TODAY the Montgomery County Council will try to decide what downtown Silver Spring will look like tomorrow. The choice was generated by County Executive Sidney Kramer's initial proposals for large-scale retail and office development. Mr. Kramer sought to add no more than 15,000 jobs to the downtown business district, but later said he would accept a ceiling of 13,000. Three council members, including President Rose Crenca, tentatively voted last week to reduce the number to 9,500; three supported 11,500 and one favored 8,500. Job ceilings are an imperfect instrument to measure or limit growth. But the point is that growth in Silver Spring's business district, which has a Metro station as its core, should not be unrealistically stunted.
Mr. Kramer is no development-at-any-cost addict. He recognizes that Silver Spring will grow and that employers and developers should be required to work with the county to encourage use of mass transit and car pooling. Some scaling down of his original proposals may be in order, but the county's housing and community development director, Richard Ferrara, has properly warned council members that if they set the new job ceiling too low, they run the risk of killing chances for acceptable redevelopment.
The current limit for new jobs in Silver Spring is 4,700. An estimated 25,000 people now work in the downtown area, and 7,500 more will be employed in already-approved buildings. In debating numbers, the council has tried to avoid discussing the merits or drawbacks of particular projects that are subject to approval by the county's planning board. But too low a new job ceiling could kill plans for housing as well as for a regional office and retail mall proposed for Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road and for a mall of specialty stores proposed for the Hecht Co. building at Colesville Road and Fenton Street. Silver Spring should grow the right way, but it should grow.