Thursday, August 04, 2005

Maybe I'm Missing Something Here.....

The Potomac News had an article today about a new development approved for along Route 1 in Woodbridge. This particular section puzzles me:

Together the three complexes could bring a maximum of 1,302 multifamily residential units to that stretch of U.S. 1. Despite the increase in residential traffic, the developments will ultimately reduce traffic on U.S. 1, said Pat Thomas, a county planner who is leading the Potomac Communities Revitalization Plan. The land was previously zoned commercial, which could have allowed developers to build a strip mall or shopping center on the site, Thomas said. "Traffic improves on [U.S.] 1 by making this residential instead of commercial," she said.
Now, I know Pat and she is a very nice person, but I don't understand how stuffing at least another 1,300 cars into this area will reduce traffic as is stated above. Here's my thinking. Sure, there may be fewer trips per day when you're looking at residential property vs. commercial property. However, those fewer trips tend to be concentrated in rush hour whereas trips to and from commercial properties tend to be spread out throughout the day. It isn't the quantity of the trips, it is the quality -- and adding another 1,000 plus cars to Route 1 and I-95 every day during rush hour doesn't seem like it would do too much for quality. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for proper development. I'm a big supporter of "Quality Growth," as opposed to the anti-growth environmentalists who disguise their real agenda under the warm and fuzzy term of "Smart Growth." I just think that the Planning Commission should do what they say they support and put in a mixture of residential and commercial areas along Route 1. Concentrating another 1,300+ residential units in this very small area does not meet that stated goal. With that said, I do applaud the Board of County Supervisors for supporting Potomac Town Center in this area as well (despite the Planning Commission recommending that they turn it down.) What is it with the Planning Commission anyway? It is okay to build yet another brand new used-car lot on Route 1 in Dumfries, but heaven forbid we actually get a Macy's, Wegman's (upscale grocery store) and Barnes & Noble in our neck of the woods. Geesh!!!


At 8/04/2005 10:59:00 AM, Blogger MR JMS said...

I am actually excited about this project in PWC. It will bring a little bit of classiness that is missing from Potomac Mills.

At 8/04/2005 12:07:00 PM, Blogger James Young said...

C'mon, mr jms, how can you say that?!? We've got an LL Bean and a Brooks Brothers, and that's all the "classy" I need.

But that's just me.

At 8/04/2005 12:19:00 PM, Blogger Riley, Not O'Reilly said...

But both the LL Bean and Brooks Brothers are outlets. This will bring high-end retail instead of just outlet retail to the area. As far as Potomac Mills goes, they're finishing up a multi-million dollar 20th anniversary renovation right now, so look for some big changes there, too.

I'm very excited about Potomac Town Center and contacted each of the supervisors prior to their vote on it, asking them to support it. John Stirrup was the only one who voted against it, but as he explained to me afterwards, that was based upon information that he had received from staff. He told me that he would most likely support it in the end now that he has seen the other side to the argument.

I really do want to know what is up with our Planning Commission, though. How many times does the BOCS have to overturn their recommendations? This is starting to look like the U.S. Supreme Court consistently overturning the 9th Circuit's rulings coming out of San Francisco.

At 8/04/2005 01:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the problem with the vote on Tuesday was that the property had been approved for homes and a strip mall over 30 years ago. The property owner voluntarily offered to rezone it to upscale condos if the County gave him more density.

The irony of your post is this: a couple of weeks ago you were irate about the Kelo case robbing property rights. Zoning, by its nature, robs property rights. Do you or do you not support property rights?

At 8/04/2005 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Riley, Not O'Reilly said...

I think that there is a difference between zoning and Kelo. Kelo does indeed rob individuals of their property rights, mostly without recourse and I would argue with no warning prior to purchase. Zoning is usually something that a property owner is well aware of prior to purchase and that factors into the decision to buy that particular piece of property. (I don't think that I had really commented on Kelo, so maybe you were addressing your comment to someone else. I do think it was wrongly decided, though.)

My main point here was to highlight the apparent problems with the planning commission and their disconnect from the supervisors who appoint them and, frankly, from reality.

At 8/04/2005 05:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To your original question, I tend to trust the professional planners. I think the combination of reduced trips from residential compared to commercial, combined with the road improvements associated with the three projects resulted in a better grading of the traffic flow in their analysis. But I'm not a planner.

And part of the point of the revitalization of Route 1 is to get a critical mass of demographics to convince businesses to invest in the community by bringing jobs and tearing down the older parts and building anew.

At 8/04/2005 11:30:00 PM, Blogger criticallythinking said...

I agree with Riley, something is just wrong about that statement. Unless these are going to be populated by people working in the county, this is up to 2600 more cars in the morning heading up toward DC.

I make the assumption that upscale condos will be populated by young couples both with jobs. And they wouldn't move into Route 1 unless they wanted to be close to the commuting routes -- if they worked somewhere else they would live there instead.

If I'm wrong, I think it will be because they are just inexpensive enough that groups of illegals and day laborers can afford them if they live 4-5 to a condo, meaning even more cars. :-)

Offices would of course draw all the employees onto the roads, but they would be heading TO the facilities in the morning, and OUT in the afternoon -- if the people who worked their lived closer to DC, they would be going the opposite direction.

And shops (which in my mind may be more undesirable than the condos) would bring cars in in out-of-rush-hour times (by DEFINITION. If the traffic is too bad, people will chose to shop other times or other places, because shopping is mostly a choice).

We can use more office space in the county. We need more higher-paying employment opportunities, to siphon commuters off the roads to DC and toward new office complexes in the county. We need high-paying jobs in businesses that will contribute to the tax base.

And we need really inexpensive housing REALLY near to where clusters of low-paying jobs exist, like near Potomac Mills, the Wal-Marts, etc. so those workers aren't driving in from two counties over every day clogging up the roads even more.

At 8/05/2005 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Riley, Not O'Reilly said...

If the Planning Commission were comprised of professional planners, Anon 5:41, I might agree with you. But these are political appointees of the Board and they do not necessarily have any formal education in planning. Now county planning staff and Pat Thomas are different from that and they do try to steer the Commission in the right direction whenever possible. Unfortunately, the appointees many times do not follow that advice and revert to their no-growth instincts or to at least no commercial growth. (How else to explain their opposition to Potomac Town Center?)


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