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Growth Debate Has Its Own Lingo, Grows Heated

Unraveling MoCo's proposed growth policy is not for the faint of heart

Its supporters and opponents speak a unique language. Things got so obtuse at yesterday's meeting of the County Council committee that will review the new plan that even former planning board member Nancy Floreen (D-At large) said she was having trouble figuring out how to explain it to her constituents.

Here's a sample:

Council deputy staff director Glenn Orlin: ""On the pammer chart, what you pointed out, is that in the proposal now in the yellow triangular area...why is it 50 percent?"

Transportation planner Dan Hardy: "The stair step was the best indication of pass-fail...something to say we are doing preventative medicine."

Wait a sec. Weren't they were talking about traffic and how much is too much? Indeed they were.

Last week, the planning board recommended several ways to make developers pay more to build in traffic-clogged areas, sticking to a plan that would nearly triple taxes for some new development.

The board brushed aside opposition from County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and several county council members who say some of the tests the panel wants to use to measure congestion may not be tough enough. The board did back off its proposal to increase the recordation tax paid by buyers and sellers when they close a real estate deal, another measure opposed by Leggett.

Royce Hanson, chairman of the planning board, said higher taxes on new development are necessary to ensure that longtime county residents aren't saddled with the cost. "New growth pays the full cost of the transportation and education impacts required to meet their needs," he said last week. He reiterated that view at yesterday's afternoon's council commttee session and said he recognized that traffic may not be improved in some areas.

"It is true some people will be crawling. Some people will be going very fast. What this deals with is the time it takes the average commuter by road or by rail to whatever destination they are aiming at," he said.

But some council members were unpersuaded. Floreen said she believes most of her constituents will continue to drive unless traffic becomes utterly unbearable.

Roger Berliner (D-Potomac, Bethesda) worried that the proposals might allow so much development without sufficient public transit that they would be "a dilution of what we could achieve." Hanson said Berliner is "100 percent wrong."

The council committee will continue to meet, along with the financial committee again this month, to try to hash out an agreement.

More meetings expected later this month.

By Miranda Spivack  |  October 2, 2007; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Miranda Spivack  
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