Funny business abounded in D.C. development news yesterday. I’m not sure what to make of it, so if you have any sense, please help me out.
First, the Washington Business Journal reported that Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Kwame Brown have pulled bills to support five development projects off the Council’s schedule. These projects (three in Anacostia, one on Minnesota Ave NE and one on North Capitol) have already received support from the Fenty administration and, according to the Business Journal, would pass the full Council. What’s more, Councilmember Brown is on record, repeatedly, as supporting each proposal. So it’s odd that neither Cheh nor Brown saw a need to explain why $300 million worth of development should be put on hold (not that there aren’t good reasons). I’d love to see some more reporting on this issue.
Then, over in Montgomery County, there is some wrangling going on over their moratorium on residential development and their school and transportation impact taxes. The Post framed it as pro-development forces, being unable to overturn the one year moratorium on new residential development, are seeking to cut the impact taxes in order to speed up the construction of projects that have already received approval, but have otherwise stalled. I wouldn’t quite frame it that way. If it were purely pro-development vs. anti-development, then you wouldn’t be able to get the votes for the tax cut any more than you would for lifting or amending the moratorium. The coalitions would be the same. The only way you get votes for the tax cut but not for lifting the moratorium is if you’re trying to use government policy as a give-away to developers and the growth machine. The moratorium will slightly increase prices, due to controlling supply, while the tax cut obviously reduces costs. It’s a clever way of picking off some pro-development officials for your pro-business coalition, but that’s the only real way to interpret it. Fans of smart growth should support lifting the moratorium immediately, but the impact tax seems quite alright; regardless, keeping the moratorium while lifting the tax is a handout that we don’t need. The Post should think politically for a few minutes before reporting.
Also, the Post should not take Council President Phil Andrews at his word when he says that he supports a moratorium but that it is not responsible for a slow-down in growth. If it’s not, what’s even the purported purpose???