Friday, June 22, 2007

Us vs Them Revisited

This post is a response to an anonymous comment I received from my first Us vs. Them post on June 15th. I meant to reply sooner but I got caught up in the festival and put this issue aside for a minute (or a day or two). This particular comment was from someone I shall henceforth refer to as being Anon 1:42.

Anon 1:42 gave what I thought was a well reasoned rebuttal to my contention that the anti tower folks embraced change while those who opposed the tower wanted to stop time.

As Anon 1:42 put it "those two dumbed-down buckets into which you're placing everyone who has participated do a disservice to the participants and the process".

I gotta tell ya, I like the "dumbed down buckets" metaphor.

Anon 1:42 went on to assert that; "To classify those who aren't willing to accept all proposals for changing the heart of Columbia as "wanting to stop time" is laughable."

Okay, I am guilty on both scores. Those were simply rhetorical grenades designed to draw attention to what is at stake here.

I do believe that we are engaged in a battle to influence that great unknowing or uninformed group of people who occupy the middle ground. I further believe that a very large percentage of Columbia residents don't really pay attention to what is going on.

I continually encounter people who haven't a clue about this issue. I talk to everybody. I've questioned complete strangers and others I am acquainted with. Some folks have lived in Columbia for a very long time and others are recent transplants. They all shared a common characteristic of having busy lives. Most of the people were unable to tell me who their County Councilperson was or who was their representative on the Columbia Council.

I readily submit that my little random sampling is exactly that, random and unscientific so that it may not be indicative of anything. On the other hand, I challenge anyone to try it out for themselves. Strike up a conversation with a stranger in a cafe or bar, ask them if they live in Columbia and then ask them if they are familiar with ZRA-79 or ZRA-83. If you work with them most will acknowledge that they heard something about a high rise condo that is going to be built in Town Center but that's about it.

So my point is that sometimes you have to throw a few of these rhetorical grenades around to get peoples attention. Since the anti tower / height restriction forces got out of the gate early and lined up all the politicians (who just so happened to be in a horse race of an election at the time), the forces of reason (ahem) needed to shout WAIT A MINUTE in order to get the debate a little more even sided. Because at the end of the day both sides need to convince and mobilize the great middle in order to advance their own interpretation of the "vision" for Columbia.

So call them "dumb buckets" if you will but I still believe that the majority of those in favor of ZRA-79 and ZRA-83 have a vision of a future Columbia that more resembles a middle class commune than that of a vibrant dynamic community.

Just my opinion of course.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post. I agree.

nut n honi said...

My humble opinion is that Mary Kay Sigaty in her height restriction and retroactivity amendments may be misguided in trying to curry favor with the some of the democratic bosses and deal makers for her own political aspirations. What she is discounting are the voters like myself who voted for her in the last election and who are opposed to her amendments. I will not vote for her again if she persists in her silly pursuit and doesn't withdraw this ridiculous legislation. I'm certain there are lots of constituents like myself in her district with the same opinion.

Anonymous said...

"I do believe that we are engaged in a battle to influence that great unknowing or uninformed group of people who occupy the middle ground."

Wouldn't you be better off instead trying to enlighten those not as aware of these issues so they may choose to do the right thing as they see it, rather than trying to "influence" them to do what you want?

A battle to influence? People who occupy the middle ground? Rhetorical grenades? Height restriction forces?

Putting the handling of this issue in terms of ugly war hardly seems appropriate for improving our shared community. Rather than gaining support for a particular view, my guess is most would find such framing of the issue as off-putting and unnecessarily divisive.

Back to the discussion, yes, our busy lives mean some are far more up on the issues than others, but I don't think your sampling of people knowing issues by their corresponding bill designators is a true indication of just how aware our community is on these two and other issues. Recent elections seem to correlate well to candidates fairing better on certain sides of these issues.

"...I still believe that the majority of those in favor of ZRA-79 and ZRA-83 have a vision of a future Columbia that more resembles a middle class commune than that of a vibrant dynamic community."

But aren't those two visions the same? Make peace, not war.

Anonymous said...

In order to educate, we must explore both sides, as the host is attempting. If silence persists, then ratcheting up the language is one healthy way to broadcast information. Not that I agree with his position, I think he's dead wrong.

Competing priorities of life do tend to leave a large group out of the discussion.

But ask people these two questions:

1. Are you in favor of a development that would add >1,000 more citizens to <1 square mile?

2. Are you in favor of building the tower?

You may notice that they have an opinion on the first, but not the second question.

Young at Heart said...

Anon 8:00

Few people would have the required information to reasonably answer the question about 1,000 more people in 1 sq. mile. They probably wouldn't have a clue about how many people there currently are per sq. mile in Columbia or what impact 1,000 people would really have.

According to my very rough calculations, there are about 3,900 people per sq mile in Columbia (based on the 2000 census, 90,000 people in 15,000 acres or 23 square miles). There are about 3,900 people in Town Center (according to the Town Center website). If Town Center is indeed one square mile (is it?) that means that Town Center currently has the same density as the Columbia AVERAGE. It seems to me that it would be very reasonable for Town Center to have double the density of the Columbia average, or 3900 more people.

Now, I'm not recommending 4,000 more people, but in the context that you mention, 1,000 people seems like a perfectly acceptable number to add to Town Center. Not much chance of turning it into a Silver Spring, which has a density of 15,600/sq. mile in its central business district. Oh, and just for fun, Manhattan's density is 67,000/sq. mile.

Anonymous said...

"But ask people these two questions:

1. Are you in favor of a development that would add >1,000 more citizens to <1 square mile?

2. Are you in favor of building the tower?

You may notice that they have an opinion on the first, but not the second question."

To the contrary, far more statistically relevant than either asking a few people those questions or the author's sampling of a larger group of acquaintances and strangers, the recent elections' much larger polling groups indicated sufficient awareness of the tower to produce a pattern of success for those candidates favoring straightforward height limitations and diligent enforcement of zoning regulations.

Also, your phrasing of question #1 with numbers (1,000 people, 1 square mile) and phrasing of question #2 without numbers ("the tower" as opposed to "the 275 foot tower" or "the 23-story tower") would certainly make #2 a far more ambiguous question to a member of the community.

young at heart - Just for fun, Manhattan doesn't care too much for some 23-story 275 foot towers either, rejecting some decades ago and seeing opposition to some now. So, I find it odd that some want Columbia to be potentially more accepting of such tall towers than Manhattan.

wordbones said...

I am growing tired of those who reference the past county elections as some sort of referendum on the WCI tower and Town Center planning in general.

The bottom line is that not one single politician from either party had the gumption or political back bone to stand up against the groups like the Coalition for Columbias Downtown who were making the most noise at the time.

For my money it negates any real meaning because there were no choices.

-wb

Anonymous said...

With regards to the most recent elections - for the CA Board and the CA Village Association Boards - there were certainly discernible differences in the positions of the candidates, some being far more resolute in their positions against the Tower and unacceptably dense Town Center development than others, while other candidates seemed to nuance those issues, trying to ride the fence and forward positions that favored flexible height restrictions (an oxymoron?) and non-Euclidean zoning (translation - Swiss cheese regulations that allow all kinds of exceptions, rendering planning and zoning to be neither planning nor zoning). Laissez-faire zoning isn't what Columbia's had in the past. It shouldn't be what it adopts in the future. Otherwise, Columbia will find itself to be on the fast track to being just another generic place, reshaped in a patchwork fashion to accomodate disparate fiscal interests, thereby erasing in many ways the intents of Rouse's multidisciplinary Working Group to make and keep Columbia a great community.

Some of these other candidates also forwarded acceptance now of the proposed unacceptably dense master plan for Town Center. Yet, the plan's permitted level of intensely increased density would cause traffic gridlock (as was verified by the transportation consultant hired by the County). Without the plan including a solution to the traffic mess it will cause, a solution that details where this traffic solution will be, what it will cost now and later, and what level of traffic congestion will be permitted, the plan should not be approved. Hardly smart growth or smart government.

Keep in mind that no one has demonstrated there's actually a true need to increase the density of Town Center beyond Columbia's originally planned density. So, why then suffer the detriments of squeezing in thousands of luxury condos? Could it be to add even more profit to planned commercial development of Town Center, providing sufficient customers to sustain even more intense commercial development density increases? Add unfixed traffic gridlock and this intense commercial development will then be bestowed with a captive customer base who can't easily go elsewhere.

As to the previous County election, I don't think it would have served any candidate, backbone or no, with an interest in gaining office to discount the Coalitions' very, very long roster of members as being representative of the electorate in Columbia.

Anonymous said...

Candidates in the last election were clearly on either side of the tower issue.

Hayduke said...

With regards to the most recent elections - for the CA Board and the CA Village Association Boards…

I wouldn’t equate the CA electorate with the county at large.

Laissez-faire zoning isn't what Columbia's had in the past. It shouldn't be what it adopts in the future.

Actually, as far as zoning goes, New Town’s about as laissez-fair as you can get. There’s no way Columbia would look like it does with traditional Euclidean zoning.

Otherwise, Columbia will find itself to be on the fast track to being just another generic place…

That train’s already left the station. Some of us are boldly trying to drag it back, others are just shoveling coal.

…reshaped in a patchwork fashion to accomodate disparate fiscal interests, thereby erasing in many ways the intents of Rouse's multidisciplinary Working Group to make and keep Columbia a great community.

I think there’s a vast disconnect between what the Working Group and the early planners did and what people think they did. The amount of detail being asked for in the Town Center plan is miles beyond the level of detail in the original plans for Columbia, little plastic marketing models notwithstanding.

Some of these other candidates also forwarded acceptance now of the proposed unacceptably dense master plan for Town Center. Yet, the plan's permitted level of intensely increased density would cause traffic gridlock (as was verified by the transportation consultant hired by the County). Without the plan including a solution to the traffic mess it will cause, a solution that details where this traffic solution will be, what it will cost now and later, and what level of traffic congestion will be permitted, the plan should not be approved. Hardly smart growth or smart government.

As I’ve said before, I’d hate to see a visionary plan derailed because over short-term traffic fears and simplistic projections. Imagine if the original Columbia plan was so hamstrung by such small-minded thinking.


Keep in mind that no one has demonstrated there's actually a true need to increase the density of Town Center beyond Columbia's originally planned density. So, why then suffer the detriments of squeezing in thousands of luxury condos? Could it be to add even more profit to planned commercial development of Town Center, providing sufficient customers to sustain even more intense commercial development density increases? Add unfixed traffic gridlock and this intense commercial development will then be bestowed with a captive customer base who can't easily go elsewhere.

I hear a lot of people on all sides of this issue asking for a lot of things in Town Center – more cultural facilities, more walkability, more transit, more entertainment options, more affordable housing, more restaurants, more public plazas, more, more, more. The general consensus is that Town Center should be more dynamic. Density is our currency.

wordbones said...

"Density is our currency."

I like that line!

-wb

Anonymous said...

"New Town’s [zoning is] about as laissez-fair as you can get."

You're kidding, right?

"As I’ve said before, I’d hate to see a visionary plan derailed because over short-term traffic fears and simplistic projections. Imagine if the original Columbia plan was so hamstrung by such small-minded thinking."

The County's transportation consultants' report didn't classify the degree to which traffic would degrade as a result of the Town Center intense density increase as "short-term traffic fears", nor were their projections simplistic.

It's far from "small-minded thinking" to expect a "visionary" 30-year development plan to include a plausible 30-year transportation plan. Otherwise, it's 'Here kids, have the multi-billion dollar bill for trying to fix, after the fact and at much greater expense, the additional density that we allowed to be plopped in without taking the time to figure out how to not congest transportation to gridlock.'

Talk about externalizing costs. This one's a doozy, ignoring transportation infrastructure costs that should be borne in no small part by the developers that profit from the density increase and the generation that permits it, not instead allowed to become a far more costly problem both to be fixed later and paid for later by the next generation of the general public as a whole.

Also by postponing an accompanying transportation plan until after the development plan is approved equates to not even informing the public what the price tag will be to fix the traffic failure this plan's density increase will create. Keeping the public in the dark is wrong.

Density/currency don't trump morality.

"The general consensus is that Town Center should be more dynamic."

How dynamic is a traffic jam? Or waiting at many new red lights just to get to the traffic jam? Or being handed a big fat bill?

hayduke said...

No, New Town is very developer driven; after all, it was written by a developer. I'm not sure if you're a member, but the discussion on the HCCA listserv over the past few days have focused on this matter. Also, see the New Town Zoning task force's report (PDF) for more.

I have little confidence in detailed 30-year plans, as I said in the post I linked to. Too much detail shuts off adaptation and innovation. I'd hate for the next generation of Columbians to be stuck with an overly-restrictive plan based on decades-old ideas.

One of the things that made Columbia work as a long term project was the flexiblity afforded to the developer in New Town zoning.

As far as transportation, where's our mini-bus with dedicated rights-of-way? Where's our monorail? Something about the best laid plans of mice and men seems appropriate.

Young at Heart said...

I have to agree with Hayduke on the laissez-faire issue. New Town Zoning gave almost all the power to the developer and very little to the county. It is really quite remarkable. It could never happen today, but the county at that time basically just turned over the power for a huge portion of the county over to The Rouse Company and said, "do what you want." (Please don't take this literally, but you get the meaning.)

This ended up being a double-edged sword. It allowed Rouse the flexibility and creativity to create what most of us consider a wonderful new town. However, it actually took power from the residents (that's who the government is supposed to protect from private interests) and gave it to a developer. That power then transferred to the new "owners" of Columbia.

The county actually has very little control in Columbia. The purpose, as I saw it, behind the charrette was to create a new plan and new zoning for Town Center that would have input from residents so that residents would have some control over development in their town center.

A master plan and new zoning will be necessary to give residents input into whether or not more towers are built, so I say we concentrate on the Master Plan for Town Center and forget about retroactively disapproving the tower.

I have to say also that in the Tower debate, it is Jim Rouse, through the generosity of the county, that gave developers the flexibility to create this magnificent addition/monstrosity (depending on your view).

Anonymous said...

New Town Zoning isn't laissez-faire just because it was written by the developer. It's still restricted by a residential density limit. It's still restricted by APFO, too, isn't it, requiring adequate road and school capacity to permit additional residential growth?

If New Town Zoning was as laissez-faire as you portray it, the developer wouldn't be appealing for additional density to the County, they'd just be building away.

"Too much detail shuts off adaptation and innovation. I'd hate for the next generation of Columbians to be stuck with an overly-restrictive plan based on decades-old ideas."

Innovation such as not including affordable housing in River Hill? Adaptation such as omitting neighborhood pools from some of the later-built neighborhoods? I'd argue more detail in a plan leads to better outcomes, not worse ones. If future generations find cause for amending the plan, then they could, if sufficiently supported by the community, make such changes to permit accepted adaptations.

But, again, to include detail to allow additional residential density without providing detail of accompanying transporation impacts (road congestion levels, noise/light/air/water pollution increases, open space losses, and construction and operation costs to mitigate) from this additional density is wrong.

Why portray future innovation and adaptation as being necessary to solve the transportation issues that result from this proposed denser development when such transportation problems aren't unexpected? Because these problems are known now, they are our responsibility to describe and resolve in the plan.

Yes, the mini-bus system didn't get built (in part due to cuts in federal support of such systems around country). But substantial rights-of-way for such a system in Columbia were nonethless set aside with responsible forethought, even at a time when gas cost less than 10% of what it costs now.

Such transportation forethought is grossly lacking from the current plan.

"I have to say also that in the Tower debate, it is Jim Rouse, through the generosity of the county, that gave developers the flexibility to create this magnificent addition/monstrosity (depending on your view)."

Don't you think the Planning Board's controversial decision provided the lion's share of the flexibility for the tower? After all, Jim Rouse's Rouse put a succession of one-story restaurants there, not a 275-foot tower.

Young at Heart said...

"Don't you think the Planning Board's controversial decision provided the lion's share of the flexibility for the tower? After all, Jim Rouse's Rouse put a succession of one-story restaurants there, not a 275-foot tower."

There is some disagreement about whether or not the Planning Board even had the authority to limit the height of the building. Some people say it did, others say it didn't. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know, but just the fact that there is a question gives you an idea of the extraordinary flexibility of the zoning Rouse established. HCCA's website currently has a discussion of this topic.

Just because Rouse did not choose at that time to build up doesn't mean he didn't give himself and his company (and therefore GGP)the latitude to do so later. Early pictures of the New Town plan show tall buildings in that area.

PZGURU said...

I missed this discussion when it was happening, but feel compelled to add my comments.

HAYDUKE - what makes you think that Columbia wouldn't or couldn't look like it does with Euclidean Zoning? Euclidean zoning can allow all of the same uses as you see now. Setbacks and heights can be tailored in a variety of ways to achieve a variety of results.

Hayduke - so you don't want much detail in the 30 year Master Plan? Funny, but I remember you demanding lots of detail when the Comp Sketch for the Crescent Property came before the Planning Board. What's with the flip-flop? Do you always want to have things both ways?

Hayduke - so anyone who doesn't share your vision is small minded? You're a riot.


Hayduke - "The general consensus is that Town Center should be more dynamic." Consensus? What consensus? As far as I can tell, there seems to be more people opposed to the recreation of Town Center than those who support it. What empirical evidence are you using to support your consensus claim?


Young at Heart - Actually, the developer (HRD) got its approval for everything about New Town Columbia from the County. The PDP laid out the various use zones (residdential, open space, Town Center, Employment Center Commercial). And, each FDP for each and every square foot of Columbia had to be approved by the County. Those FDP's lay out all of the development parameters (setbacks, permitted uses, height limits in most cases). So when people think that the Planning Board used to "rubber stamp" plans just because they were presented by HRD, that's a big misunderstanding. HRD's plans never got disapproved, because they couldn't be presented to the Planning Board until the plan complied with the FDP criteria. Planning Board approval is verymuch procedural. Although, in the case of the Plaza Tower, that FDP did not specify a height limitation, so the Planning Board, could have imposed a limit -they absolutely had the power to do so. Only they can say why they didn't - I have my ideas on that.


And, keep in mind that a Master Plan is NOT a binding set of laws or regulations. It is ONLY A SET OF RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!! The COunty deviates from its General Plan in many ways so the public should not think that anything contained in the New Town Master Plan is set in stone - it's NOT!!!

Hayduke - You ask where your monorail is. I think you just proved ANON's point. If there isn't a solution in place from the get go, you won't get it later. C'mon - you're smarter than that.

hayduke said...

HAYDUKE - what makes you think that Columbia wouldn't or couldn't look like it does with Euclidean Zoning? Euclidean zoning can allow all of the same uses as you see now. Setbacks and heights can be tailored in a variety of ways to achieve a variety of results.

I’m not talking about setbacks and heights, but land uses. There’s a fluidity in land uses (from apts to townhouses, and commercial to residential) in Columbia that traditional Euclidean zoning makes nearly impossible. Nowadays, mixed use zones are being used to similar ends, but strictly compartmentalizing land uses -- as in traditional Euclidean zoning – would not have created the Columbia we have today. This is actually kind of a chicken/egg situation.

Hayduke - so you don't want much detail in the 30 year Master Plan? Funny, but I remember you demanding lots of detail when the Comp Sketch for the Crescent Property came before the Planning Board. What's with the flip-flop? Do you always want to have things both ways?

This lame attempt to tar me with silly, inappropriate talk radio insults is a mischaracterization of my arguments during the crescent hearing and my comments before the charrette. The fact that you can’t understand the difference between a comp sketch plan and a 30 year master plan makes me wonder whether you should change your name. Gurus don’t tend to be intentionally obtuse.

Hayduke - so anyone who doesn't share your vision is small minded? You're a riot.

Right, that’s exactly what I said. Please try reading what I’m actually writing and not what you want me to write.

Hayduke - "The general consensus is that Town Center should be more dynamic." Consensus? What consensus? As far as I can tell, there seems to be more people opposed to the recreation of Town Center than those who support it. What empirical evidence are you using to support your consensus claim?

If you can point to a group arguing to keep Columbia the way it is now, please do. The main debate isn’t over change versus no change, it’s where should we be along the spectrum of potential changes. There’s a reason for this. Most people are smart enough to see that change is going to come and we should focus on how to make it positive and beneficial for the community.

And, keep in mind that a Master Plan is NOT a binding set of laws or regulations. It is ONLY A SET OF RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!! The COunty deviates from its General Plan in many ways so the public should not think that anything contained in the New Town Master Plan is set in stone - it's NOT!!!

Hayduke - You ask where your monorail is. I think you just proved ANON's point. If there isn't a solution in place from the get go, you won't get it later. C'mon - you're smarter than that.


I think you just contradicted yourself.

PZGURU said...

Hayduke - in typical fashion, you speak to a single item and think that addresses all that was said.

HD - "I’m not talking about setbacks and heights, but land uses. There’s a fluidity in land uses (from apts to townhouses, and commercial to residential) in Columbia that traditional Euclidean zoning makes nearly impossible. Nowadays, mixed use zones are being used to similar ends, but strictly compartmentalizing land uses -- as in traditional Euclidean zoning – would not have created the Columbia we have today. This is actually kind of a chicken/egg situation."

PZ - Euclidean zoning could have produced the same results, it all depends on how the Euclidean zoning laws are crafted. Most cities, including Baltimore, still use Euclidean Zoning, but they all residential uses in commercial and even industrial zones without falling under the PUD/MXD moniker. They have those too, but, you see my point.

PZ - "Hayduke - so you don't want much detail in the 30 year Master Plan? Funny, but I remember you demanding lots of detail when the Comp Sketch for the Crescent Property came before the Planning Board. What's with the flip-flop? Do you always want to have things both ways?"

HD - "This lame attempt to tar me with silly, inappropriate talk radio insults is a mischaracterization of my arguments during the crescent hearing and my comments before the charrette. The fact that you can’t understand the difference between a comp sketch plan and a 30 year master plan makes me wonder whether you should change your name. Gurus don’t tend to be intentionally obtuse."

Lame attempt to tar you? Mischaracterization? Do you deny that that is what your testimony was at that time?!?! I understand full well the difference. It was you, at the time of those hearings, that didn't understand the difference between a Comp Sketch Plan (which is supposed to have general conceptual info about a development proposal) and a Site Development Plan (which comes later and provides the specific details; and would have to be reviewed/approved by the Planning Board at another public meeting).

Ouch- you've got to be tired of being wrong all the time.

I find it very ironic that you, who now thinks it's wrong to changes the rules to prohibit the WCI Tower after it was approved, back then thought it was perfectly acceptable to ask the Plannning Board to deny approval of the Comp Sketch Plan that complied FULLY with all of the legal requirements for that type of application. Do you constantly change your position to suit whatever stance it is that you have from one day to the next? Like I said, you want to have it both ways....

Here's what you said: "I’d hate to see a visionary plan derailed because over short-term traffic fears and simplistic projections. Imagine if the original Columbia plan was so hamstrung by such small-minded thinking."

So you said that people who have concerns about traffic are small minded thinking people who may end up derailing this plan. Did I miss something? Please explain.


PZ - "The general consensus is that Town Center should be more dynamic." Consensus? What consensus? As far as I can tell, there seems to be more people opposed to the recreation of Town Center than those who support it. What empirical evidence are you using to support your consensus claim?"

HD - "If you can point to a group arguing to keep Columbia the way it is now, please do."

PZ - Go back and read what I wrote. I did not say that the majority of people want to keep Columbia as it is now. I mentioned the "re-creation" of Town Center. Two vastly different notions. The fact is, and you keep misconstruing the situation, that GGP still has some density left and plenty of commercial development potential for in or around Town Center that could stimulate the area (not that I think it needs stimulation) - and I have no objection whatsoever to them building what they are allowed to build.

HD - "Most people are smart enough to see that change is going to come and we should focus on how to make it positive and beneficial for the community."

Change? What change? Do you mean the changes that you and certain other people are trying to cram down the rest of Columbia's throat? Is there an absolute need for change? What exactly is wrong with Town Center any way? What's driving this change? Market forces or political BS?

PZ - "And, keep in mind that a Master Plan is NOT a binding set of laws or regulations. It is ONLY A SET OF RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!! The COunty deviates from its General Plan in many ways so the public should not think that anything contained in the New Town Master Plan is set in stone - it's NOT!!!

Hayduke - You ask where your monorail is. I think you just proved ANON's point. If there isn't a solution in place from the get go, you won't get it later. C'mon - you're smarter than that."

HD - "I think you just contradicted yourself."

You mean you're not smarter than that? I was willing to give you the benefit of doubt....

I didn't say to put the traffic mitigation plan into the Master Plan. The traffic mitigation should be set up, somehow, as a type of developer agreement, such that it can not be avoided later on. And/or, it should be absolutely made a condition of approval of the rezoning application that GGP would have to obtain to increase their density, since the Master Plan adoption can not override the zoning limitations granted in the original New Town Columbia zoning case.

wordbones said...

pzguru wrote:

"The fact is, and you keep misconstruing the situation, that GGP still has some density left and plenty of commercial development potential for in or around Town Center that could stimulate the area (not that I think it needs stimulation) - and I have no objection whatsoever to them building what they are allowed to build."

Sorry, but this is not only inaccurate but also not in the best interest of the community. GGP does not have enough residential density remaining to create a "living" Town Center much beyond what currently exists. "Smart growth" argues for increasing residential density where the infrastructure is already in place such as Town Center.

Granted, transportation and traffic issues need to be addressed and I expect they will be.

If GGP did go ahead built what they were currently allowed to build, you would see big box retailers lined up on the Crescent property. I don't think anyone wants that, us or them.

pzguru then wrote:

"Change? What change? Do you mean the changes that you and certain other people are trying to cram down the rest of Columbia's throat? Is there an absolute need for change? What exactly is wrong with Town Center any way? What's driving this change? Market forces or political BS? "

If anyone is trying to cram Town Center plans down anyone throats it is the folks like CoFoDoCo who think they speak for the "people of Columbia."

As to what is wrong with Town Center as it now exists I am uncertain where to start because there are so many things. Suffice it to say that if you can't see what is wrong with Town Center today then I'm afraid your self proclaimed planning zoning (pz)"guru" moniker is seriously overstated.

The only thing constant is change.

Anonymous said...

"GGP does not have enough residential density remaining to create a "living" Town Center much beyond what currently exists. "Smart growth" argues for increasing residential density where the infrastructure is already in place such as Town Center."

By what measure do you say GGP doesn't have enough residential density remaining to create a "living" Town Center? Besides, Town Center is quite alive. The proof is there for anyone willing to see it, from commerce to culture to recreation to environment.

Doesn't GGP have about another 2,200 residences left in the pool? That's about another 6,000 people, another 4,400 cars.

Why again are another 5,500 residences needed on top of that to be placed in Town Center? To me it continues to seem to be primarily focused on two things: increasing land values for the current owners/developers and creating additional customers to facilitate densely commercially developing Town Center to the detriment of its residents.

And smart growth doesn't say development needs to happen. Smart growth is about if development is needed, then there are locations and methods that are preferable. Has anyone yet made a clear case that a total of 7,700 residences (about 25% or 20,000 more people) are needed in Columbia when adjacent cities have shrunk for decades and have housing stock and infrastructure available?

Smart growth also pairs increased density of development with corresponding protections of natural areas elsewhere. I am unaware of any such increased protection requirements in the proposed plan, instead seeing portions of open space within Town Center being consumed as part of the proposal and other portions of Town Center's open space being put at risk of consumption in the future.

"Granted, transportation and traffic issues need to be addressed and I expect they will be."

Addressed how and when? So far the proposal has included 5,500 additional residences despite determinations that this proposed intensity of additional development will cause roads to fail congestion. And what did the county-paid transportation consultant who looked at the plan recommend as a solution? The consultant suggested allowing building at an intensity that would cause the roads to congest purposefully, in order to get the public at a later date to accept the very high cost of construction and operation of a transit solution (light rail or metro). Such systems will be all the more expensive when no consideration is made for their space and funding in the current proposal.

Because of these very high costs, there's no guarantee when or if they will ever be built, but without inclusion in the current proposal, a transit plan will inevitably be delayed unnecesarily. So, the result for the near term would be traffic congestion for years and years to come, sprinkled with appallingly ineffective measures like "enhanced" bus schedules and "Lexus" lanes added in the medians of existing public roads for the more affluent to not be hindered by gridlock.

"If GGP did go ahead built what they were currently allowed to build, you would see big box retailers lined up on the Crescent property. I don't think anyone wants that, us or them."

It's not an either GGP gets the 5,500 additional residences or they will dump big boxes into the Crescent property. Wouldn't Town Center architectural covenants preclude these gross (and by gross I mean both large and ugly) structures?

Also, a big box cluster in Columbia's heart runs so counter to sense of community that I doubt GGP would want to pursue putting such a moustache on the Mona Lisa that is Columbia. The traffic to/from such clusters is a noise/traffic/air pollution nuisance, the tar roofs and expansive parking lots just add to urban heat island effect (which radiate heat at night that prevent cities from cooling off at night in the summer), and the ominous night time glow from the parking lot lights obscure the night time sky which should be clearly viewable by all. So, claiming Columbia somehow needs to accept 5,500 more residences on top of the 2,200 remaining or it will be littered with big boxes is just a red herring.

"As to what is wrong with Town Center as it now exists I am uncertain where to start because there are so many things. Suffice it to say that if you can't see what is wrong with Town Center today then I'm afraid your self proclaimed planning zoning (pz)"guru" moniker is seriously overstated."

Using the premise that you don't know where to start because there are so many things wrong with Town Center is a poor excuse. I think if you did list what you didn't like about current Town Center you would find pretty much all of those things can be addressed with changes that are nowhere near as sweeping or detrimental as what's being called for in the current proposal.

"The only thing constant is change."

Change happening doesn't mean all change should be blithely welcomed. Columbia has no trouble attracting residents or commerce (excepting for occasional village center groceries), affording it the opportunity to wisely choose among the choices offered and reject ones that are either bad, incomplete, or both.

PZGURU said...

ANON - well said!!!

As for Freemarket - you make so many contradictions it's scary. You want smart gorwth, but you want "big box" retail stores excluded from Town Center?!?! So, people who need to go to Home Depot will have to drive much further to get to one. Doesn't sound like smart growth. BTW - have you ever been down Wisconsin Avenue close to the DC line - where there's a Lowes (i think) right on the street front. It blends in nicely and allows all of the nearby residents to get their lumber without having to drive to the 'burbs.

Furthermore, the Crescent Property Sketch Plan was for a few big box retail, a few office buildings, and a few senior housing buildings. A nice mix I would say, and hardly the picture you dishonestly try to portray. Get your facts straight next time and stop trying to deceive people with your misrepresentations.

Furthermore, GGP has plenty of architectural review and design guidelines, so any big box stores that may be placed on the Crescent Property could have a much nicer exterior treatment than what you would see elsewhere. Just think of the gas stations around Columbia, including near Town Center - small signs, very subdued appearance with extensive landscaping - you almost don't know they are there. And, even furthermore, the Planning Board has to review and approve all Site Plans so there is an added layer of security that nothing distasteful would get approved (except for a 23 story tower maybe - just kidding).

As for your attempted "dis" on my moniker. What a zinger.

The fact is, there is NOTHING wrong with the current economic status or health of Town Center. If it was dying, how did it end up as the 4th best place to live/work in America - according the much bally-hooed story just before the election last year? Just because you, Hayduke, and a few dozen other people in your organization say Town Center is lacking/boring/dying/whatever, doesn't make it so. If it were so bad, why are so many people eager to move there?

Change just to have change is stupidity. If it aint broke, don't "fix" it.

FreeMarket said...

“As for Freemarket - you make so many contradictions it's scary.”

PZG- I have not put a single comment on this thread. I actually did not even know this conversation was going on until someone informed me that you foolishly misidentified me. Guess you’re not as smart as you think you are, huh?

Anonymous said...

"What a zinger"

PZG- you are starting to sound an awful lot like another frequent commenter. Have any other pseudonyms?

Anonymous said...

Young At Heart -

"According to my very rough calculations, there are about 3,900 people per sq mile in Columbia (based on the 2000 census, 90,000 people in 15,000 acres or 23 square miles)."

Columbia's overall area is 27.7 miles and actual density is about 3,200/mi² (per Wikipedia and the 2000 U.S. Census).

"There are about 3,900 people in Town Center (according to the Town Center website). If Town Center is indeed one square mile (is it?) that means that Town Center currently has the same density as the Columbia AVERAGE."

If it is one square mile, that would make Town Center currently over 20% more population dense than Columbia as a whole.

"It seems to me that it would be very reasonable for Town Center to have double the density of the Columbia average, or 3900 more people.

Now, I'm not recommending 4,000 more people, but in the context that you mention, 1,000 people seems like a perfectly acceptable number to add to Town Center. Not much chance of turning it into a Silver Spring, which has a density of 15,600/sq. mile in its central business district."


But GGP still has another 2,200 residences they can build in Columbia under current zoning. That's about another 5,700 people. So, under current zoning that means Town Center's population could rise to about 9,600 people or, based on your area estimate, 9,600 people per square mile, triple Columbia's current average density and very much bringing it closer to resembling the density of Silver Spring's business district.

If another 5,500 residences were added on top of that by the current proposed density increase, that's about another 14,300 people, exploding Town Center's population to 24,900 people and density (again based on your area estimate) to 24,900 people per square mile, eight times more dense than Columbia as a whole and 60% MORE dense than Silver Spring's business district.

Is that really needed or wanted? Is it any wonder the traffic studies for the increased density predict failed roads? And no land set aside in the proposals for the additional schools that would then be needed?

PZGURU said...

My apologies to Freemarket. I mistakenly referenced him instead of Wordbones. Mea culpa.