Leggett's growth vision is not smart at all
The twin plans of Gaithersburg West and White Flint, both currently under consideration in Montgomery County, provide a rare opportunity to compare elected officials' responses to Smart Growth infill plans and sprawl development plans. The White Flint plan would convert the mess of strip malls along that segment of Rockville Pike into a real, transit-oriented, walkable neighborhood. Meanwhile, the Gaithersburg West plan will add large, mostly auto-dependent office parks along a proposed transit line that's unlikely to work well.
We now know where County Executive Ike Leggett comes down: he's a sprawler. Leggett expressed many reservations about White Flint, but came out strongly in support of Gaithersburg West. Ironically, he actually used many of the same arguments to promote Gaithersburg West as to oppose parts of White Flint.
|Leggett on Gaithersburg West||Leggett on White Flint|
"Will help generate the necessary ridership for the Corridor Cities Transitway ...|
This plan calls for 30% transit mode share, which is dubious at best. Nevertheless, Leggett praises the development for the potential to support expanded transit with up to 30% mode share.
30-35% mode share "is too ambitious."|
The White Flint plan calls for a similar mode share of 30-35%. It's much more realistic because the site is right on the Red Line. But Leggett is skeptical about the mode share target.
"The Corridor Cities Transitway will provide much needed traffic relief to communities along the Interstate 270 corridor."|
For Gaithersburg West, he says more development coupled with some transit will relieve traffic.
"This plan has the potential to result in far reaching congestion of arterial roadways."|
At White Flint, he argues that more development atop existing transit will create traffic.
"A better balance between jobs and housing ... is critical to ensuring a livable community for all. The plan is an example of smart growth."|
For Gaithersburg West, Leggett supports locating jobs and housing close together.
"I am also concerned that as envisioned in the draft plan, Rockville Pike will become a choke point and not serve the function it was created to serve as a major artery to and from the District."|
Yet at White Flint, he sees Rockville Pike as just a way to get people from upper Montgomery County to jobs in DC, not to put new housing closer to those jobs and new jobs closer to existing housing.
|"The projected annual net revenue of this plan is approximately $31 million."||"The annual net fiscal impact is $131 million [positive]."|
"The cost of not approving this plan and moving forward on the fundamental public investments will be enormous."|
Translation: Approve this plan without delay.
"We will need to evaluate the value of these improvements with other priorities. ... If not done correctly, [this plan] can leave a legacy of impaired air quality and quality of life."|
Translation: Be very cautious and deliberative.
Leggett is entitled to his opinion, but he should stop calling sprawl projects "Smart Growth" while opposing actual Smart Growth. He should also be honest about his vision for the County: extending the 1960s development patterns of office parks with big surface parking lots, large highways and interchanges that divide communities, and very long commutes to work.
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