Friday, March 05, 2010

Myopic View of Development

Recently, while checking out Anthony Jordan’s website, I became curious about the following statement: “Developing for the sake of development does not serve any social or economic goals and does little more than pad the pockets of disinterested out-of-county businesses.”

Anthony is the Republican challenger for the District 2 county council seat currently held by Calvin Ball.

I sent him an email asking “What are the social and economic goals that you would like to see achieved in Columbia Town Center and how does the plan approved by the council fail to meet them?”

Anthony responded “that my post was drafted on January 12, 2010, almost a month before the legislation reached its final form.”

He then proceeded to clarify his position on the Columbia Town Center redevelopment.

“I feel that the reliance on "walkable communities" and mass transportation bears assumptions that I am not willing to make. I am the father of two little girls, and I can't imagine what a trip to the library or the mall would have been like if we had to rely on the means of transportation that seem to be required by this plan. I feel that many other Columbians will feel the same, and that while this development progresses, the parking lots and highways will bear the weight. I have yet to read an article or a bill that has explained who, other than the taxpayer, will bear these costs.”

I appreciate his timely response, but I remain concerned about his seemingly myopic views on development.

I don’t know of any developer who “develops for the sake of developing.” While that may make a catchy sound bite, it lacks any foundation in reality. Developers develop in response to a need. People need houses, developers build houses. Companies need space to house their business, developers build offices and warehouses. People need stores and restaurants, developers build retail. If there is no need there is no development.

Admittedly that is an over simplification of the process but it does reflect the core truth of development; no need, no development. Yes, there are times when “perceived need” outpaces actual need. When that occurs things can get temporarily out of balance but over time the equilibrium usually returns. Like any business, the business of matching needs is not an exact science.

The second part of his statement about padding the pockets of supposed disinterested out-of-county businesses is actually more misleading. It suggests a rather jingoistic view of our county. For example, my partners and I are developing an office building in Howard County. In order to do this we needed to borrow $25 million. There wasn’t a Howard County bank with the wherewithal to swing a loan like that. In the end, Susquehanna Bank, headquartered in Lititz, PA, ended up providing the financing for our project. I can assure you that they are not disinterested in the health and welfare of Howard County.

Anthony seems like a nice guy. His timely response to my inquiry suggests that he may be approachable on development issues despite his use of language that strikes me as crafted to appease those unhappy with the plans for the redevelopment Columbia Town Center.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

His position isn't even solid for a month and if not, why not revise his statement? The vote was a month ago!

I just visited his site and he speaks in a lot of generalites. Where does he stand on the issues--for or against what? Does he support the referendum? He is asking to be elected to vote yes or no on things and he does not state yes or no about anything.

What specifically would he do differently than the guy he's running against? He's been running for almost a year and I have no idea why Does he even know what the Council does?

Anonymous said...

His position isn't even solid for a month and if not, why not revise his statement? The vote was a month ago!

I just visited his site and he speaks in a lot of generalites. Where does he stand on the issues--for or against what? Does he support the referendum? He is asking to be elected to vote yes or no on things and he does not state yes or no about anything.

What specifically would he do differently than the guy he's running against? He's been running for almost a year and I have no idea why Does he even know what the Council does?

Anonymous said...

i've never heard of this guy before? what is his proffession? where does he work? what has he done recently for the residents of the district he is running in?

Eludius said...

A simple economics lesson would help disprove his theory. Supply and demand.

However, the only flaw with supply and demand in development is that we often abandon older and less useful properties for newer properites, which can to urban decay. There needs to be more incentive to rebuild or renovate existing buildings rather than push outward from the center of the population.

Anthony said...

Here is my entire response



Dennis,
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to your readers and comment on an issue that is important to all Howard County citizens. No matter what side you may come out on, CB-58 and CB-59 will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on our county for the next 30 years, if not much longer.

To be completely frank, a Council that is powerful enough to demand sprinklers in every new home across the county is powerful enough to negotiate a development plan that is palatable to the community at large. Right now we have a concerned group of citizens that have been ridiculed and ostracized from the community discussion simply due to their dissenting views. That concerns me and gave me pause when I received your e-mail. I thought to myself "Am I being asked for 'my answer' or am I being asked for 'the right answer.'"

To define the terms of my response, please note that my post was drafted on January 12, 2010, almost a month before the legislation reached its final form. Since then, I've had the opportunity to discuss my concerns with David Yungman and Michael Davis, two strong supporters of the redevelopment. I now understand that the 5,500 new homes are to be spaced out at approximately 183 a year over the next 30 years, and that this legislation is merely a framework, and not a finish line. These men truly care about their community, and are also undeserving of some of the attacks that have been made against them.

Nonetheless, my core concerns remain. I feel that the reliance on "walkable communities" and mass transportation bears assumptions that I am not willing to make. I am the father of two little girls, and I can't imagine what a trip to the library or the mall would have been like if we had to rely on the means of transportation that seem to be required by this plan. I feel that many other Columbians will feel the same, and that while this development progresses, the parking lots and highways will bear the weight. I have yet to read an article or a bill that has explained who, other than the taxpayer, will bear these costs.

However, I do believe a responsible County Council can ensure that this development reaches the ambitious goals that were set for it many years ago, without embittering the community. I am not anti-development and I am not anti-progress. I believe a larger tax base will give future Councils the opportunity to lower property taxes and encourage the smart growth that this County deserves. However, I also believe there is a tendency for those who use the "tax base" argument to ignore the additional stress that population growth may have on infrastructure, crime, education, and safety expenses.

The story goes that when the Rouse Company originally bought the 14,000 acres that would become Columbia, the citizens of Howard County had no idea what was going on or why the property was being bought. If we are going to reach "Step 2" of Rouse's dream, as many have suggested, we must ensure that there are no questions about what is going on and what direction we are headed. There will not be uniform agreement, but we can aspire for uniform understanding. We don't have that yet, and I believe that is a failure of the Council.

I chose to live here, so I find the descriptions of Columbia as under a "suburban malaise" (what, you didn't think I read my local blogs?) to be hard to swallow. I live in a county where it is often hard to get my kids into the Summer Camp they want or get a parking spot to see the newest movie at AMC. I think many other citizens of this County see things the same way, and want to know where there County is headed.


Anthony Jordan

HoCoRising said...

Bangarang, Ruffio. Ha ha.

Anonymous said...

HCR haiku

Really HCR?

Quoting from the movie Hook?

1991.

HoCoRising said...

My own Haiku? I don't know what to say...besides the fact that I can't seem to read a haiku without using my hands. (Great movie, btw)

I was just having fun. I think it is great that WB reached out to a new candidate, and I thought it was good that Anthony got to post the remainder of his e-mail.

Anonymous said...

A lot of words without much said.

Did he answer - "What are the social and economic goals that you would like to see achieved in Columbia Town Center and how does the plan approved by the council fail to meet them?”

Does he support the legislation or not? Does he support the referendum atttempt or not?

Nice speech, but where's the beef?

Anonymous said...

Looks like Anthony spent an hour writing nothing. No specifics or facts. Nothing in the way of alternative proposals. He only opposes the legislation because his oppnent supports it and he has no other issues to run on. When you're desperate for someone to embrace you, you'll even cozy up to the Klein, Russell, Swatek crowd. Maybe he should be the guy to do the HoCo Rising debate with supporters!

Anonymous said...

Dennis, you have it wrong. Developers don't develop to fill a need. They develop to make a profit.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Anthony. Keep it up. The voices on this site are loud but few compared with registered voter views. Pick up a phone and contact a few dozen voters with a true scientific poll and you'll see that you're right on target with the rest of the community.

wordbones said...

Anon 11:26 PM,

Every business is in business to make a profit, developers are no different in that regard.

-wb

Anonymous said...

Wow, this thread has reached such an epitome of illogical thinking that I'm astounded. Despite the downturn in the real estate market, I'd advise all of you to sell your property in Columbia now and move out. It will only get worse. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

So, I just went to Jordan’s site and I see exactly why he is running. He wants to:
1.explore avenues for the revitalization of the Route One corridor
2.ask Police, Fire, and the Ulman Administration what they need to run more efficiently
3.cut all county money to Healthy Howard and stop trying to expand access to affordable healthcare for Howard County residents
AND
4.create a welcome commercial environment for business including increasing the size of the signs they can put out in our community.

How does any of this help the people in the district he claims he wants to serve?

So, while he is exploring, asking the people who want the money how to cut, trying to limit access to affordable healthcare and cluttering our communities with business signs, maybe someone can figure out where he stands on issues the County Council struggles with and people really care about.

PZGURU said...

WB - if development was purely about supply and demand, there wouldn't be any commercial construction at this time given that there's a healthy vacancy rate.

Maybe what Mr. Jordan meant by "development for the sake of development" is that many developers throw out any design, build just about anything, sometimes without any rhyme or reason, make their profit (which is fine - not saying they shouldn't deserve to earn a profit) and then move on to the next piece of land. Often, there is no care or concern for the success, in terms of functionality, or even aesthetic value or appeal, of the project, or even the longterm impact the project may have on the community. For example: traffic.

Way back when, there was a proposal to move Redskins to Laurel and build a new stadium. Bad idea that got shot down because traffic issues would have been a nightmare.

Most projects involving a single parcel of land of 20 acres or less, will not have any signifcant traffic impact. But, when we're talking about 5,000 dwelling units PLUS over a million square feet of commercial/office/retail space, and you have a constricted, existing road network, then traffic will have a huge impact.

Now, in all honesty, I have always felt that HRD (GGP's predecessor) was an OUTSTANDING developer in terms of the thought that went into their projects throughout Columbia. They had stringent architectural design standards and didn't just throw plans on paper and call it a day. However, GGP is not the same as HRD, and I think this plan is nothing more than a money-making gimmick meant to bolster their sagging stock value and their sagging revenue. And, while that normally woulnd't matter to me as a believer in capitalism, the negative long term impact on the community, IE: traffic and other things, plus the use of tax payer dollars to partially subsidize this plan, does not sit well with me.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, anon 5:15. If he does not support Healthy Howard, he hates health care. In fact, he must hate the world. He probably wants to ship dingos in from Australia to eat babies, too. Or maybe he just wants to spend our tax dollars more efficiently.

But my money is on the dingo scenario. That seems more logical.

Anonymous said...

I may not agree with everything anon 5:15 said. However, I think the overall point is valid. What's this guy really going to do for the community? He can't really be running to cut $500k from the budget for HH and those other lightweight goals.

Anonymous said...

Jordan seems like a well-intentioned guy and anyone who is willing to run a campaign (especially a republican in that district) deserves some credit. But, the story of why he opposes the downtown plan is comprised of nothing but generalities and buzz words. Of course we all want the things he says he stands for. But doesn't Calvin Ball? There are probably more productive ways for him to get involved in this and other community issues other than running a campaign against a very popular and effective incumbent. I sometimes think that people run for office just out of ego or because they enjoy being candidates. I did note on his website that he wants more attention on the Rt. 1redevelopment, which at least temporarily has taken a back seat to Coumbia redevelopment. That Rt.1 project is also important becasue that area also needs a wholesale facelift. Maybe he should become the leader of that effort when the candidate thing is over.

Anonymous said...

A popular and effective incumbent? That is an over the top assumption at best.

Calvin Ball does not come close to representing his constituency. Not even close.

PZGURU said...

WB - now a card-carrying member of the "drive-by" "media". If Jordan could walk on water, WB would right a post about how Jordan "can't swim". What a hack!

Sarah said...

I don't get it-- why wouldn't he want his girls to be able to walk to the library or the mall? Isn't that what a walkable community is? Parking lots and highways don't have to carry the burden-- we biked to the mall just yesterday and it was lovely. We walk to the library and our village and it's very nice not having to hop in a car everytime we need to go somewhere. I dunno, if you're going to oppose 58 and 59, fine, but don't say it's because you don't want your kids to be able to walk somewhere. I sure as heck wouldn't want to drive my kids around everywhere until they turn 16.

That being said-- it's a little misleading to say that development builds where there is a need for housing, retail, etc. Developers _create_ the need. Eludius is right. If that was the case, why should we worry about the development in Hanover, Laurel, etc that keeps popping up? If there is a need for all of it, it'll fill, right? We should be so lucky.