep their head above water and provide a better life for their kids along Route 1? "Marginal," says Pearlstein.
In fact, everything All-American along major roadways fails to impress him, as he scolds planners for daring to have allowed fast food restaurants, motels and strip malls to serve hungry and tired travelers of our state and interstate highways.
He has witnessed the error of your ways, and has descended from on high with not simply all the answers, but a draconian proposal to force you to agree with him.
First, he says, the market isn't working.
Developers have commented on my blog in the past, when I wrote about the fact that the only apartments built in Bethesda today (and there have been very few built in the last 10 years, if any) are luxury buildings, that those are simply "what the market will bear."
Now, Pearlstein and local developers are telling us that the market isn't working anymore (!!) and government must take an approach more fitting for a centrally-planned Communist state.
But let's consider the fact that the market actually is working.
Here's a scary thought for Pearlstein and his developer buddies: Rockville Pike, as it exists today, is working. Parking lots are filled up and down the Pike. Retailers and restaurants alike are drawing crowds. The area is walkable for the few who wish to do so. Most shopping centers have no vacancies along 355. If government stays out of the market and does nothing, this will continue for several more decades.
Citizens and consumers are happy. Business owners are happy.
Who's not happy?
Developers and the politicians they elect to office.
You see, as long as we're all happy about Rockville Pike the way it is, developers can't build more stuff. With profits rolling in, and zoning being what it [was], there was no reason for landowners to sell or redevelop shopping centers.
That's why the county (and the City of Rockville) both passed zoning overhauls that changed the game overnight. New zoning allows anything to go anywhere, and suddenly shopping centers are worth a lot more on the real estate market. Using simple Gordon Gekko psychology, they have changed real estate market behavior. That tidy profit the landlord was making from storefront leases can now be vastly multiplied with mixed-use development.
So it isn't the market at all, but government interference that is driving urbanization and high-density growth within Montgomery County's suburbs.
This is happening now. But Pearlstein and developers still aren't satisfied. It's not happening fast enough or on a large enough scale, they claim.
Pearlstein says it is time to "deal...with scores of owners of small parcels who may not want to sell, or [who] like things the way they are." And pesky "community opposition."
How to solve this annoying problem?
"[C]reate a Capital Region Redevelopment Authority whose director and board majority are appointed by the governor. Such an authority would need to have the power to borrow money, buy and assemble land (by taking if necessary), override local zoning in extraordinary circumstances," declares Pearlstein, conceding that this would be "heavyhanded intervention" by Maryland.
I'm not exactly sure how one responds to such a radical proposal. It makes Plan Maryland sound like a laissez faire document.
Just break it down: Can you imagine? An elected politician appointing people who serve at his pleasure - to have this much power to steer business within the real estate market? It is a recipe for corruption.
"Taking" land? The seizure of private property for a for-profit development is an abuse of eminent domain power. Of course eminent domain has a legitimate purpose in cases where the public good, health or safety is at stake (highways, railroads, hospitals, fire stations, etc.). Town centers do not qualify, but thanks to the misguided Supreme Court decision of recent years, this abuse of eminent domain continues.
"Override" local zoning authorities? Pearlstein seems to have forgotten that citizens are the boss, and government is supposed to serve us, not the other way around. Citizens have too little say in development decisions as it is. Pearlstein's proposal would leave us with none.
There's so much else in the article that just isn't so.
He also shares the opinion of developers and our elected officials that you should pay for infrastructure while developers walk away with tax breaks and the big profits.
For example, in White Flint, developers will pay less than a third of the infrastructure costs, leaving taxpayers to foot the majority of the bill. Your share in profits from that development? $0.
Pearlstein laments that developers were once "required to pay for" infrastructure. And rightly so, given that they and the politicians are the ones who get the revenue.
Now Pearlstein says that future infrastructure "must be a public expense agreed to by the voters and added to the tax bills of all landowners."
Ridiculous. This is why we need Responsible Growth, not Smart Growth.
Pearlstein promotes the tired idea that infill development of luxury condos will provide affordable housing for young adults.
News flash: "singles and young-marrieds" can't afford $2200 a month rents or $800,000 luxury condos.
He claims that families with children are seeking a "more urban," car-free lifestyle. Well, we all need a good laugh. Soccer moms who chaperone the team on Metrobus rather than the old SUV are the next wave in Pearlstein's world.
Shopping malls aren't part of that world, he says. "Shoppers no longer prefer them, retailers are abandoning them and developers are scrambling to tear them down."
Well, he got the third part of that sentence right.
As for the first two claims, has Pearlstein ever tried to find a parking space at Tyson's Corner during the holidays?
How does he explain that Westfield Montgomery and Wheaton are both fully-leased? With the exception of Borders going bankrupt nationally, so was White Flint.
It seems he needs to get out more often.
Shopping malls remain convenient, but developers are using media to influence the public otherwise.
If we tear down all car dealerships and repair shops as Pearlstein proposes, where will we all get our cars repaired?
The best course of action is to pursue Responsible Growth, where developers cover infrastructure costs with impact taxes. And where growth is approved when the infrastructure is in place to support it. We need better transit operations, but we also need to complete our highway system to serve the other 85% of current and future residents who will drive cars.
Ultimately, Pearlstein's central premise is backwards.
The exurbs will be where growth and economic opportunity lie if our politicians and developers keep on our current path, and adopt extreme measures such as those proposed by Pearlstein. Families are seeking convenient shopping and services, lower crime, backyards and affordable single-family homes on leafy, suburban streets. Why would you choose to take a two hour transit commute over sitting in highway traffic for one hour? Nothing in these "smart growth" proposals addresses these realities.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Monday, January 09, 2012
Check out these brand new photos of new menu items at The Parva. Chef Andy has done it again, and note that he continues to put the same effort into the presentation as he does the cuisine.
They've also updated the design of the main dining room.
Have you ever had a Pineapple on Fire for dessert? Ever sampled Hogao Paisa or Ajiaco Rolo?
Chef Andy journeyed across South America in search of the best recipes and ingredients. The results are now yours to try at The Parva!
Still one of the best-kept secrets in Bethesda, The Parva brings the authentic flavors of Colombia, Argentina and Peru - and a South Beach atmosphere - to 7904 Woodmont Avenue.