Friday, January 20, 2017

MoCo Councilman plotting new way to overcrowd roads, classrooms

Montgomery County's public schools and roads are already filled to overcapacity. The promise that unfettered residential growth would generate massive tax revenues has given way to the reality of a massive structural County budget deficit. Despite all that, County Councilman Hans Riemer wants to pack in as many more new residents as possible.

During a recent Twitter discussion, Riemer said he wanted to pursue a zoning change that would allow single-family home properties in the county to be subdivided into two residences, in the form of duplexes. Given that today's smaller families would easily fit into a duplex unit, Riemer's plan would massively increase the student generation rate in existing neighborhoods. Not to mention the impact on MoCo's traffic congestion, already rated the worst in America.


Riemer's exchange with pro-urbanization blogger Dan Reed requires some background to fully appreciate. Reed was at one time a staff member in Councilmember George Leventhal's office. Leventhal infamously called the suburbs "a mistake," and in a 2010 television appearance, displayed a rendering showing a single-family home being replaced by an apartment building. This dystopian vision for urbanization of existing SFH neighborhoods is one of the worst-kept secrets of the Montgomery County political cartel.

The bulldozing of single-family homes at the edges of current and future urban centers in the county will begin in areas where real estate values are lower - Aspen Hill, Twinbrook, Glenmont, Wheaton, and White Oak, for example. But what about places like Chevy Chase, East Bethesda and "Westbard," where teardowns get replaced with two-million-dollar homes? It's unlikely a development firm could afford to buy blocks worth of such homes in the 20814 and 20816 zip codes.

Reed memorably lamented this obstacle to bringing urban density to the suburbs a few years ago, and proposed a solution of converting large luxury homes (often derided by critics as "McMansions") into what would essentially be boarding houses with multiple units inside (however, it was not clear what sort of nuclear armageddon, Maoist cultural revolution, or similar catastrophe would have displaced the wealthy families who currently reside inside these homes).

So as Reed contemplated the million-dollar home obstacle in Chevy Chase again in late December, Riemer had a bright idea - what about duplexes? Twice the strain on schools and roads, and twice the drain on County revenues. What's not to like, right?

Remember, he's not talking about greenfield development. Riemer explicitly tweeted, "this is specifically single lot redevelopment."

For a guy who voted to urbanize the established, low-density "Westbard" area of Bethesda, while falsely claiming it was a "mile from two Metros," such zeal for overcrowding doesn't surprise.

But the exchange showed again how little California carpetbagger Riemer understands Montgomery County. 

Duplexes are considered lower-class, not desirable. And Riemer asked if there are "market examples" of duplexes in Montgomery County. He's obviously never made it to Aquarius in Aspen Hill, or Berry Street near Glenmont, to name just two. Not surprising for a guy who needs a GPS to find his way around the county. But those were new developments - Riemer is proposing retrofitting the whole county for duplexes. Good luck with that.

"I am going to look into this further," Riemer vowed. Given his disastrous record on liquor reform, food trucks, the "nighttime economy," and cybersecurity, those words are your cue to either chuckle...or run for the hills.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where have single family homes been "bulldozed"? All the new mixed-use developments - completed, under construction, or proposed - are in existing commercial districts, or older apartment complexes.

Robert Dyer said...

5:19: First of all, single-family homes were just bulldozed west of Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda. And a developer nearly bought up the Sacks neighborhood before the recession hit. Just a few examples.

But importantly, this effort by Riemer is NOT about the "new mixed-use developments." He's talking about rezoning existing SFH residential neighborhoods for double the density. It's to get more crowding into neighborhoods where it is too expensive to bulldoze homes. I mean, why do I have to rewrite my whole article in the comments all the time? Read the article!

Expansion of Aspen Hill's future "town center" into the existing neighborhoods there - that's already in the works.

Anonymous said...

So you can bitch and moan about how moribund the economy is, but when Hans is trying to get more people and jobs to the county you complain too?

Anonymous said...

6:43 - where exactly did Riemer say anything about jobs? All I read was higher density... and as robert pointed out, that means lower income residents. It also means if retrofitting existing single family homes into duplexes that owners of homes in the same neighborhood would see their values fall. No one who bought a single family home wants to suddenly have a duplex next door. This was the lifestyle that I chose, the lifestyle that my family can afford, and I'll be damned if we let Riemer and the county council dictate differently. They can go suck a lemon.

Robert Dyer said...

6:43: He's not adding jobs - he's adding more housing units. As Ike Leggett said, we're becoming a bedroom community for job centers elsewhere. We need more jobs, not more residents.

Anonymous said...

7:54AM
My god, how miserable is your life that to feel better you constantly have to go after another spouting your hatred?
Sad.

Anonymous said...

Fuck off 8:06 My life is just dandy :D

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people will be mad at you because you are not a lying ass miserable MF like they are.
Talking to you 8:08AM Such a tormented soul.

Anonymous said...

The Pop Psychologist is back.

Worry about your own sweet self, Birdbrain.

Anonymous said...

You’re just creating your own little drama out of pure insecurity. Lashing out when feeling vulnerable. So troubled.

Anonymous said...

I've been your IQ, you've never been mine. Pay attention. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

And my day is pleasant. I got to spend an hour laughing at you!

Anonymous said...

The people who love Dyer are seriously delusional. Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Aw, honey, you're the one who depends on Dyer's blog to propel your love/hate.

I'm just calling out an idiot spitting venom on a local blog.

Anonymous said...

Another nerve hit 1:17PM? Bitterness is so ugly. Rise above it.

Anonymous said...

If condos and townhouses are selling for millions, why would duplexes be "lower-class"?

Check out the neighborhood right behind the Chevy Chase Pavillion just inside DC. Most of the houses there are duplexes (built between 1920 and 1940) and it's quite nice.

Jeepgirl said...

3:51pm. I give you a standing ovation for speaking the truth

Robert Dyer said...

4:30: That was a commenter who said they would be lower priced, not me. I imagine they would go for $1M at least in the top neighborhoods, which is why they could be lucrative for developers. Any idea that duplexes would somehow create affordable housing in 20816 or 20814 is smoke and mirrors by Riemer. What I did say is that duplexes have a lower class connotation for neighborhoods that don't have them now, compared to the one you are citing in Chevy Chase.

However, the main point of my article was the doubling of density and resulting higher rates of student and automobile generation.

Anonymous said...

"Higher rates of student generation"

It's called "sex", Sister Roberta Mary. Someone needs to tell youbabout the birds and the bees.