Tag: transit-oriented development

CSG Testimony: Comments in Support of West Falls Church Redevelopment Plan

CSG Testimony: Comments in Support of West Falls Church Redevelopment Plan

For nearly 25 years since our founding by the region’s leading conservation groups, we have helped the region work toward a vision for a network of transit-oriented communities, a vision committed to by Fairfax County and endorsed by all 23 jurisdictions in the Council of Governments’ Region Forward plan and supporting plans. It is a vision shared by the conservation community, affordable housing, bike/ped and transit advocates, and much of the business community.

We support the West Falls Church TSA – with recommendations: 1) swift action to make the streets that surround the Metro station site safer for local residents, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit-
users and 2) addressing climate change by slashing our emissions from transportation. L

We are signatories to the joint supportive comments submitted by leading conservation and housing groups in the Fairfax Healthy Communities Network – which you have in your packet. In addition to CSG, the signatories are Audubon Naturalist Society, Northern VA Affordable Housing Alliance, Sierra Club – Great Falls Group, Friends of Holmes Run, and Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions.

Joint Letter: Comments in Support of PA 2018-II-1M WFC TSA

Joint Letter: Comments in Support of PA 2018-II-1M WFC TSA

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Audubon  Naturalist Society, the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, the Sierra Club Great Falls  Group, Friends of Holmes Run, and Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. We write to express  our support for the redevelopment of the West Falls Church Transit Station Area and urge you  to consider our recommendations below and vote in favor of the comprehensive plan  amendment (CPA) (2018-II-1M). 

The proposed plan amendment will help realize Fairfax County’s vision of providing a network of  transit-oriented development (TOD) along its transit corridors. This vision is outlined in the  County’s Comprehensive Plan guidance, which calls for development close to transit stations to  focus on reducing dependence on driving and increasing transit ridership. 

Smart Growth Events — March-April

Hi Friend!

Happy Spring! We have a lot of big news and events to share!

On April 23 we’ll be honoring Rushern Baker, former Prince George’s County Executive with our Prince Livable Communities Leadership Award, and the DC-area League of Women Voters with our Sanders-Henn Community Hero Award. We hope you will join us at Tico restaurant in DC from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for delicious food, great company, and to celebrate these amazing indivduals and thier leadership on smart growth. Sign up to sponsor or buy your individual tickets. We hope to see you there!

We’re hiring for two great positions — Communications Manager and Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager. Learn more here and apply at jobs@smartergrowth.net.

It’s shaping up to be a big year in advocacy for smarter growth and we welcome your involvement. With town, county, and state legislative elections in Virginia, we are teaming with partners on a Healthy Communities Platform to call for transit-oriented communities with safer streets for walking and bicycling, more transit, more affordable housing, parks and restored streams.


Never before has it been more important for our region to focus growth in walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented communities. We have just a decade to significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions, and we can’t do so without major reductions in driving. These dynamic communities also improve access to jobs and opportunity, allow for improved health and human interaction, and are a far more effective approach to addressing our transportation challenges than massive highway expansion.
We hope you will join us in supporting smarter growth and healthier communities in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia at these upcoming events and hearings.

Upcoming Events

Wharf Phase II Kick Off Celebration and Family Fun Day

Sat, March 30, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

The Wharf — 600 Water Street, SW, Washington, D.C.


Northern Virginia Housing Expo 

Sat, March 30, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Washington-Lee High School, 1301 N. Stafford St., Arlington

A free public event for first-time homeownership, rental opportunities and resources throughout Northern Virginia: location options, being prepared for buying or renting, understanding and improving credit scores, senior housing options, condominium governance, improving energy efficiency, and more. For more information check here.


Beer+Transit Networking Event

Mon., April 1, 2019, 6:00 p.m.

Busboys and Poets, 450 K St NW, Washington, D.C.

The Rail Passengers Association presents a Beer+Transit networking event as part of the 2019 #RailNationDC Spring Advocacy Conference. Guest speaker is Joe McAndrew, Director of Transportation Policy at the Greater Washington Partnership. Tickets are $12.00.


MPC Annual Spring Lecture: Robert Sampson “Urban Neighborhoods and American Life”

Wed, April 3, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

American University, School of International Service Founders Room, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Professor Robert J. Sampson of Harvard University will deliver the Metropolitan Policy Center’s fifth Annual Spring Lecture. He is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University. A reception will follow the lecture. RSVP here.


The Climate Crisis: Impacts and Solutions

Tues, April 9, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

GMU Founders Hall, 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington (Virginia Square Metro)

Talk by Jay Fisette, former Arlington Board member and managing partner for DMV Strategic Advisors, presenting Al Gore’s compelling slide deck and leading a panel discussion. Hosted by EcoAction Arlington, Coalition for Smarter Growth and Encore Learning. Attend and join us in emphasizing the importance of smart growth for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


ACT April Meeting: What’s the Future of the Bus?

Tues., Apr. 9, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.

Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Pl, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Dan Malouff (GWU professor, Alexandria planner) will be speaking on the future of bus transit.


Prince William Supervisor Candidate Forum on Climate and Sustainability

Mon, April 15, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Chin Park Regional Library, 13065 Chinn Park Drive, Woodbridge, VA

Hosted by the Greater Prince William Climate Action Network and other partners. Prince William has some of the highest rates of driving in the region and scattered land use — meaning even bigger steps are necessary to find land use and workable transit solutions. (CSG is a 501(c)3 and does not endorse or work on behalf of any candidate for office.)


Stand up for Smart Growth

Events listed under D.C, Maryland, Virginia, and regional below.

District of Columbia

Protected Bike Lanes for 20th/21st/22ndStreet NW– Public Meeting #3

Sat, April 13, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens, 2425 N Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Attend this open house to learn about and comment on DDOT’s recommended alternative. Learn more about D.C.’s protected bike lane studies here.


Montgomery Council work sessions on Accessory Dwelling Units

Planning, Housing & Economic Development Committee

Thurs, April 4, 9:30 a.m.

Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-01 would make ADU’s easier and more affordable to build. Read more here and see a fact sheet here. You can submit comments by email here.


Montgomery Planning Open House on Rock Spring Master Plan Design Guidelines

Thurs., Mar. 28, 2019 at 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Davis Library, 6400 Democracy Blvd, Bethesda, MD

The Rock Spring Master Plan envisions this 535-acre office park, as walkable, mixed-use community with new housing and retail, and a central circulation spine for a future BRT.


PEC Community Meeting on the Loudoun2040 plan

Wed, March 27, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Middleburg Community Center, Middleburg, VA

The latest in a series of information sessions on the Loudoun2040 comprehensive plan, what’s at stake and how to get involved. Learn more here.


Eisenhower East Small Area Plan 2019 Update Open House

Wed, March 27, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Eisenhower Center III Office Building, 2331 Mill Road, 6thFloor

The city is evaluating flexibility of land uses, building heights, potential additional development, retail, and ped/bike issues. Attend to encourage improved placemaking, retail, and pedestrian and bicycle features to enhance Alexandria’s highest density Metro-oriented center. Learn more here.


Oakville Triangle and Route 1 Corridor Vision Plan Update for Virginia Tech Innovation Campus

Mon, April 1, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Oakville Triangle warehouse, 444 Swann Ave, Alexandria

The first in a series of meetings about Virginia Tech’s planned Innovation Campus. For additional information, visit the project webpage and the City’s National Landing webpage.


Richmond Highway (Route 1) Urban Design Guidelines Pop-up Studios

Thurs, April 4, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Sat, April 6, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Mount Vernon Plaza Shopping Center 7648 Richmond Highway (behind McDonalds)

Share your ideas at Pop-UP STUDIOs showcase pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and building design ideas for the Richmond Highway corridor.


Arlington’s Plan Lee Highway Design Studios

Every other Fri, April 5, 19, May 3, 17, 31, from Noon to 3:30 p.m.

Russell Building, 4620 Lee Highway, Suite 208, Arlington, VA

An opportunity for residents, business owners, and community members to view the latest study materials, meet with project planners, ask questions and share ideas.


2019 NLIHC Housing Policy Forum: Seizing the Moment for Bold Solutions

Wed., Mar. 27, 2019 at 8 a.m. through Fri., Mar. 29, 2019 at 5 p.m.

525 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20001

Join affordable housing advocates, thought-leaders, policy experts, researchers, housing providers, low income residents, and leaders from Capitol Hill to advance bold solutions to homelessness and housing poverty in America.


CSG In Action

Workforce housing:  Last week, on the heels of Mayor Bowser’s proposal to increase funding for affordable housing, we issued our report: Making Workforce Housing Work: Understanding Housing Needs for D.C.’s Changing Workforce, urging D.C. to increase the total supply of housing, and target housing support toward working households at 50% of area median income and below. We recommend the city dramatically increase funding for its Local Rent Supplement Program and Housing Production Trust Fund, and use Inclusionary Zoning, Planned Unit Developments, and other zoning tools to produce more housing that is affordable. See our post in GGWash.


Amazon:  We filed testimony in support of the local Arlington incentives for Amazon’s location in Crystal City/Pentagon City, while urging laser focus by the county and state on affordable housing preservation and expansion, including a doubling of the county’s housing trust fund. We noted that the state/local transportation package is very progressive in focusing on transit, walk and bike modes and urged Amazon to achieve a 65% non-auto mode share.


Bus Transformation Project: We are serving on the Executive Committee for this regional study on how to improve bus service. Public meetings are coming later this spring. In the meantime you can find all study documents here.

CSG Testimony re Amazon & Affordable Housing

Coalition for Smarter Growth

March 14, 2019

Arlington County Board

Suite #300

2100 Clarendon Blvd

Arlington, VA 22201


Re:  Amazon incentive package and community needs

Dear Chair Dorsey and members of the Board:

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading non-profit in the DC region advocating a network of livable communities – walkable, mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-oriented centers and corridors linked by an expanded transit network including Metrorail, bus, bus rapid transit, light-rail, and street-car as appropriate. Our partnerships span the region’s leading conservation, affordable housing, bicycle/pedestrian, and transit advocacy organizations, as well as progressive architecture, planning and development firms. We are proud that this web of partnerships enabled us to collectively win the first-ever dedicated funding for Metro.

We support Amazon’s decision to locate in Crystal City/Pentagon City. Their decision is a vindication of Arlington’s long-time leadership and implementation of smart growth and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is a vindication as well of our regional advocacy for TOD and of the Council of Governments’ Region Forwardvision and Visualize2045transportation plan commitments to TOD. Amazon is also teaming with one of the region’s most successful transit-oriented developers, JBGSmith, who have a record of good design and placemaking, and recently started a workforce housing fund.

Turning now to the proposed incentives program. We join others in the long-standing concerns about the nationwide use of incentives to attract major corporate entities – particularly given so many socio-economic needs in our communities. But we also recognize that both Arlington and the State of Virginia incentives are performance based. Arlington’s incentives are also being drawn from the growth in revenue from the Transient Occupancy Tax, of which 15% will go to Amazon for performance but the remainder to schools, housing and transportation in Arlington. We are pleased that the state transportation investments are among the most progressive seen in the U.S. in that they are focused on transit, bicycle/pedestrian and safe street design investments.

A new area of concern raised by Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government must be addressed – that the proposed agreement includes a provision allowing Amazon “at least two-business days to refute, redact or file a lawsuit when someone seeks records of its interaction with the county” (P. Sullivan, Washington Post, 3/15/19). At CSG we have always placed transparency in government at the core of community planning and engagement and strongly support ever greater transparency in FOIA standards and fewer exemptions. Therefore, this provision which Ms. Rhyne says is unusual, should be removed from the agreement.

While we are supporting the Amazon transit-oriented project, we share the significant concerns about housing affordability in Arlington and the region – an issue which admittedly predates Amazon. While Arlington and Alexandria are pledging $150 million toward affordable housing needs over ten years, our understanding is that these are not new, additional funds. It is good that the Virginia Housing Development Authority will be allocating $15 million per year over five years in low interest loans for affordable housing and added $3 million to the statewide Virginia Housing Trust Fund. But this level of investment is also far short of the need. Since Arlington notes that increased revenues will result from Amazon’s investment and associated development and economic activity, we urge the use of a significant portion of those revenues for affordable housing – to double or more the current annual commitments. We urge the same for Alexandria, Fairfax, and the state.

As for the state commitment to affordable housing, we need to point out the discrepancy between $750 million in incentives for Amazon and $50 million for Micron, while only adding $3 million to the state housing trust fund and the five-year, $15 million per year loan program for Northern Virginia. Similarly, the comparison between the billions we spend on highways and interchanges is stunning when compared to how little we are investing in affordable housing. In fact, housing close to jobs and transit IS a transportation solution, reducing vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled. Investing in affordable housing in smart growth locations creates far more benefits than do our massive highway expenditures, providing family stability, improved health, improved educational outcomes, improved access to jobs and affordable transportation, and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we need both much more public funding support from the state and local governments, but also innovative private sector investment in long-term committed affordable housing for 60 percent of area median income and below.

Beyond funding, we concur with many other groups that we need effective preservation strategies for market-rate affordable housing in our diverse neighborhoods that are potentially impacted by the economic development that will come with Amazon. Arlington, DC, Alexandria and advocates at CSG and the member groups of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance have many ideas for effective tools for both preservation and inclusion of affordable housing, and we need a stronger commitment and an accelerated approach to implementation in each jurisdiction with the full participation of local residents.

Turning back to transportation, and Amazon’s role, we are pleased that Amazon has achieved about a 50% mode share for non-auto commutes in Seattle and has promised that they want to do even better here. We recommend a goal of 65% non-auto mode share. To achieve this, we recommend that Amazon provide transit passes to all employees, and that they minimize on-site parking (as they have discussed) — and price it OR offer equal non-parking benefits to any employee who might be eligible for or offered a parking space but wishes to take transit, walk or bike to work. Include secure bicycle parking, along with showers and lockers for bike commuters.

In addition, the state, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, and local jurisdictions should add other projects to the package of transportation investments including:

  • Connecting Metroway through Alexandria to Fairfax’ Embark Richmond Highway BRT
  • Accelerating the Long Bridge rail project and building the separated bike bridge
  • In the I-395 Corridor provide TOD node-to-node bus rapid transit connections between Fort Belvoir, Springfield, Landmark, Mark Center, Shirlington, Pentagon City/Crystal City and Pentagon (and a Kingstown to Van Dorn to Landmark connection).
  • Expansion of Capital Bikeshare
  • Expansion of dedicated bike lane infrastructure

In conclusion, we support Amazon’s location decision, but we urge you to fix the FOIA issue, to advance these additional transportation projects in partnership with other jurisdictions, AND commit to increasing funding for affordable housing, adopting new tools for preservation and inclusion, and including the community in the development of these strategies and programs.

Thank you.

Stewart Schwartz

Executive Director

Prince George’s hospital plan approved by county, awaits key state clearance

It could be at least four years before a proposed regional hospital and medical campus opens at Largo Town Center, but the central Prince George’s community is already bracing for a development that could boost health-care options as well as the overall local economy.

Officials hope it lives up to their vision of creating a more urban, pedestrian-friendly community.

The $650 million, 231-bed hospital, which is under state and county review, promises to deliver a more urban street grid with smaller blocks to encourage foot and bicycle travel around what is primarily a car-oriented Metro station just outside the Capital Beltway.

Residents and transit advocates say the project, which has a tentative 2019 opening, can’t come soon enough to an area known for its big boulevards, giant parking lots and bus stops on sidewalk-free roads. They say the proposal offers the type of transit-oriented development that they have long sought.

“We have fought this battle for more years than I care to think about. This plan brings us far closer to where we need to be,” Chuck Renninger, president of the Largo Civic Association, told county officials discussing the project last month. “We need to get phase one up and operational as quickly as possible so that phase two and three can come quick enough.”

Recently, the project received the county planning commission’s blessing to move toward construction, an important step in the county’s land-use approval process. The realization of the project, however, is still contingent on a crucial state review that has already dragged on for a year longer than the county had hoped.

Maryland’s health-care commission must sign off on a “certificate of need,” which includes design plans and financial projections. After going back and forth with the applicant for a year, the commission finally docketed the case in April and the panel is weighing the needs, benefits and competition created by building the hospital. As part of the review, the commission is considering the concerns of two hospitals protesting the project’s scale.

A step to sway statistics
For the county, however, building the medical facility is the first step in remedying pressing health-care disparities for its residents, who have long complained about having to travel outside the county for care because of the limited options.

The new facility, which would be operated by the University of Maryland Medical System, would help tackle statistics that show Prince George’s residents have higher rates of chronic diseases — including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma and cancer — than people in neighboring counties. Studies also suggest that the county’s mortality rate is higher than that of Montgomery and Howard counties.

The new medical campus would replace the 100-bed Prince George’s Hospital Center in
Cheverly, which has struggled financially and requires frequent subsidies from the state and county. It would have a 10-story building at the center, housing an ambulatory care center, a cancer center, a women-and-children’s center and a resident program.

The project “represents turning a page on a chapter that has been, in a lot of ways, a drag on the county,” Brad Frome, an economic development aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), told the planning commission last month, citing the conditions of the existing hospital. “This is really a foundation stone for the creation of a new health-care system that we look to have in the county.”

Later phases would bring more medical offices, a nursing home, hotels and more housing around it, officials say, touting the project as a driver for economic development promising to revive the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, which has struggled for years to fill and keep storefronts open.

The hospital project could spur $3 billion in economic activity for Prince George’s, according to a recent report that suggests it could help build a mixed-use development around the Largo Town Center Metro station that includes about 3 million square feet of commercial space, nearly 1 million square feet of retail, 653 hotel rooms, a 150-bed nursing home and more than 4,000 residential units.

At build-out, that means $150 million in state and local tax revenue, 16,000 new jobs and 4,340 households with an estimated $312.5 million in income, according to the report.

Approval hurdles
The project is expected to move through the county’s approval process without delay by early fall, which leaves state approval as the main hurdle between now and its projected 2019 opening.

The state commission docketed the case in April. A commissioner is expected to review it soon and could make a recommendation by the end of the year.

As part of its review, the commission is considering comments from Doctors Community Hospital and Anne Arundel Medical Center. Both oppose the size of the project, citing its potential impact on their operations.

Doctors Community, a 218-bed facility in Lanham, about six miles from the proposed medical center, estimates that it would lose nearly 400 admissions annually. Fewer admissions could lead to a shortfall of more than $1 million annually, the hospital said.

“A new hospital is needed, but the right hospital, not this proposal,” Doctors Community attorneys Peter P. Parvis and Jennifer J. Coyne said in a May 4 letter to the state panel. The Prince George’s Regional Medical Center “did not meet its burden of proving that the need for a hospital this large and this expensive exists, or that the hospital is financially feasible.”

Anne Arundel Medical Center, the third-busiest hospital in Maryland with 384 beds and an emergency heart-attack-response center about 22 miles east of the Largo site, cites the county’s “difficulty attracting and retaining a strong medical community of physicians.” The center estimates the project will result in
420 fewer discharges and questions the proposed cardiac surgery services at the new facility.

Thomas Himler, budget director for Prince George’s, said the new facility hopes to attract county residents who seek medical care elsewhere in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia. Despite the objections of the two competing hospitals, he said, the county expects approval by the end of the year.

The medical center is tied to about 26 acres immediately east of the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, adjacent to the Largo Town Center Metro station and just off the Capital Beltway, north of Central Avenue. It would be funded with $450 million in bond financing, including about
$200 million each from the state and the county.

Transit potential
At the center of all that growth is the Metro station, which opened in 2004 as the Blue Line’s eastern-most terminal. The new Silver Line also ends there. Although the station now ranks in the bottom half in the system in terms of performance and has nearly 5,000 daily passenger boardings, it has the capacity to handle significant ridership growth, officials say.

Largo has the potential to be an example of successful transit-oriented development in a county that has 15 vastly underdeveloped Metro stations, planners and transit officials say. The community could develop into a downtownlike area similar to Silver Spring, with a large medical community anchoring diverse business and housing options. The housing stock is already growing, with at least one multifamily complex under construction across the street from the hospital site.

Having the hospital less than a quarter-mile from the Metro platform would make it an attractive choice for workers and patients, officials say.

Margaret Bowles, 75, a retired teacher who lives about three miles from the hospital site, said she goes to Holy Cross Hospital in Montgomery County for specialty care and has friends who travel to the District for health care.

“People go down to George Washington [University Medical Center] and they never take their car. They hop on the Metro and go downtown because the Metro stop is right there. It is perfect,” she said. “Before this project, we had not had the vision that we probably should have for development around the Metro station.”

The success, she said, hinges on building it right, with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in mind.

The county-approved plan calls for sidewalks along both sides of the Boulevard, Arena Drive and Lottsford Road. Pedestrian plazas, seating areas and bicycle pathways also are part of the design. County planners said the streets will be narrow to foster a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Advocates for transit-oriented development, including Metro and the nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth, have pushed for wide, well-lit pathways connecting the station to the hospital and the surrounding commercial spaces to make it as easy as possible for workers and patients to take transit.

“Having a very large employment center at the station will absolutely change that ridership at Largo,” said Stan Wall, Metro’s director of real estate and planning, noting that the project also could benefit Metro’s plans to eventually develop 12 acres of land it owns at the site.

The medical center alone could generate 650 new daily entries at the Metro station, according to the transit agency’s office of planning. That would mean $750,000 in new revenue for the transit agency. But even more riders and revenue would stem from the development that would follow the hospital construction, Wall said.

Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, agrees that keeping in mind the pedestrian and bike traffic will ensure good circulation between the hospital’s front door, Metro and the shops at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre.

“We want to make sure it’s done to the full benefit,” she said.

Read original article here.

Newton looks for state and county APFS input

Mayor Bridget Newton hopes to temporarily stop the council’s consideration of the city’s adequate public facilities standards (APFS) for schools in order to wait for county and state input.

The APFS for schools determines how much school capacity must be available for residential development to move forward in the city. On Nov. 17, Councilmember Tom Moore made a presentation arguing for aligning the city standards with the county standards, which some consider more lax toward developers.

At the council’s public hearing on Jan. 5, Newton said the county will soon convene a workgroup to look at school standards and she would prefer to wait to see the results of that before moving forward.

She also said she intends to write to the Maryland Attorney General for an opinion on the council’s authority to change the APFS in the first place. Don Hadley, chair of the city’s Planning Commission, told the mayor and council in December that a recent reconfiguration of state law as well as opinion from the attorney general to the city of Mt. Airy indicates the APFS falls under the master plan which is ultimately Planning Commission territory.

The city attorney reviewed Hadley’s reasoning and said the mayor and council have control because the APFS is a resolution implementing Rockville’s comprehensive plan, rather than part of the plan itself. Newton said she still wants the attorney general opinion and believes she has the authority to write to the state as the presiding officer of the council, even without majority support.

“I really think it would be the smartest thing we could do to step back and make sure that we are on the right path and that we do have the authority that some of us think we have,” Newton said.

In the meantime, former mayors and city officials as well as residents and developers weighed in at the public hearing.

In advocating for changing the standards, Moore has said the standards have hurt the city because the county is less inclined to fund city schools. Rockville evaluates program capacity for two years from the time an application is approved and does not allow development to bring the projected enrollment to more than 110 percent of program capacity per school. Rockville also looks at capacity per school. In contrast, the county evaluates program capacity for five years from the application date, sets the limit at 120 percent and looks at capacity on average for each cluster.

Rose Krasnow, mayor from 1995-2001, said the county standards would have fewer negative consequences for the city than the current standards.

“The city has no control over construction of new schools since that is strictly a county responsibility,” she said at the hearing. “They view Rockville’s attitude as somewhat antagonistic and not willing to work with them.”

But others involved in the original adoption of the APFO in 2005, such as former councilmember John Hall, said it is disingenuous to describe the APFO as “harmful” to the city.

“What we have is a well-founded, well-researched, rational set of standards regarding school capacity when it comes to the APFO and I really encourage folks to recognize that these suggestions that somehow Rockville’s standards have harmed the city are entirely without merit. It’s really a misleading argument to suggest that that’s the case. The county has made it clear to us has absolutely no impact whatsoever on their approach to capital improvement funding,” Hall said.

Former Mayor Larry Giammo, also involved in the original adoption during his terms from 2001-2007, said it is also a myth the standards have hurt the city. He said the 13 most overcrowded schools are not in Rockville and only two of the top 30 are. In addition, the county recently funded an addition to Julius West Middle School and is pushing for a fifth elementary school in the Richard Montgomery cluster.

“If you were the captain of a boat and the boat was given to you so you had no control over how big the boat was, and you have a long line down the dock of people wanting to get on your boat, at some point, wouldn’t you want to say ‘enough, I can’t have any more people on the boat. It’s going to sink,’” Giammo said.

But others originally supportive of adopting the APFO now want it to be changed. Steve Edwards, a Rockville resident since 1976 and on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, said the APFS takes away the city’s “leverage” with the county.

“It has become very apparent that the school board does not recognize the APFO in considering funding projects,” he said at the hearing.

Some also said development is necessary for the city to thrive and would benefit the schools. Kelly Blynn, a campaign manager with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said she supported aligning the city and county standards to create walkable, transit-oriented communities.

Andrea Jolly, president and CEO of the Rockville Chamber, said the standards do not help schools, hurt business and so hurt the city overall.

But to Giammo, slowing overcrowding is just as important to development and the planning issues need to be thought about at a broader county planning level.

“It’s disappointing to hear folks from the business community saying those kinds of things because at the end of the day high quality public education is essential to success of business community,” Giammo said. “If anything, ensuring that schools don’t get overcrowded in the long run is about the best thing for business possible.”

Residents have also advocated going to the county to work for lowering the county’s standards, which allow schools to reach 120 program capacity — the highest of any county in the state.

Moore has said he’s supportive of that but changing the standards to align with the county is the first step in moving the conversation to the county council.

The city first passed the APFO, the ordinance related to the standards, in 2005 after about a year of talking to different stakeholders, including developers and residents. The city of Gaithersburg also passed its own APFO that took effect in 2007.

The council amended the APFS in 2011 to exempt the addition of portable classrooms and delineate when the county test could apply to some applications rather than the city test.

In 2011, now-Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr chaired a committee to review the APFO and APFS and issued recommendations about how the city can be more transparent, keep track of enrollment and advocate at the county level for updated numbers and Rockville projects.

The committee also supported the two-year rather than five-year capacity evaluation.

In 2012, the Planning Commission recommended the city keep the key components of its APFS for schools and reiterated those recommendations in a December memo to the mayor and council.

The city plans to hold a second public hearing on the city’s APFS on Jan. 26.

Read the original article here.

JOINT LETTER: CSJ joins concerned stakeholders in letter to Senators and Virginia officials

Dear Senators, Delegates, Supervisors and Director:
We understand that the next public meetings have been delayed to October and that analysis work is continuing, but wanted to communicate to you three key issues of concern.

Coalition for Smarter Growth walking tour of East Falls Church

Come join us explore East Falls Church – an area centered on the Metro station and on the cusp of big changes. Divided by I-66 and split between two jurisdictions, the area is surrounded by well-loved neighborhoods, with parks and the booming W&OD bicycle trail.

RELEASE: Advocates urge Prince George’s County and state to target funds to transportation projects supporting smart growth

Prince George’s County and regional smart growth advocates sent a letter today to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker urging him to rethink transportation priorities to fulfill the County’s efforts to foster transit-oriented economic development.