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It's a Nice Place to Work, but You Probably Can't Live There

During the conference, the pending Shady Grove master plan was mentioned frequently. Because the Shady Grove Metro station area offers a unique transit-oriented development opportunity, county planners have proposed relatively high residential densities, coupled with employment-oriented uses, shopping, recreation and open space. A high-priority goal at Shady Grove is achieving balance between homes and jobs.

But some think that the proposed Shady Grove density is too high. They fear overcrowded roads and overcrowded schools, anxieties not surprising in light of the county's budgetary and tax policies, which can slow down provision of infrastructure and public services. They also wonder if all the projected jobs will materialize, since the plan's transportation strategy depends in part on reducing the number of long commutes.

No matter what happens at Shady Grove or elsewhere, the bottom line is that the inventory of affordable homes in Montgomery County is shrinking. Even the laudable efforts of the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, which as of 2004 had developed, financed or otherwise assisted the creation of almost 30,000 moderately priced dwelling units, cannot keep pace with need.

What's the solution?

In variously subdued, pedantic and evangelical tones, conference speakers and panelists offered an array of ideas and suggestions. Among them:

· Use county-owned land for affordable housing.

· Reconsider the size of the Agricultural Preserve.

· Increase allowable densities on underdeveloped and undeveloped land.

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