What to Do About Growth in Montgomery
Should we put the brakes on development, because of congested roads and stretched services, or "aggressively and intelligently" build homes so people have a place to live?
Brandon Rippeon, a former Republican candidate for Montgomery County Council, rails against the Crown Farm development and the Gaithersburg City Council's decision to let the developer pay $3 million instead of building work force housing. Saqib Ali, an outgoing Democratic member of the House of Delegates, counters that the economy badly needs growth.
Chalk up another victory for the big-money, avaricious developers as more of Montgomery County's historic farmland is paved over to make way for an additional 2,250 residences and 250,000 gross square feet of retail space. Development of the Crown Farm property is under way.
Apparently, the City of Gaithersburg does not realize: Montgomery County's roads are already too congested; that class sizes in Montgomery County's public schools are already overflowing; that Montgomery County's public transportation system is grossly inadequate; and Montgomery County's emergency services are already stretched dangerously thin.
Don't look for any county employees to be living in the Crown Farm Community as the City of Gaithersburg accepted a handsome $3 million payment from the developers to spurn workforce housing requirements.
But there will be plenty new dependents for County taxpayers to support as 12.5 percent of Crown Farm residential construction will be set aside for "affordable housing."
Is it a wonder local government budgets are in such disarray as policy-makers go out of their way to deter classroom teachers, librarians, and police officers from living in the county, but are more than happy to force Montgomery County taxpayers to subsidize the lives of those who cannot on their own afford to live here?
Hopefully the impact fees paid by developers SunBrook and Ryland are used properly. That would be to ameliorate the massive increase in the county's carbon footprint this project will surely cause; not to be siphoned off to other parts of the government's general fund and spent in unrelated areas.
One third of our county is permanently reserved for the Agricultural Reserve. We should intelligently and aggressively build homes and businesses in the remaining two-thirds of the county. There is nothing inherently wrong with developers or development. People need a place to live. And our economy badly needs the growth. Construction Projects == Jobs. Knee-jerk NIMBY-ism is so 2006.
That said, This 3-1 vote by the Gaithersburg City Council was an important missed opportunity to increase the existing stock of affordable housing. The point of affordable housing (Moderately Priced Dwelling Units + Workforce Housing) is to prevent people from being priced-out of living in the county. Crown Farm is readily accessible from the ICC, Metro Station and major bus routes. This is the perfect location for affordable housing stock.
Instead of holding the developers feet to the fire and making them fulfill their obligations, the council allowed them to skate by paying a $3 million fine instead of building Workforce Housing. Admittedly this money will go toward other housing subsidies in Gaithersburg. That's a good thing. But the council could have leaned harder on the builders and gotten a better deal for the city. I doubt that would have jeopardized the entire development although I'm sure Sunbrook and Ryland would tell you otherwise.
In any case, I'm not sure about your argument here. You oppose mandates for Moderately Priced Dewlling Units, but support very similar mandates for Workforce Housing. Both are forms of subsidized housing. It's just a matter of degree. Granted MPDUs are more heavily subsidized than WH. But are they really that different? Why support one but oppose the other?