Saturday, March 12, 2016

Will County Council vote on Westbard plan before knowing true cost of Willett Branch naturalization?

Last Monday, Montgomery County's Parks Department presented a budget estimate of $4-6 million as the total expected cost of naturalizing the Willett Branch stream. Achieving this popular goal would require taxpayer funds, Legacy Open Space funding, and cash and land dedication by property owners and development firms. It's not yet clear who will pick up the tab if any of those, or other, entities fail to pay their share. And if there is a cost ceiling for the project, that would require it to be scuttled.

Adding to the confusion, is that the Montgomery County Council staff report is quite skeptical that the potential cost has been adequately estimated yet. It does in one place cite the $4-6 million figure, but conditions that by saying many of the total expenses involved "are currently unknown and difficult to estimate."

In a note on page 12 of the report, it is further stated that the County Department of Environmental Protection "advised M-NCPPC that providing stormwater management during the redevelopment process is top priority before initiating channel daylighting and naturalization.  Currently, the stream flows underground through private property and enters a concrete trapezoidal channel. To property naturalize the channel, the watershed would require significant stormwater management and establishing proper stream buffers to allow the stream to function more naturally. This effort is very expensive and is Iong-term vision for this area.  DEP is not able to project a financial impact at this time. M-NCPPC would need to acquire the property or place conditions on development to acquire the stream buffer and establish 100-year floodplain boundaries. This process would take years and likely require significant utility relocation.  This is a significant effort and the fiscal impact is dependent upon the redevelopment process."

This is not to say, by any means, that the naturalization project should not go forward. And we know that few capital projects end up costing less than expected, rather than more.

But one of dozens of things to watch in the coming weeks, is whether the Council votes on a plan without doing its due diligence in providing itself and the public with the true costs the plan will obligate the taxpayers to fund. Even a gorilla can raise his hand to vote yes or no, without knowing the implications. We're paying these folks six figures to do their homework, and act in a professional manner.

Suffice it to say, a department declaring a project "very expensive," but failing to present an itemized, highly-detailed budget estimate, does not inspire confidence that we know $4-6 million will be the true cost.


Anonymous said...

Dyer's positions on the Little Falls watershed are wildly and hilariously inconsistent.

1) Don't build a new pedestrian path near Hillandale Road to connect the Capital Crescent Trail with the Little Falls trail because it is "too close to Willetts Branch".

2) OMG, daylighting Willetts Branch will COST MONEY!

3) Build Little Falls Parkway as a four-lane highway all the way down to Clara Barton Parkway.

Robert Dyer said...

3:34: You're incoherent, and possibly under the influence of illegal substances.

1. The path that was canceled, Option A, was the alignment that was close to Willett Branch, not the Hillandale one.

2. The point of the article is that the full cost has not been itemized for taxpayers.

3. Never gave that as a "position".

"OMG", you're still "Dumass material all the way."