Tag Archives: Casey Anderson

Council Drops the Other Purple Penny

We already know that the Purple Line is going to be massively delayed and way over budget. The Montgomery County Council inadvertently revealed just before the election that it also won’t bring the promised economic or housing benefits.

The Council voted 7-2 to heap new tax incentives on developers in order to make project happen around Grosvenor-Strathmore and other Red Line Metro stations in the County. Metro carries more passengers than the Purple Line and Grosvenor-Strathmore is a desirable location for development, as are several other Red Line locations.

If we need to give developers gobs of money to make development happen at these locations, the same will surely be true at Purple Line stations. Yet the Purple Line wasn’t sold that way. Land has been upzoned around all the Purple Line stations and we were told that development would follow.

No one mentioned the need for massive subsidies once the Purple Line was built. On the contrary, we were promised that development around these stations would help fill the county’s coffers even as it produced more housing and economic development around the stations. Turns out that’s not the case.

The only place where development is planned or underway is at Chevy Chase Lake. Unfortunately, this appears to be the only place where the economics make sense. We’ve paid literally billions to subsidize one economic development. The lobbying by the Chevy Chase Land Company paid off. For them.

So add the cost of huge development subsidies to the Purple Line tab.

The major advocates of the Purple Line have a lot to explain, but perhaps at the top of the list among the current county leadership are County Councilmember Hans Riemer and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. Hans Riemer was a former leader of Purple Line Now before joining the Council and has continued to advocate relentlessly for the project, as has his good friend, Casey Anderson, on the Planning Board.

Both present themselves as certain of the solutions to the region’s transit and housing problems. Even ignoring the out-of-control costs and massive delays, and I don’t know why we should, they heavily touted the housing and economic development benefits of the Purple Line. Neither Riemer nor Anderson ever explained that we would need to heap subsidies on top of the transit costs to make the housing and economic benefits happen.

Though they are far from alone in needing to shoulder blame, rather than being an economic cash cow, the Purple Line has now metastasized into the monorail episode from the Simpsons. Only it’s a lot less funny to be living it.

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Smart Growth or Corporate Welfare? Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

For many years, MoCo has focused its land use and economic development policies on transit-oriented development. Since 2006, the county has adopted eight master plans centered on Metro stations, another four centered on Purple Line stations and one more centered on Corridor Cities Transitway stations. Another plan is in the works for Downtown Silver Spring.

The capstone for the Metro-based plans is development on top of the Metro stations themselves, which requires joint development agreements with WMATA. Placing the highest density on Metro stations, along with nearby parcels, enables the county to balance growth, transportation and environmental priorities in its march towards the future. For fifteen years, that’s what we have been told.

Now we are told that this approach won’t work without taxpayer subsidies.

The problem is that most, if not all, development on top of Metro stations is not proceeding. And that is because of economics. In order to be economically viable, Metro development projects must charge rents or condo prices sufficient to not only cover construction costs, financing and investor returns but also the unique costs associated with Metro station sites. The economics are particularly difficult with high rise projects, which have higher material and construction costs than wood-frame projects. And so the county council has proposed Bill 29-20, which would eliminate property taxes on Metro station development projects for 15 years and replace them with undefined payments in lieu of taxes to be set later.

In justifying the bill’s purpose, consider these remarks by Council Members Hans Riemer and Andrew Friedson, the lead sponsors of the bill, and Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson at the council’s first work session.


Riemer
I want to say that this is a smart growth proposal. This is about making development feasible where decades of inactivity has demonstrated it is not feasible. If you look at Montgomery County and our Metro stations, you will almost universally see empty space on top of the Metro stations and despite efforts by WMATA over many years to support development at those stations, to solicit development on their property, there is very little that has happened. And there is very little that has happened recently, in the last ten years or so. Very little high rise, especially, and because of a shift in the market, I think which is driven by regional economic shifts and global economic shifts that have made the cost of high rise construction prohibitive except in the most high rent communities…

I think very broadly speaking, we have sought to channel all of our development, almost all of it, through a smart growth framework. We want to get housing that is high rise. We want to discourage sprawl. But the problem is we have not – the market isn’t producing the high rise that we have zoned for, that we want. And so the end result is we’re not getting much development. We’re not getting very much housing. We’re not even getting much commercial development.

Friedson
The idea that we’re forgoing revenue and that has a direct cost, that we’re leaving money on the table, we’re not leaving money on the table – the table doesn’t exist currently. That is the issue. There is no development, there is no investment. At best, the table is going somewhere else. It’s been shipped to another region of the country. It’s been shipped to another county. The whole point here is to create the opportunity. You know, the idea that we would be serious about transit-oriented development, that we would be serious about meeting our significant housing targets to address the housing crisis that we currently face but wouldn’t be willing to do anything about it is troubling. And we need a game changer. We need something to change the economic development path that we’re on, we need something to change the housing path that we’re on, that currently does not work. And I will say our housing situation, that is our version of a wall in Montgomery County. What we do with housing is a decision that we make on whether or not we want new residents here or not. That’s the local government version of whether we put up a literal or proverbial wall to say who can and who can’t live here, who we want and who we don’t want here.

Anderson
Will the development happen anyway? And I think the market is not just speaking, it’s screaming that the answer is no. Because you don’t have to take any particular real estate developer’s word for it, you can see what’s happening in the real world. It’s not just in Montgomery County, you can look at what market rents are at every Metro station in the region and you’ll see that there’s a few, particularly in Northern Virginia and in Bethesda, where rents can justify new high-rise construction there. Everywhere else, the answer is no, and that’s not just true of Grosvenor, or for that matter Forest Glen, as you mentioned, it’s also true of White Flint.


In considering these remarks, let’s remember who is saying them. It’s not County Executive Marc Elrich, who voted against numerous transit-oriented development master plans when he was on the council. It’s Casey Anderson, who has served on the Planning Board for nine years and chaired it for six; Hans Riemer, who has served on the council for ten years and is the current chair of its planning committee; and Andrew Friedson, who has emerged as the council’s principal champion of economic development during his first term in office. These are not development critics as Elrich has been. Anderson in particular, and Riemer to a lesser extent, are two of the architects of the county’s Metro-oriented land use policy and they are saying that it has failed.

They are also saying that the only way to rescue it is through what may ultimately become the biggest application of corporate tax breaks in the county’s history.

Are they right? We’ll discuss it in Part Two.

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Seven

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Today, we present the mind-bending conclusion!

5 (tied). Jill Ortman-Fouse, Former Member, Board of Education – 16 votes

Source: Love her or loathe her, she’s taken center stage in the most controversial topic in county politics right now.

Source: Even though no longer in an elected position her past actions on the BOE had influence over what is happening with the BOE/MCPS now. She regularly stirs the pot online and offline and isn’t scared to go head to head with her opponents.

AP: It’s amazing to think that JOF’s influence is even greater now than during her time on the school board, but it is. Even her opponents in the school boundary war concede her influence with their relentless and often personal attacks. JOF’s lasting mark will be in her mentorship of the next wave of MCPS activists, many of whom idolize her and have vowed to carry on her agenda of diversity and equity for years to come.

5 (tied). DeRionne Pollard, President, Montgomery College – 16 votes

Source: Not only has she done tremendous work with the college, partnered with corporate and community leaders as well as electeds across the county, but she’s also led strategic conversations on race as she tries to address those barriers not only for her students, but for the future of the county.

Source: Holy moly, what a dynamo of leadership! She is inspiring, bold and always on! She shoots for the moon and rarely misses. Just look at her track record of budget successes for the college.

AP: It’s easy to forget what a mess Dr. Pollard’s predecessor, former Montgomery College President Brian Johnson, made of the college. The college’s professor union discovered through public information act requests that Johnson was frequently absent from the office, “routinely censored” information, prevented employees from talking to trustees and ran up outrageous expenses. Later, it was revealed that Johnson was wanted for arrest in Maricopa County, Arizona for failure to pay child support and the sheriff even said, “We’d be happy to put him in jail.” Thankfully, that’s ancient history. Montgomery College has rebounded nicely under Dr. Pollard’s leadership and is now one of the highest-ranking colleges in Maryland. That’s one reason why she has been at the college for ten years, an unusually long tenure for a person in her position.

4. Gino Renne, President, MCGEO – 17 votes

Source: Still one of the gorillas in MoCo politics, always at the table.

Source: Manages to be influential despite MCGEO’s pathetic track record in actually getting candidates elected. Remember the Duchy vs. Berliner showdown? OK, Gino lucked out when Marc Elrich squeaked out a win in a crowded primary, but I have no idea why so many elected officials get so concerned about what MCGEO thinks – yet there it is.

AP: The Godfather has been stomping on politicians and getting contract results far exceeding the private sector for a looooooong time. But with a budget crisis looming, he is about to go up against the only force more powerful than he is: a bad economy.

3. Jack Smith, Superintendent, MCPS – 24 votes

Source: Schools are still the number one issue.

AP: This being Montgomery County, the MCPS Superintendent will always be on this list. However, none of Jack Smith’s predecessors have had to do what he is doing now: designing and implementing a distance learning program for the entire student population in a matter of weeks. If he pulls it off well, it will be a huge success story for the entire school system.

2. Adam Pagnucco, Co-Author, Seventh State – 28 votes

AP: Two words. Sample bias! Let’s move on to number one.

1. Casey Anderson, Chairman, Montgomery County Planning Board – 31 votes

Source: Chair of the planning board, an incredibly influential position that even people in-the-know underestimate, and perhaps the only official (elected or otherwise) who has a vision for where he wants the county to go. Together, they’re a dangerous combination.

Source: His views on housing, schools, and transportation are respected in both Rockville and Annapolis.

Source: Perhaps the most activist planning board chair ever, tied in closely to smart growth/YIMBY movements and will play the central role in the upcoming General Plan, which will set the stage for 50 years of land use planning and subdivision staging which is top of mind for the here and now.

Source: With incredible data to back him up, he is changing the conversation around development/moratorium/etc.

Source: Has made many strategic moves with planning. Innovative visionary.

Source: His post gives him huge power over land use. He wields his power effectively to satisfy his overlords on the council. As a regular on the Democratic Party circuit, his interest in partisan politics suggests Casey is jockeying for a run at elective office.

Source: Someone has to stand up to Marc Elrich.

Source: Land use is political in this County. Has overseen numerous policies and plans that will shape this County for years to come. Surprisingly laid back guy when not in his official capacity. Last term on the Planning Board – what will he do next?

AP: Casey is my choice for the most influential non-elected person in MoCo. He is not only the most prominent smart growth leader in the county today; he has become one of the greatest planning board chairs ever. His stewardship of the upcoming general plan as well as his role in crafting many other master plans over the years will put his stamp on the look and feel of this county for the next 50 years.

That’s it! Thanks for reading!

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