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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


June 5, 2008

Getting Other to Do Your Dirty Work…

Joan Marie Aquilino

The 800 lb. gorilla sitting front and center in the hearing room at Winchester Hall now is the Developers Rights and Responsibility Agreement (DRRA) for the remainder of Lake Linganore development.

Linganore is more than just a development that was begun nearly 40 years ago as a dream and vision. Things got side tracked over the years and to recap them all would be a book (actually a complete series at this point) rather than just a column. So, we’ll start in the present.

At the most recent Board of County Commissioners, meeting, it was said that many ran on the promise of finishing out Linganore. I don’t remember it being exactly that way. I remember it as most of these commissioners running on the promise to revisit the New Market region plan. I didn’t think it was specific to the completion of Linganore. I thought it was more on the promise that they were going to tackle the overdevelopment (as they saw it). New Market is bigger than one development, no matter how big that development is.

Let’s go on this premise – New Market is overdeveloped, roads and schools are inadequate. If that truly is the case, then to my simple mind the solution would be to quit building, find money, fix the roads, and deal with the school issues. The county doesn’t have money; the state isn’t giving any up either so . . .  what next? Look for private funds, or just go into a holding pattern?

Their first step was to revisit the New Market Region Plan and redo the whole thing. Keep in mind, the first go around took six years and still didn’t have a traffic study by the time the Planning Commission voted and handed it over to the commissioners. A New Market region plan was passed by the commissioners in 2006.

In early 2007 the plan was returned to the Planning Commission which knew full well what these commissioners expected. I saw this as a waste of time, mine and taxpayers. Right or wrong, wasn’t part of the equation for me. This is a Board of County Commissioners plan; they are the bosses, so, let them do what they want and keep the Planning Commission out of it.

The Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO), as it stands, won’t allow more build out if for no other reason than the roads and schools section. Tightening, amending, fixing, tweaking – whatever term you’d like to use – would further those efforts if you are concerned with future growth.

Nope, we’d rather go around the barn via Chicago, down through Texas, with a stop over in Vegas before walking through the front door of Winchester Hall and getting down to the business of what could actually accomplish your end goal.

Seems to me the end goal for these commissioners is to stop, manage, and control growth. But, with the Developers Rights and Responsibility Agreement (DRRA), I’m struggling to understand how this helps.

Picture this please! We have a road. It has two lanes and runs say 2,000 cars a day. Okay, we are going to improve that road by doubling its size – but it will now get 5,000 cars a day. To me that type of math leaves us in the hole by a 1,000 cars per day. Worse then when we started.

So, how do we solve their problem?

Start with the obvious, the APFO. This is their best and largest tool. This would be the Tim Allen of chain saws and not just a multi-head screw driver. Everything else is diverting attention away from the end goal, if that is really what they want.

I remember the term, paper shufflers, or spinning their wheels, when I was growing up and this is what comes to mind when I witness what has been going on for the last two years.

If this board was so hell-bent on the objective of managing growth, then just go back to square one, down zone the entire county and start again. Well, don’t look at me with bug eyes, if they thought they could get away with it, they might.

It makes my brain dizzy just thinking about the county staff. I picture their cubicles looking like the giant insides of a pinball machine, never quite knowing which direction to go next, before another ball is released by these commissioners in yet another direction. Staff goes racing off to avoid a direct hit or falling down the black hole.

So back to the DRRA, this is a document riddled with issues and keeps finding more.

 

I’m still struggling to find the good for the community at large. I see the most benefits for the Lake Linganore Association. They get 100% return. Next would be the developers. They get to build out even if it’s not all they wanted.

Some of the commissioners’ comments have been:

Commissioner David Gray talked about how this all started and was in essence Commissioner Kai Hagen’s plan, and no one else much knew what was going on. He commented that people are finally just getting their hands around it now.

Commissioner Charles Jenkins said it was front loaded and now as the process moves along and more people are involved, other issues are coming to light.

Commissioner Jan Gardner has said she would very much like to see school agreements in place by 2010 and something toward the Meadow Road interchange but ultimately wanted this finished. She’s been dealing with it for 10 years.

Commission John L. "Lennie” Thompson said what Commissioner Thompson always says: “Show Me The Money” ! ! !

Commission Hagen, welllllllllllll that’s the problem. He appears too personally involved to see “the forest for the trees,” so to speak. He’s looking from the inside out.

The rest of us are looking from the outside in.

There will be more workshops. The PTA, the Lake Linganore Association, a couple individuals that have been heavily involved since day one, the Planning Commission, county staff and the applicant, to name a few, will be invited.

I liked the suggestion from both Commissioners Gardner and Jenkins and I hope something will come from it. Keep in mind what is really at stake. Make a wish list and see what the developer is willing to work with or give the county. It’s ultimately their call. They are the ones making application, not the county.

We are not just taking about the build out of just any development; we are talking the completion of a Mega-McHuge-size-of-a-small-town type of development. We are talking about plopping down the entirety of the new Urbana inside the New Market Region. We aren’t talking typical flat farm land either, some very difficult terrain.

The questions to be asked are:

  1. Is this necessary?
  2. Can it be sustained by the area surrounding it?
  3. If this size of growth is going to happen in this region, is this the best and most logical location?
  4. Is this the best and most logical location because of its history, or because of the political climate?
  5. Do we allow the county to build out something so large, rather than finding ways for the town of New Market to do something within their boundaries, one fourth or less the size?

I’m not making a judgment I’m asking the questions and laying out the facts as I’ve see them. What I’m trying to do is get you involved and speaking up. Let the commissioners know how you feel.

 

’til next time…

 



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