Wednesday, July 9, 2008

County would do well to put a lid on development

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Unless I have missed it in the controversy over the Intercounty Connector, the only way this highway can be built without furthering development, sprawl and the erosion of open space is if the municipalities it goes through employ 20-acre zoning and⁄or open space acquisition for their undeveloped areas.

While such measures may be difficult to employ, anything short of this will see the ICC facilitating additional growth along its right-of-way. But even with such measures, continued growth elsewhere in the region will see the ICC, as with most new roads, eventually becoming congested.

By now, it should be more apparent that any new development, no matter how well thought out, will collide with other important objectives, most common among which are preservation of open space, important natural habitats and agriculture. Continuation of this pattern will simply have us chasing our tail.

I would therefore submit that Montgomery County is approaching the limits of growth; that continuing efforts at economic development by now are simply the engendering the need for more housing, schools and the like; and that anticipated new corporate revenues, if carefully studied, will be well short of the public costs created. This suggests stabilizing county growth by limiting development to critical needs of existing population, principally affordable housing and its preservation; and supporting efforts to direct future growth to those urbanized areas in the region requiring redevelopment.

While a challenging formula to implement perhaps, the alternative will simply be a continuation of practices that amount to no more than ‘‘squeezing a balloon.”

Joseph G. Feinberg, Gaithersburg