Defending Smart Growth

The comments by Richard Parsons, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, regarding Rockville's efforts to balance growth and quality of life were disappointing but not surprising ("Fuming Over Development Limits," Extra, July 14). The course that the region is presently on, with roads increasingly jammed and schools increasingly crowded, is not sustainable. As such, I see it as imperative for Rockville to adopt an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) that would place thoughtful limits on growth when public infrastructure (e.g., roads and schools) is overburdened.

Parsons, however, is intent on maintaining the status quo. He is resorting to the age-old tactic that developers use every time a proposal is put forth to better manage what many perceive to be unconstrained growth in Montgomery County and the region. Through hyperbole and misrepresentation, he is trying to paint our efforts to adopt an APFO in Rockville as extremist, inflexible and having only dire consequences for our community. The reality is the opposite.

Most disappointing is Parsons's argument that Rockville should not bother limiting growth when roads are jammed because traffic congestion "is regional in nature." A more logical and constructive position for Parsons to take, if indeed he is concerned about gridlock on the roads, would be to implore all jurisdictions across the region to enact a coordinated set of measures designed to keep growth and road capacity aligned on a regional basis. An essential element of such a coordinated approach would be every jurisdiction in the region having the discipline to limit growth when roads carrying regional traffic are jammed -- something that Rockville's proposed APFO would do.

Also troubling is Parsons's apparent disregard for concerns about crowding in public schools. His analysis, that school crowding is the result of "turnover in houses among the city's elderly population," completely ignores the fact that significant numbers of new students have come as a result of new development. His stance implies that he has no qualms about continuing to permit growth that would pile more students into schools already stretched well beyond capacity.

If Parsons and developers desire to play a constructive role in the shaping of Rockville's growth management policies, they can no longer continue to misleadingly cast the available options as a false choice between "the status quo" and "no growth." What we are trying to achieve in Rockville is growth, so long as it benefits our quality of life. This philosophy can be seen in the current revitalization of Rockville's Town Center.

Our overarching goal in Rockville is to make our city one of the very best places in the nation to live and work. Realizing this goal requires achieving a sound, sustainable balance between growth and quality of life. It would be unfortunate if Parsons and developers continue to maintain their hard-line, no-compromise defense of the status quo, rather than constructively engage in a dialogue on how to achieve that balance. I am, however, committed to enacting an APFO, regardless.

Larry Giammo

Mayor of Rockville