The case for toughness and "rightsizing" of growth at Westbard became weaker Thursday, when Berliner's letter became the centerpiece of a new email blast and social media campaign by developer Equity One.
Of course, Berliner's letter was already weak in several respects.
|"But wait- there's more! Send in your|
positive Westbard message now, and
Hans Riemer and I will throw in
this fabulous 9-piece steak knife set
as a bonus gift
- ABSOLUTELY FREE!!"
First and foremost, he utilized the now-infamous Rollin Stanley canard of, "They're coming." This argument is that a ton of people are converging on the D.C. area, and we must build housing to shelter them, at any sacrificial cost to our quality of life and tax bill.
To use polite language, this is complete baloney that defies all common sense. Even if X-amount of people traveled here, if we don't build housing for them, they will leave - and take their classroom and road-congesting selves to be another jurisdiction's problem. Period. They aren't going to camp out in the woods.
So we are under no pressure to add housing. Berliner's (and Stanley's) case is even weaker when you consider that, according to his Council colleague Marc Elrich, the actual population increase forecast can be fully accommodated by all of the development projects already approved by the Planning Board and Council. Period.
Then he says this:
|"Email us in the next 5 minutes,|
and Hans and I will throw in
another pocket park! How many
units would you expect to have dropped
into your neighborhood to get a postage
stamp park - 580? 1200? 2400?
Operators are standing by!!!!"
Huh? The whole idea of smart growth was to develop the areas around Metro stations at a higher density. There was nothing about high-density away from Metro, like the Westbard plan.
"Not all our housing needs can be accommodated there," is brazenly false. Downtown Bethesda has barely begun to redevelop, particularly in the Woodmont Triangle neighborhood. It would take at least 20 years to even make a dent in redeveloping downtown Bethesda near Metro - why in the world would we turn to Westbard for density at this early stage? Plan households "close to services, close to transit options?" Westbard is close to neither.
Is River Road a "major corridor"? If Berliner agrees it is, why does his plan fail to include a single project to increase automobile capacity along it?
Berliner says that if the plan the Council passes adds housing "without degrading the quality of life for the Westbard community, then we are planning appropriately for the future. And that is part of our job."
Well, it's pretty clear this plan would degrade the quality of life for residents - urbanizing a suburban neighborhood, further overcrowding schools, and dumping thousands more cars onto already-jammed roads.
The Council's real "job" is to protect their constituents from overdevelopment that would change the character of their community, as this plan clearly would do. That's why we pay them the Big Bucks. We're the boss, not the Council and not the developers.
The letter does give Westbard plan opponents another boost in credibilty, as Berliner acknowledges he has received "approximately 2,400 pieces of correspondence to date" on the Westbard plan. It's known for a fact that the overwhelming majority of that mail is against the plan, so you can do the math.
Berliner, who hosted an infrastructure summit almost preposterously accepts the promise that "we'll figure it out when we get there" from Council staff and Montgomery County Public Schools: "MCPS is confident that they can accommodate these new students without an undue burden on the system."
How can he say that, when he was on the dais when it was exposed that the ultra-vague plan to deal with the schools depends on not only millions and millions of magic dollars that haven't been appropriated, but also assumes that the U.S. economy will not go into recesssion before 2040. Would you put money on that gamble yourself? Not if you're smart.
Save Westbard, the volunteer organization representing residents of the affected neighborhoods around the plan area, responded to Berliner's letter yesterday.
Something interesting about this so-called compromise plan: Usually a compromise means both sides are unhappy to an extent. So far, the residents are unhappy. The developers seem totally fine with it. Isn't that an indication that the plan needs to be further downsized, until developers are also complaining? And then we will know that both sides have truly sacrificed, not just the residents.
Save Westbard's letter makes note of that:
"Equity One and [Capital Properties] are not the least bit disappointed with the modified plan as it now stands, but your constituents certainly are."
Responding to an unusual County Council move this week - describing thousands of their displeased constituents as "a small group" - Save Westbard sets the record straight:
"We are not the voice of a small group of disgruntled citizens. We are the voice for the vast majority of the people you represent in the neighborhoods that will be most affected by this redevelopment."
When an elected official's smiling face is beaming out at his constituents from the marketing materials of the developer his decisions determine the profits of, it's not a good look.