As a member of the Montgomery County Council, I was not all that excited about devoting a half day every other month to taking the Metro downtown to attend a committee meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. As a friend of mine says, "A conference missed is a day saved."
This fall, I was appointed to COG's Metropolitan Development Policy Committee, and I am pleased to admit that my instinct was quite wrong. At each meeting I have attended, information provided by COG staff about regional trends has exploded two basic Montgomery County planning myths.
Myth #1: Silver Spring is a wasteland, with virtually no development in recent years. During the county council debate over future development in Silver Spring, we were told repeatedly that the county has put all of its efforts into development in Bethesda, ignoring Silver Spring. At my first meeting, COG staff distributed a chart on the amount of construction started around Metro stations from 1980 to 1986. Sure enough, there was Bethesda at No. 9 with 2.2 million square feet. Guess what area was No. 11 with 1.9 million square feet? Silver Spring. Some wasteland! This was handy information to have as we debated Silver Spring's future.
Myth #2: Montgomery County is losing the economic development war with Fairfax County. We are told that Montgomery County is clearly No. 2 to Fairfax and that we aren't even trying harder. At my second COG meeting, staff presented us with projected employment in the region through 2010. In 1985, Montgomery had 371,000 jobs, while Fairfax had 265,800. For 1990, Montgomery is projected to have 455,000 jobs, with 337,400 jobs for Fairfax. The projections continue with Montgomery way out in front for years to come.
I never really understood the macho drive to beat out Fairfax in the race for development. It always seemed to me that quality should be our goal. But now that I have the figures, I'll not feel any pressure to vote for an undesirable project just to win one for poor, old "No. 2 Montgomery."
BRUCE ADAMS Rockville