New MoCo Planner: Think Smaller -- in Housing
The scene at the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce's annual real estate breakfast might be a portent of things to come for the building industry.
On the one hand, real estate agent Jane Fairweather gave a gloom-and-doom report on the county's efforts to make some modest restrictions to house sizes, as a way to diminish complaints about mansionization. Fairweather was referring to a bill by council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), as well as a report by a task force Berliner convened.
She also spoke unhappily about new county taxes on real estate transactions, one of several ways the council and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) attempted to fill the budget shortfall.
A few minutes later, up to the podium strolled Rollin Stanley, the county's new planning director, who has ruffled some feathers by telling developers their plans are "horrible" and by criticizing the county, which he said seems at times more concerned about due process than about getting well-designed communities.
Stanley said he wasn't too worried about big houses having to be a bit smaller. The market, he suggested, isn't going to want those big houses anyway, because they will be too expensive to heat and cool, and will be too big for the empty nesters and baby boomers who will be living in them.
"Bigger houses, many people think they are the next slums. They are too big, and people are having trouble selling them," he said.
What the future market really wants, he told the audience of business leaders, is smaller, more energy-efficient housing near public transit.
He said he hopes that Montgomery will be a leader. "Phoenix, it's horrible. Shanghai, that's Phoenix on quaaludes," he said, referring to unregulated sprawl. "This is unsustainable. We can't keep going on like this."
"The mind-set in this country is wrong," said Stanley, a native of Canada who was the planning chief in St. Louis before arriving in Montgomery a few months ago.
After he spoke, emcee Dee Metz, a longtime fixture on the real estate scene, said: "It's wonderful to have someone who tells us how he really feels."
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