Category Archives: DC area

Reverting D.C. to Maryland?

The idea of reverting all of Washington, D.C. or at least its residential sections to Maryland is not new; there used to be a southern portion of D.C. across the Potomac that reverted to Virginia long ago, which in no way has prevented the Pentagon and similar installations from functioning as federal buildings just like those housing other cabinet departments. Whatever the idea’s logic, however, it would seem to be a political non-starter. “According to an April 2016 poll, only 28% of Marylanders support annexing DC, while 44% are opposed.” [Chad Hughes, Greater Greater Washington]

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Chevy Chase: “town has become farcically overregulated”

Discontent at a land-use control process perceived as “condescending and obnoxious” helped fuel a surprise voter revolt in affluent Chevy Chase, Md., just across the D.C. border in Montgomery County. [Washington Post] Aside from intensive review of requests to expand a deck or convert a screened-in porch to year-round space, there are the many tree battles:

[Insurgents] cite the regulations surrounding tree removal as especially onerous. Property owners seeking to cut down any tree 24 inches or larger in circumference must have a permit approved by the town arborist and town manager attesting that the tree is dead, dying or hazardous.

If turned down, residents can appeal to a Tree Ordinance Board, which applies a series of nine criteria to its decision, including the overall effect on the town’s tree canopy, the “uniqueness” or “desirability” of the tree in question and the applicant’s willingness to plant replacement trees.

More: Philip K. Howard with ideas for fixing environmental permitting. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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For me but not for thee: Montgomery County lawn pesticide ban

I’ve got a new post at Cato at Liberty about a proposed countywide ban on common lawn and turf pesticides in Washington, D.C.’s suburban Montgomery County. The best part is that county officials are frantically maneuvering to get the county’s own playing fields exempted from the ban. The piece concludes:

Libertarians often note that the state freely bans private conduct in which it’s happy to indulge itself — federal investigators can lie to you but it’s a crime if you lie to them, adopting federal accounting practices in your own business is a good way to get sent to prison, and so forth. But the double standard asked for here could wind up being — well, to coin a phrase, as bald as a Rockville lawn.

More: From the Washington Post’s piece, quoting a retired minister who lives in Silver Spring: “My lawn is such a little fragment of American Freedom. Please respect it.” [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

More: Kojo Nnamdi Show, Euvoluntary Exchange (more on provisions of bill, including enumeration of “non-essential” pesticides to be restricted, a list that incorporates by reference lists in use in other jurisdictions like Ontario and the European Commission and grants the county executive authority to name others; links back to this county document); Gazette in October; Brad Matthews, Watchdog. And: George Leventhal gets a less-than-fully-polite reception defending the proposal on WMAL.

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In which Montgomery County ages before your eyes

“Watch the region get older as young people cluster around stuff to do” [Dan Reed, Greater Greater Washington]

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“The worst thing I’ve ever been through, by far”

Following a report by a pizza delivery person that persons who looked underage were drinking beer at a party there, Montgomery County police raided the home of Damascus family George and Cathy Magas. According to the family, police not only dragged and handcuffed the elder Magas but tased both father and son. Police disputed their account but the family, which has a video taken that evening, won in court:

Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant sided entirely with the Magas family. In a 23-page ruling, he called the police’s version of what happened “doubtful,” that the family had “an expectation of privacy,” called the raid an “unlawful invasion,” and that evidence was unlawfully obtained.

After the judge dropped criminal charges against the couple and their son Eric, WTTG/Channel 5 interviewed the Magases. I can’t embed it, but you can watch the clip here and it is highly recommended. More coverage in the Sentinel of the raid itself and the county police’s underage drinking task force, and in the Post.

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Zero Hour for the Purple Line

With its twisty, politically drawn route it won’t get you fast to the places you want to go. Its interconnectivity with Metro is poor and getting worse. For a foretaste of where its rising costs are headed, check out the cost overruns at the Silver Spring Transit Center.

In short, the Purple Line makes an appealing target as governor-elect Larry Hogan looks for ways to cut the Maryland budget. Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute says it’s a net energy loser and unlikely to relieve congestion. Former Chevy Chase mayor David Lublin has been blogging extensively at Seventh State about the project’s shaky financial premises for which other parts of the state, and other transit users such as those who ride buses and Washington Metro, will wind up paying dearly. A common way of evaluating fixed-route transit projects is whether by stimulating intensive development along the line, they boost local real estate values and the accompanying tax base. As Lublin points out, however, pressure groups stand ready to resist denser or higher uses of land near Purple Line stops on the ground that it would lead to displacement of businesses and tenants already there. And the development impetus may not be so great to begin with — Metro is a much more powerful boost than a streetcar line because it is better suited to carry commuters in and out from around the whole D.C. area, yet even Metro stops often languish for decades without the redevelopment of nearby properties of low usage intensity. Ben Ross of Action Committee for Transit has responded to Lublin and O’Toole at Greater Greater Washington.

One further, very serious problem with an already marginal fixed-rail transit project: changes in automotive transport are happening rapidly enough to make many plans obsolete. Aside from the rise of Uber and Lyft ridesharing, we are probably within a decade or two of the widespread adoption of driverless vehicle technologies which will change demand patterns for both transit and roads (and resulting issues of congestion and capacity) in ways that are almost impossible to predict. It is already doubtful that the new line suits the needs of 2015, and much more doubtful that it will meet the needs of 2045.

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“House Republicans might accidentally legalize marijuana in DC”

Way to go, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Eastern Shore)!

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Density at the Takoma metro

When transit-oriented development begins to get real for Montgomery County neighbors — in particular, when a substantial apartment building is proposed atop the Takoma metro at the D.C. border — you might expect progressives to be all in favor of it, given its recommended benefits in averting sprawl. Yet leading progressive Democrats like Chris Van Hollen, Heather Mizeur, and Jamie Raskin instead play along with locally powerful NIMBY forces demanding lower density. David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington wonders why.

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