Praisner: Council heard voters

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007

The message from voters was clear: They want county government to ‘‘slow growth in order to catch up.”

That’s why, as my first act as council president, I proposed an accelerated effort to assist the council in revising its Annual Growth Policy (AGP) in line with sound principles to manage growth with consideration for existing and planned infrastructure.

Four years ago, over the objections of the planning board, the council then in office made a big mistake. It dramatically changed the AGP, opening areas that did not have necessary infrastructure in place. Two years ago, when the AGP again came up for consideration, a divided council could not agree on any modifications. Normally, the council would review planning board recommendations on the AGP in November 2007. We can’t afford to wait that long.

The county has already approved more than 31,000 housing units in the pipeline that can move forward at any time, or to put it another way, nearly seven year’s worth of growth. Also, more than 32 million square feet of commercial development has been approved and can move forward.

Further, we know there will be a rush to file applications for development to go forward under the current rules if we do not act to assure the new rules apply as soon as possible. We know this will happen because the county lost millions of dollars in impact taxes from developers — money we needed to build roads and schools — in the six months before new impact taxes went into effect. Projects were rushed in to beat the deadline.

And the same happened with workforce housing legislation in Metro areas that the council approved last spring, which requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of units for working families. Projects were rushed into the pipeline to beat that effective date.

That’s why my second proposal, which the council will soon consider, calls for a ‘‘pause” in approval of applications for preliminary plans filed with park and planning until Aug. 15, when presumably the new rules would be in place.

It’s a practical step designed to make sure that development proposals get considered under new, more balanced guidelines. And its impact on affordable housing is exaggerated.

We need a time-out on development applications that will allow park and planning to make recommendations to us on how to improve the AGP.

Marilyn J. Praisner, Calverton

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 4 on County Council. She also is council president.

Editor’s note: For a longer version of this letter, go to Montgomery Online Letters at⁄letters.