Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Growth Policy Follies I

The Growth Policy Forum was a glittering night in the Chevy Chase Town Hall as supporters and opponents of changes to the growth policy and the new CR zone squared off in front of the kleig lights of public access television.

Unknowingly, I took my seat next to Dan Reed, formerly independent blogger who now works for Councilman George Levanthal who did not attend. Dan was taking such copious notes that I asked if he was a reporter. In snyc with the views of his boss, Dan at times appeared as frustrated with the views of opponents as I did with supporters.

Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson had three personalities, alternating between your avuncular uncle who always has a charming anecdote ready to divert your attention, angry Dad a.k.a. John McCain, and B-Actor William Shatner who has relied heavily on pregnant pauses to emphasize the pseudo-gravitas of his points from Star Trek to Priceline.

Joining him in support of the new policies was Holland and Knight's Pat Harris--the most effective advocate of the evening in my opinion. Easily having the best stage presence and a nimble mind, Pat argued effectively for the policy but never forgot for a moment her clients. In other words, she defended developers passionately even when they weren't mentioned.

East Bethesda Civic Association Chair Ilaya Hopkins, a former candidate for the Planning Board, sat next to Pat and critiqued the proposals. At times, Ilaya appeared to take the strategic decision not to argue with Royce, possibly because he was doing more damage to his position than she could.

I guess other observers will have to judge whether Ilaya wisely followed the rule of not getting in the way of someone destroying themselves or let Royce dominate the discussion. Royce shamelessly overrode moderator Charles Duffy's efforts to keep him remotely within time. He repeatedly cut off Charles' futile efforts to get him to wind up by saying that this was important and insisting on being allowed to continue.

Former Planning Board Member Meredith Wellington's more direct critiques of the proposals provoked angry Dad to interrupt and to snap at her. They disagreed vehemently on the future implications of the proposed changes to the growth policy and CR zone with Meredith seeing no need to rush to adopt these changes now.

More on the debate in Part II of this series.