White Flint neighbors form a coalition to voice concerns
Civic associations say issues important to residents ignored
Four civic associations representing more than 1,600 residences bordering the White Flint Sector Plan area have formed an alliance in reaction to what they see as a lack of responsiveness on the part of county planners to their concerns about the redeveloping sector plan.
The White Flint Community Coalition announced its founding to the Planning Board at a work session on Monday night in a presentation from representatives of Garrett Park Estates-White Flint Park Citizens' Association, Luxmanor Citizens Association and Crest of Wickford Homeowners Association. The Wickford Community Association later joined forces with the coalition, which is in talks with other community groups as well.
Members of the participating groups have asked through the two-and-a-half year planning process that development in the White Flint Sector Plan, which is reshaping redevelopment strategies for the area around the White Flint Metro Station, be done without encroaching on their neighborhoods with tall buildings and traffic increases.
"The community participants thought their concerns weren't being heard," said Glenn Adler, president of the Garrett Park Estates — White Flint Park Citizens' Association, which borders the southeast boundary of the sector plan. "We were not satisfied with the staff draft presented in January."
The coalition is asking that dense and tall development be focused around a "Smart Core" within one-quarter mile of the Metro and then step down rapidly as it approaches surrounding neighborhoods. It is also seeking assurances that transportation and mobility infrastructure for the sector plan be established, and sustainable practices — chiefly substantial increases in the pervious surfaces and tree canopy in the sector — be paramount.
"We'll be open to any civic association who shares those concerns," said Adler, adding that to join the coalition a civic association needs only a verbal agreement to cooperate in presenting a united front to government agencies. He said the coalition is looking at hiring planning advisers to bolster its arguments.
"These are communities that do have resources," Adler said.
Adler said the coalition is concerned that White Flint will become "less than the sum of its parts," with emphasis on unsynchronized individual developments instead of a broad community vision. He said in previous presentations by developers, little attention was given to the concerns held by coalition members about traffic and density.
"I think there was dissatisfaction with the developers' presentations, that they scarcely even paid lip service to these concerns, let alone address them," Adler said.
The White Flint Sector Plan has been in development for more than two years, but Adler said the Coalition was not formed earlier because the citizens within it believed they would have more of an impact on the process than they have. Adler said even though there are only about two more work sessions before the Planning Board starts making decisions about the staff draft, the coalition will be in place to appeal to the County Council with its views.
However, at the work session, Planning Board Vice-Chairman John Robinson indicated during a presentation by Luxmanor Civic Association President Paula Bienenfeld that certain elements of the sector plan were all-but assured. For example, Robinson said it was futile to protest the expansion of the Metro policy area, which allows high-density development around the White Flint Metro station, because it has long been a key factor in the plan's update.
"Why have we let all the developers come in if we weren't going to expand the Metro policy area?" Robinson asked. "It boggles my mind that this isn't obvious to everybody."
Upon learning of the formation of the coalition, Chairman Royce Hanson encouraged the group to be solution-oriented.
"We're going to move after about one or two more sessions…into a decision mode," Hanson said. "I'm going to begin asking you not only what the problem is but what do you want us to do about it?"