The Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce’s (GSSCC) county council candidate questionnaire (embedded in full below and also viewable at this link) contains statements revealing deep frustrations with the county’s approach to planning and development extend to the business community.
Though Silver Spring is widely viewed as one of the most vibrant parts of the county, the lack of commercial development outside of restaurants and retail remains a real problem:
The Silver Spring Central Business District was envisioned to become a smart-growth, live, work, and play community. However, in the past 10-plus years, Silver Spring has evolved into a primarily residential neighborhood (bedroom community), with virtually no commercial office development. At this point, the County seems to be focused on just the “live” and “play” aspects. But local retailers and restaurants are feeling the brunt of having fewer and fewer customers during office hours.
If efforts to build what the Planning Board terms “complete communities” with places to live, work and play fall short even in Silver Spring, one wonders how well they can succeed as the model for the whole county as envisioned in Thrive 2050. GSSCC also sees the Planning Board’s approach to this problem as inadequate:
The Planning Board’s Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan’s sole answer to reviving and expanding Silver Spring’s office market is to simply “improve the public realm (i.e., build more sidewalks, bikeways, parks, etc.).
This is part of GSSCC’s support for a “balanced approach to transportation” that includes roads and parking as well as transit and bike lanes. It clashes with that articulated by the Planning Board in Thrive 2050 as well as some members of the County Council:
The Chamber supports a balanced approach to transportation policies that takes into account the needs of our member businesses, their employees, their customers, and their vendors. That balance must accommodate those who use public transit, drive on our roads, travel by bicycle and on foot, and need sufficient parking options at their destination.
Finally, even in liberal Montgomery County, the focus has shifted from “defund the police” to rising crime:
In recent months, Silver Spring has experienced a dramatic increase in violent crime, which threatens our economy, our business owners, and our residents. The expansion of our “nighttime economy” has been accompanied by some unintended consequences. Two recent surveys show that the top concern of most residents is crime and safety.