Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Residents protest Westbard plan outside - and inside - County Council building (Photos)

Residents opposed to the Westbard sector plan converged on the Montgomery County Council office building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville yesterday morning at 10:00 AM, for a third protest against an expected Council vote scheduled for May 3. The crowd filled the entire square in front of the building. A contingent of residents and businesspeople from Lyttonsville attended in solidarity with Westbard-area residents. Lyttonsville is currently being victimized by a developer-driven sector plan process as well, and the future of many small businesses there is in as much jeopardy as those at Westbard.

Only two councilmembers came out to meet with their constituents, Marc Elrich (D - At-large) and Roger Berliner (D - District 1). Elrich, who has made clear his opposition to the plan, was well-received by the crowd. Berliner? Not so much.

Ignoring questions from his constituents, he attempted to deliver another defense of his compromise plan, which was largely accepted by his colleagues in straw votes last month. But as one protester's sign noted, "half of too much is still too much." With 3550 people and nearly as many vehicles allowed in a 1.5 block area under the Berliner alternative, the core complaints of the community remain unaddressed.

Berliner's speech was really quite remarkable when you consider the way representative government is theoretically supposed to work. "I come here not because, quite frankly, I share your point of view, because I do not," he said. "And I'm sorry with respect to that." At that point, some in the crowd began booing.

It would seem that if a councilmember found that his constituents, for whom he works, do not support a plan, the best course of action would be to follow the advice of his constituents. Seek further reductions in height and density. And should his colleagues not agree to those changes, he could do the right thing and vote against the plan.

"I get that this is not a popular stand," Berliner told residents yesterday. So why is he taking a stand against his own people? It doesn't make any sense. What is the higher goal than protecting the quality of life of your own constituents?

I give credit to Berliner for having the guts to actually come outside and face the crowd. George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer were all hiding inside, unable to engage their consituents, who pay them six-figure salaries (of course, those three also told Olney residents to drop dead in 2014, when they blew off a long-scheduled debate hosted by the the Greater Olney Civic Association, leaving a packed room of residents who turned out stunned at the insult). And again, no one would dispute that the Berliner alternative is better than the original proposal.

But it would be more constructive to come out and say, "I hear you. What specific changes do we need to make for this plan to be acceptable to the community?" Instead, Berliner took a more confrontational approach, considering the sermonizing and condescending rhetoric he and Leventhal have addressed residents with has not gone over well to say the least. He couldn't have been surprised to be booed in response. Then he runs back inside.

The fundamental question is, where is the community's councilmember? Shouldn't overwhelming opposition suggest that a "No" vote is in order from the District 1 councilmember on May 3?


After the elected officials spoke, leaders of the Save Westbard citizen organization and residents took turns at the microphone. Cheers and chants often drowned out TV interviews being conducted by WTTG Fox 5 and MyMCMedia, among others. Bill Turque from the Washington Post was in attendance, as well.

Storming the gates
Eventually, the protesters made another very smart move. They entered the Council building, and made their way up to the third floor hearing room, where the Council was in session discussing how to cheat County employees out of already-negotiated benefits.



The protesters were quiet and respectful, and filed around the back of the room, as well as some of the seating area. Councilmembers initially seemed to ignore the silent protest. But as cameramen from two TV stations and MyMCMedia filmed inside the room, they began to realize that this negative story was going to be on the local TV news. Translation: Another public relations disaster for the Council.





With the involvement of major media outlets, people across the County and region are learning about the broken planning process in Montgomery County. We've seen development attorneys who give $250 checks to the Council President get to talk during worksessions, while residents have to sit quiet. And we're finding more out about the sausage-making process behind the scenes, such as private, inappropriate meetings between planning commissioners and developers. Those private meetings were not disclosed as is required by ex parte communications rules.

Councilmember Elrich's point about residents feeling they are "outside the process" is one of the most important to be made in this debate. I attended every single meeting held morning and night for a week in November 2014. The clear message of residents was to limit heights to 45-50', and for low-density development. That, and many other specific points were never reflected in the plan drawn up at the end. Yet the developers have private meetings, unlimited speaking time, and are getting what they want in the end.

Election Day 2018 could be a rude awakening for some on the Council.
















81 comments:

Anonymous said...

"leaders of the Save Westbard citizen organization and residents took turns at the microphone. Cheers and chants often drowned out TV interviews"

LOL, what morons.

Robert Dyer said...

5:16: Sounds like a normal protest to me. I realize it was a shock to your bosses' systems.

Anonymous said...

All politics is local. Appears like the Westbard vote was delayed just so Floreen could get through the MD primary and be elected a delegate for Hillary. She, Berliner, Leventhal and others will have a rude awakening in Nov. '18. Constituents don't forget these crucial votes that impact their everyday lives.
Kuddos to Elrich for his candor and values.

Anonymous said...

Residents don't oppose updated retail-they oppose a sector update that doesn't update the whole sector but is politically parsed to appease Equity One and Park Bethesda.
Fine, mixed use is the new wave since fixed retail is not renting like it used to. But if you have to put in new residential property be reasonable--not higher than 50 feet and no more than 580 units. Our schools and roads can't handle more than that.

Anonymous said...

According to other reports, the protesters shouted and wouldn't let Berliner speak, so he walked off. Is that true? If so, that's rather childish and un-civil of them.

Also, Berliner IS listening to his constituents, but you are assuming the Save Westbard people represent all the people who would be affected by this, and they are all opposed to this. That's false.

Finally, you suggest Berliner should ask the protesters what alternative they propose. When I look on the Save Westbard website, I see no alternative proposed at all: http://actnow.io/westbard

All it says is they are opposed, but they make no claim for what they want instead.

Robert Dyer said...

5:53: Save Westbard has given an alternative for months - 580 units, 50' height. The supporters of the plan are a small minority. Their petition had less names than the number of live bodies that have shown up in person for the protests against the plan. 1500+ people have written to oppose the plan.

Berliner only wanted to stay if he could give his sales pitch for the plan. Residents wanted him to answer questions and respond to their concerns, not make a condescending sermon about why urbanization is a great thing. I give him credit for coming out, though. Some of his colleagues were cowering inside.

Anonymous said...

There is no "pro Westbard plan" group of residents. That's fiction since they've never materialized. Bethesda residents are firmly and overwhelmingly against this insane plan.

Now, there is a pro-Westbard plan developer/PR/MoCo Council team. Those folks don't live in Westbard and are simply trying to maximize profits a campaign donations. That's great, but residents are having their say now.

Sad to see Berliner selling himself for cash money like this. I used to have respect for him!

Anonymous said...

I see all people of an older demographic who oppose any change, I'm not sure a vocal minority of 350 people speak for all of MoCo

Anonymous said...

6:12AM is testing Berliner's re-election campaign slogan: "I don't want no old people's votes"
I'd love to see how that turns out for him.

Anonymous said...

Do people really think that Westbard, as it exists today, represents the highest and best use of that property? I mean really. Why are developers any more greedy than any other corporation or business? They need to make money just like everyone else. I don't understand why people think developers are evil - its just a job some people have. If it werent for developers, how would anything get build...roads, infrastructure etc. I know they county isn't going to pay for that stuff. Even if they did, it would take them forever to get anything done.

People are certainly within their rights to express their concerns with the plan, but the ignorance of the financial implications is too bad.

Anonymous said...

6:17 AM Dispense with that straw man please. No one is against a better shopping center. They are against massive density & heights leading to overcrowded schools, jammed roads, lower quality of life and reduction in property values.

Robert Dyer said...

6:12: There are a number of young people visible in these photos. All meetings and events have been overwhelmingly against the plan in public input. Guess what - that means those opposed ARE THE MAJORITY.

This urbanization initiative is not for "all of MoCo", other than that all of MoCo will be taxed for the unfunded infrastructure. The plan affects the actual residents around "Westbard", and they are the ones whose opinions count.

Robert Dyer said...

6:17: Visit The Shops at Sumner Place or the Osborn Shopping Center in Upper Marlboro. Both updated without urbanizing the community. How do you explain that?

Robert Dyer said...

By the way, "ignorance of the financial implications" of unlimited growth has led to our County's structural budget deficit. And yet another massive set of tax hikes you'll be paying in FY 2017.

#MoCoTermLimits #ThrowTheBumsOut

Anonymous said...

"There are a number of young people visible in these photos"

HAHAHAHA

Hey look I'll even quote you: "STOP LYING"

Anonymous said...

6:17am

Dyer isn't really a free-market Republican. He's a pro-Big Brother Marxist.

Anonymous said...

"There are a number of young people visible in these photos."

Ha. I count a grand-total of 1 person not old enough to have AARP membership (in photo #14) and he's looking at his phone, not taking part in the craziness around him.

Robert Dyer said...

6:57: Upgrade your screen, there are several.

Anonymous said...

I see diversity. There are some blonde folks intermingled with the white haired folks.

Anonymous said...

Folks, I have been grey since my twenties. Forty now, still all grey and not old.

Anonymous said...

Why is Dyer against the development proposal for Lyttonsville? That will be adjacent to the Purple Line station. I thought he was all for "smart growth"?

Anonymous said...

I love Photo #28. The black-on-lime arrow in the top left corner seems to be saying "Look! Old grey head. LOL"

Anonymous said...

7:33 Try reading.

"Lyttonsville is currently being victimized by a developer-driven sector plan process as well, and the future of many small businesses there is in as much jeopardy as those at Westbard."

That is the position of Lytttonsville. That's why they came in support.
Do you even know where Lyttonsville is? Ever been there? Walked around the neighborhood? Been in the rec center?

Anonymous said...

Dyer, you and your Westbard cronies have an antiquated 1950's view of how the "suburbs" should be. Get real 350 people are not a majority of MoCo.

Anonymous said...

6:50 AM Confirmed again. Democrats hate senior citizens. It is your constant focus.
Get rid of old people so the young people can buy up all the real estate and shop in all the shops. The young are so filthy rich, it will be easy for them to sustain an entire county.
Good luck keeping the young people from growing old. Get that fountain of youth cranking fast.

Anonymous said...

The only change that is allowed to occur after a suburb is more than 10 years old is replacing an old strip mall with a new strip mall. McMansions are cool too as long as no one with young kids moves in and crowds the schools.

I am sure these folks protest every time one of their fellow protesters dies of old age and their house is bought by a family with kids.

Anonymous said...

"Upgrade your screen, there are several."

Upgrade your glasses. No there aren't.

Anonymous said...

7:43 AM And you are? Name? What are you so scared of?

In the 1950's Montgomery County was mostly farm land. Try to get some facts.

Anonymous said...

7:45 AM Going for the stupid award. More nasty comments about elderly from Democrats.

Existing housing is already programmed in to the school enrollment plan. Turn over is normal. What is not normal, was not predicted, and overcrowds schools is new construction where existing school capacity does not exist.

Anonymous said...

You have to wonder who would have to harp on people's age & what their signs look like. And wonder where they work. oooh, and maybe getting a little worried about Lyttonsville.

Anonymous said...

Ok I think I've got it. Behind the scenes deal making, little public input or real knowledge of the true high density plan, then a rapid vote to get everything jammed through thus limiting the opposition from really gaining any footing or regional attention. Too late! We are standing firm not going anywhere.Perhaps a stand-in at every council meeting is in order till these Urban craving socialists are eliminated one-by-one. Maybe a well organized , well publicized march in Annapolis is next? Hogan here we come. SaveWestbard!!!

Anonymous said...

Lyttonsville's NIMBY sure seems defensive.

Anonymous said...

Please stop equating hating old people to Democrats. There are Democrats in those protest photos that you so incorrectly disparage.
All these remarks to foster hatred and take the emphasis away from the actual issue. Could you BE any more obvious?

Anonymous said...

OMG! I saw a minority in the crowd. Oh wait, he's just the cameraman sent on a mission to film the Mormon protest. Or is that moron protest.

Anonymous said...

It's really funny how NIMBYs claim that private property owners wanting to develop their own property to the best use is "socialism".

Also, why would the Governor get involved? He's pro-developer.

Anonymous said...

See, 7:56, there you go making a fool of yourself. I'm 7:51 and I live in North Bethesda, not Lyttonsville.
Why so paranoid? Or do you realize a storm is coming?

Anonymous said...

@ 7:51 AM - you have to wonder about some guy who spends all his day on the Internet demanding to know where other people work.

Robert Dyer said...

7:43: Again, it is the majority who are opposed. No government action ever accounts for every single resident opinion. What can be measured, however, are numbers among those who participate in the public process. Time and again, no matter the format or event, opponents overwhelmingly outnumber supporters of the plan.

Anonymous said...

@8:00 am, just call it Rockville like it really is.

Anonymous said...

Aren't we always complaining about how the public school stock decreased when the population of school age children decreased? Seems that the amount of children in this neighborhood must have been higher at one point when those schools were still being used by the county.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 7:51 here again. You really are embarrassing yourself. I didn't "demand" anything, I wondered. I do that. I wonder. Just like I wonder:
What about the Westbard plan has you so freaked out? You don't seem to live there, so why is it all so important to say bad things about those who want to make their voices known? Do residential protests scare you? If you're so convinced they can do nothing to change the plan, why keep at them? Why not move on to the next pro-developer fight?
I'm just trying to understand.

Anonymous said...

8:18AM - FYI. It's not Rockville. The original sale of this house said "North Bethesda." It was seemingly changed when the postal mail was changed to the Rollins Ave post office from Bethesda.

Anonymous said...

Trump 2016!

Anonymous said...

ENOUGH IS TOO MUCH!!!

-I Love To Singa

Anonymous said...

@ 8:46 AM - I see some wonderful opportunities for a "Protest Warrior" type of

Some other suggestions:

"STOP THE CICADA INVASION!" would make another nice sign.

Anonymous said...

7:49 AM

"Going for the stupid award. More nasty comments about elderly from Democrats. "

Says the person not realizing that the vast majority of the people protesting are Democrats, supported by RINO Dyer.

Republicans wouldn't fiercely fight for more intense government regulation (in an already heavily-regulated county) on developers and other private sector entities.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I would call Dyer a "DINO". His views are too wildly inconsistent and contradictory to match any party.

He only runs as a Republican so that he does not have to face competitive primaries here in MoCo.

Anonymous said...

"DINO" S/B "RINO"

Anonymous said...

Lyttonsville is a very small historically African American community founded in 1853 and a suburban community in West Silver Spring. The future Purple Line will be going through here and we are "lucky" enough to host a Maintenance Yard, so we will get a station, less that 1/2 a mile away from another PL station on 16th Street. Coincidentally, there are 1500 apartment units already within walking distance from Lyttonsville PL station, along with 4 major job centers (Brookville Road Business District and the Fort Detrick Army Base, WSSC, and MoCoDOT Ride on Bus Depot) that provide 6000 jobs, as well as another 1000 or so single family homes, which makes for a fairly large built in population of prospective riders without needing to triple the density. The TOD is ALREADY in place.

As for NIMBY? That would imply that we are OK with this type of urbanization and hyper growth happening to someone else. We are not. And that is why we support Westbard and any other community that is getting supersized. And if NIMBY means that we fight for our homes, our investment and our communities, then yes, we are proud NIMBY.

Anonymous said...

VOTE THESE BUMS OUT!!!!!!! IF YOU DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS, YOU NEED TO BE OUT OF OFFICE.

If the Council wants urban centers, why don't they create some jobs first???

Anonymous said...

10:44

Seems like they listen to their constituents just fine (including yours truly) which is why they've been in office so long. Meanwhile selfish, self-centered NIMBY's will continue to protest as they always have...

Anonymous said...

11:19AM - just wait til they get to your neighborhood

Anonymous said...

@9:43 I'm not familar with Lyttonsville (any good restaurants there? would definitely stop by), but the population of the County is increasing, as is just about everywhere else in the US. So, we need more housing. Where should be put it. It sounds like Lyttonsville has it all -- good public transportation, jobs, and a mix of housing options. So people can work and live there, and easily commute. Isn't this the ideal place to put new housing?

It seems like the Westbard opponents are saying Westbard is NOT a good place for new housing because of lack of public transportation.

So, where are we supposed to add new housing? It seems like urban areas (Lyttonsville) don't want it, and suburban areas (Westbard) don't it. Where to then? There's not much more land left in the county, especially near public transport.

Anonymous said...

if these people are so concerned and against the idea of the buildings they should pay equityone what the property is worth, otherwise don't complain. If you have enough money to buy the spot you should have every right to do what you please with it. People love to complain about anything they can, in this situation they really have no right to. If schools get more populated than another school might have to be added creating more jobs. People don't like change but it is a necessary evil. The property values are too high to only put a 50' building, you try and pay Bethesda retail rent. They should be able to go as high as they legally can to make as much money as possible.

Anonymous said...

@1:04

Well put.

Anonymous said...

1:04 PM - "If you have enough money to buy the spot you should have every right to do what you please with it."

Since Equity One paid for the land they can do whatever they want? So why have a planning board or county council? What kind of libertarian newsletter do you subscribe to?

The rich can do whatever they want. No laws apply to them. We get it.

Anonymous said...

@12:52. Correction, Lyttonsville is NOT urban. It is suburban. We already have dense multi family housing. Lots of it. Putting in a whole lot more is crazy. Community, especially the small historical Lyttonsville community does not want to be surrounded by even denser apartments and flooded with traffic. We have a good balance right now and we want to keep it that way. Did we ask to have a PL stop? No, but I guess we are getting one because of the Yard and the built in dense population to supply transit line with prospective ridership. To say that we need to accept urbanization because the 2030 Group backed George Mason Center for Regional Analyses predicts (conveniently) hordes of people coming is nonsense. The 2030 Group has cooked these population growth predictions in order to further their needs. The 2030 Group who finances the George Mason Center for Regional Analyses reads like a who's who of developers and realtors. That should be the REAL news story.

Oh, and by the way, no need to come visit us.

Anonymous said...

@1:17

If you buy a house, and want to put an addition on it, don't you think that is your right? Should your neighbor have any say in how big it is or what it looks like as long as you are within your legal rights?

Anonymous said...

The community should have a say in developing a new sector plan.

I love that these Bethesda residents didn't roll over for the developer.
Certainly not a vocal minority, they're a vocal majority in this case :)

Anonymous said...

1:04
Spoken like a true out of towner..lol No specifics are given at all just your opinion to "go as high as they (you mean you? ) legally can" Also, the local schools which will be immediately overly jammed are Westland Middle, Whitman HS, BCC HS. Now you know the names at least if little else factually.

If you claim Equity One and Capital Properties overpaid for the different parcels not knowing the current zoning height and density limits, building and labor costs, things like that , they failed in their jobs. I doubt this is the case, there is plenty of profit to be made here. We want a modern village center.
Unless, residents start to boycott these stores after the next Big Dig? They've had police and tow trucks called on them. Then Sir, you'll be in trouble. Big trouble.

Anonymous said...

"Lyttonsville is NOT urban. It is suburban. We already have dense multi family housing."

In just three sentences, you managed to contradict yourself twice.

Anonymous said...

"Unless, residents start to boycott these stores after the next Big Dig? They've had police and tow trucks called on them. Then Sir, you'll be in trouble. Big trouble."

Are they boycotting the stores now?

Anonymous said...

Short term, the MoCo Council can do what it wants, no one can stop them.

Long term, Bethesda residents and like minded folks concerned about their neighborhoods hold the cards. Make it clear that a vote for this plan is disqualifying in the next election.

Losing power is the only thing Berliner, Leventhal and Reamer fear.

Anonymous said...

"Election Day 2018 could be a rude awakening for some on the Council." HA! I doubt the 350 angry NIMBY's will make a dent in the vote count, and nobody else in the County cares, at all. Maybe Dyer will get 350 votes when he runs in 2018!?!

Robert Dyer said...

12:52: The population of the County is not automatically "increasing" - it only increases if we build housing for that new population. So growth is completely under the control of the County Council.

Robert Dyer said...

3:45: The County Council actually ran the numbers on what they figure the total voting power of the Westbard area. We know this thanks to their toady who trolls this site, and is paid relatively handsomely to do so. He ran from the meeting room with this insider talking point all excited, and posted here that "them there NIMBYs are, uh, one billionth of ten percent of the electorate - they can never lose!"

Unfortunately, Sid Kramer made the same error in calculation before being demolished by Neal Potter in 1990, the last time we saw a multi-neighborhood populist uprising against the politicians who are part of the MoCo cartel.

Robert Dyer said...

1:04: No, limiting development on those properties does not constitute a "taking" because the owner does not currently hold the right to that taller height and greater density. So it is the Council which has the sole authority to grant or deny that added profit and value when it votes on May 3.

Anonymous said...

2:06 PM - quoting you:

If you buy a house, and want to put an addition on it, don't you think that is your right? Should your neighbor have any say in how big it is or what it looks like as long as you are within your legal rights?

2:06 PM

What weird libertarian island do you live on? All of us in the real word have to get permits and approval from the building department if we are adding additions to our homes. The county council decides legal rights. That is why people are appealing to the county council regarding building heights for the sector plan.

Anonymous said...

"Limiting development on those properties does not constitute a 'taking' because the owner does not currently hold the right to that taller height and greater density."

Dyer believes that rights come from the government? That doesn't sound Republican, that sounds Socialist.

Anonymous said...

Oh look, Berliner is a paid shill for Equity One now.
Reminds me of a $2 whore.

Anonymous said...

May 3 can't come soon enough.

The flood of NIMBY tears will be sweeter than honey.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:00 PM -

I suggest going to SmashBurger to celebrate.

Robert Dyer said...

8:02: Why not join Frank still waiting outside of Pizza Pass for a pizza? He's in luck - the pinball arcade will have a slice for him soon.

Anonymous said...

Dyer's lifetime achievement is reporting that Pizza Pass closed.

Too bad he got scooped on Soup Up, which had an even shorter lifespan.

LOL

Robert Dyer said...

10:08: More evidence of your deteriorating mental health. I was the first to report the closure of Soup Up.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that @ 9:43 AM is a very small non-historically African-American person.

Anonymous said...

Now, really! Who would bother to come to this blog and spout racist or hurtful comments out of the blue? Why would someone do that?

I wouldn't. I know a bunch of y'all are just bored folks at work, trying to get a laugh, but you're decent people. You bring your kids up with the right values. And I just don't see y'all coming here and flinging hate. Hate at individuals. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. I think some would be horrified if their kids read their posts and knew they were from their parent.

So who does that leave? Who would have reasons?

Anonymous said...

Minor clarification to 4:57 AM - S/B "...historically non-African-American person."

Dawayne said...

Ya'll can just stop talking race and thinking you know anything bout it. Period.

Anonymous said...

Some people aren't really all that they "post" to be.

Anonymous said...

Greater Greater much have touched a raw nerve there, they seem to be at point with the NIMBY groups whine, especially when it comes to the lead elephant. http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/30664/montgomery-county-isnt-really-waging-war-against-suburbia/