Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sierra Club to Score Gaithersburg West

In a recent email to Council Members, the Sierra Club states that it will score candidates' positions on Gaithersburg West in determining its endorsement. We reprint the email below.

-----Original Message-----
From: David Hauck
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 10:40 AM
To: Floreen's Office, Councilmember; Knapp's Office, Councilmember; Leventhal's Office, Councilmember; Andrews' Office, Councilmember; Elrich's Office, Councilmember; Trachtenberg's Office, Councilmember; Navarro's Office, Councilmember; Berliner's Office, Councilmember; Ervin's Office, Councilmember
Subject: Sierra Club adds Gaithersburg West to its voting scorecard

Dear Council members:

The Montgomery County Group of the Sierra Club is developing a scorecard of Council votes over the last four years. This scorecard will be an important element as we decide on our endorsements for Council in the 2010 elections.

The scorecard is unfinished but we want to alert you to one issue that will weigh heavily on our endorsements. This issue, the Life Sciences Center within the Gaithersburg West master plan, will come to you for decisions within the next few months.

The Countys development pattern and the associated transportation investments are the most environmentally consequential decisions that officials make. If balanced urban growth around our Metro stations reflects our hopes for a more sustainable future, then sprawl-inducing, car-demanding, unbalanced growth on our suburban fringes embodies the worst of our fears. The damage is compounded when the plan allows sprawl development at urban densities, proposes an uncertain and inadequate transit system to serve the development, and calls the result smart growth. Worst of all is creating de novo a large, dense center far from any Metro station, at the request of an ambitious land owner.

As we have said many times, our issue is not with a Life Sciences Center as such. There are proposals on the table to enhance the Life Sciences Center(s) without creating such havoc with sustainability.

We will watch closely the outcome of Council decisions on this plan. We expect the Council to agree on a plan that, to paraphrase the late Council member Betty Ann Krahnke, represents not a compromise but a solution, that promotes prosperity and sustainability.


David Hauck

Sierra Club, Montgomery County Group
Our Take:

In the past, the ICC was the number one issue for MoCo environmentalists. But the Sierra Club's opposition to the project was largely washed out by the Washington Post's support for it and when their endorsements clashed, they at least partially neutralized each other. So both ICC supporters (like Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal) and ICC opponents (like Phil Andrews and Marc Elrich) - all of whom were strong candidates in other respects - got elected. Now that the ICC is headed for completion, the Sierra Club and the Post will have to move on to other criteria for endorsements.

If the Sierra Club is serious about shrinking and/or altering Gaithersburg West, one possible result is that a decision on the project's master plan could be put off until after the election. The issue could also affect the at-large County Council race. The District Council Member who represents Gaithersburg is Phil Andrews, who opposes the significant increase in density contained in the plan and would like to spread jobs to other parts of the county. If both Andrews and the Sierra Club wind up basing their support for at-large candidates on their positions on Gaithersburg West, that will make this issue a weighty one in the election.