Thursday, December 24, 2009

Growth Policy Follies III

I got to ask one of the few questions at the growth policy forum and asked about why the Planning Board had recommended that the solution to the B-CC cluster being out of attainment (that's overcrowded in the vernacular) was simply to eliminate the standard that required developers to pay a surcharge for any new development until the district met the standard.

To me, eliminating the standard is much like me telling my students that the solution to their having failed the test is just that I need to raise all the grades. While that approach might raise my teaching evaluations, it's not exactly the lesson we want to teach.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson didn't really answer the question but simply repeated the existing standard as far as I could tell to fill his time. Holland and Knight Attorney Pat Harris argued that much of the new development was in condos that generally didn't have that many kids so it was unfair to place a surcharge on developers.

An interesting and perhaps good point. However, it also utterly contradicted Royce's earlier assertion that higher density was about providing housing for "working families" and that people wanted increasingly to live in high density developments (read: apartments) instead of suburban housing (see Part II of this series).

Of course, the surcharge on development only gets applied to new development that has not yet been approved. In the case of B-CC, Pat Harris explained that the problem had been addressed so that B-CC would fall below the standard. Ironically, this comment showed the value of the standard as Pat obliquely made the point that the potential freeze on development stimulated sufficient political pressure to address a real need.

Not mentioned at all was that the County Council adopted the standard only a couple of years earlier at the recommendation of the Planning Board. At the time, it seemed that the recommended standards were put into place so that no district would fail the test but I guess this turned out to be wrong--perhaps unintentially.

If the standard is such a bad idea, it does, however, raise the question of why the Planning Board recommended it so recently and why they were so badly wrong.

Part IV discussed the outcome of the debate and the CR zone.