Wanted: Commercial and industrial development in Washington and its neighboring jurisdictions.
This is the message that local government officials expressed, in both veiled and unveiled terms, to an audience of more than 150 private- and public-sector individuals attending a workshop this week on metropolitan growth sponsored by the Urban Land Institute and the law firm of Linowes and Blocher.
It was clear from the presentations that local governments are concentrating their efforts on attracting tax-paying economic growth while, at the same time, recognizing that residential growth will accompany it.
At times community officials almost seemed to be making a promotional pitch. Jacqueline Rogers, director of the Office of Management & Budget for Montgomery County, touted the county as a "wonderful place to live, to have your jobs, or to encourage businesses to come to." She candidly admitted that the county wanted its "fair share--perhaps more than its fair share--of growth in the next few years."
D.C. Councilwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis outlined several proposals before District committees that will encourage economic development, even touting improved workmen's compensation legislation as an incentive to business.
John T. (Til) Hazel, a major landowner and developer in Fairfax County, portrayed the county as a "paradise" for growth because the county recognized a while back that growth was a necessity.
Parris Glendening, Prince George's County executive, acknowledged the problems in attracting economic development caused by the financial constraints placed on the county by TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders). Passed in 1978, this measure placed a limit on property tax collections. Nevertheless, Glendening described the county's monetary position as "moderately good."
In one of two panel sessions on how the Washington region will grow, these individuals and others debated how local governments will find the needed revenue to finance public facilities, such as roads and sewer capacity, known as "infrastructure," as federal and state aid continues to decline.
In fact, some private-sector panelists noted that the counties' ability to attract the nonresidential development that is vital to improving their economic tax base hinges on their financing techniques. With the tendency to shift more and more of the costs of new facilities to private-sector developers, the lack of fairly basic public facilities can diminish the attraction of counties and cities.
Charles Dalrymple, who has handled many landowner disputes in Montgomery County as an attorney with Linowes and Blocher, pointed out that, under Montgomery County's SEOC (System Expansion Offset Charge) program, new residents are bearing the brunt of capital expansion, a factor that will discourage growth.
Though only briefly touched upon, the methods for raising money are varied and still seem to be shared among public and private sectors. Glendening discussed Prince George's use of tax increment financing (TIFs), where special tax districts are formed to encourage redevelopment. The revenue earned from improving the assessment base is then funneled back into the district to help maintain it.
John Herrity, chairman of Fairfax County's board of supervisors, noted that voters approved $55 million in bonds last November to help finance road improvements and Metrorail.
One solution to finding additional revenue for all jurisdictions is to reevaluate what new facilities are needed. Glendening questioned the need for improved sanitary sewer treatment, the cost of which the county sees as a critical issue. Herrity noted that only 7 percent of the county work force uses Metro and therefore questions the contribution the county must make to support it.