Uncertainties mire White Flint financing plans
Future unclear for county executive's financing proposal
One of the first steps in implementing County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) proposed financing plan for the White Flint area of North Bethesda was nearly stalled by disagreements over spending priorities.
Council members and executive staff argued Thursday over a request to spend $385,000 from the county's general fund to start designing infrastructure projects in White Flint scheduled for 2011.
Leggett's office outlined a special district that would levy an additional property tax on certain sections of White Flint, starting retroactively in July, to pay for the $208 million in infrastructure projects outlined in the area's sector plan, which calls for massive commercial and residential growth. Officials presented the proposal at Thursday's meeting of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment committee.
Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said he was hesitant to spend any money while the council is considering cuts for county fire service; proposed if the November referendum to approve fees for ambulance users fails.
"I'm just hearing an inconsistency here," he said. "We have no money, we're broke."
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Diane Schwartz Jones defended the cost and said the money would be replaced the following year by special district taxes; set to be an additional 10 cents per $100 of assessed value for the roughly 430-acre section surrounding the White Flint Metrorail station.
The $385,000 would go to preliminary engineering efforts on six early-stage projects outlined in the sector plan. These include renovations to Main/Market Street and Old Georgetown Road; planned to help move traffic through the area while major construction projects such as reconstruction of Rockville Pike, begins.
The executive's proposal expects the county to spend $9.835 million on planning, designing, and supervising such projects between 2011 and 2016 in White Flint. It also expects to re-coup that amount of money from the special tax district.
Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said the committee should delay a vote on the matter until the council decides on any changes to the executive's proposal, scheduled to follow the Oct. 26 county council meeting.
She said no matter what funding mechanism is put in place, project design for early stages would need to start immediately.
"We need to get moving on this," Schwartz Jones said.
The White Flint area is bounded by Rockville Pike, and Montrose and Randolph roads in North Bethesda. Under the master plan, which was approved by the County Council in March and is a blueprint for the area over the next 40 years, 9,800 new residences and 5.49 million square feet of commercial space would be added to an area populated by 18,720 people and with 5.69 million square feet of commercial space.