Community Voices on the Big Box Bill

Hello All,

I’ve heard from many of you concerning Bill 33-11, known as the Community Benefits Agreement bill. As you can see from the emails below, there are a wide range of views regarding this bill. What do you think of it? Read the bill or send me a message if you need more details!

Donna R. Savage:

To County Councilmembers:

I cannot attend the public hearing for this bill on Tuesday evening, November 1, so please accept this email in lieu of my personal testimony.

I support the testimony you’ll hear tonight from the Kensington Heights Civic Association and I support the general purpose of this proposed legislation, although there are many details that appear to be missing that would enhance its effectiveness.

However, it is my considered opinion that, through this bill, the County would be placing the responsibility for accepting a big box store on the community — which is NOT where such responsibility should lie.

If the Council knows (and I believe you do) that big box stores present significant problems for communities, especially in our dense Downcounty areas, then all of you should stand up and say so. If you don’t want them here, say so — and legislate accordingly. Be clear about your vision of growth for our County. The responsibility for that vision and for its implementation lies squarely in your collective laps.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposed legislation.

Adam Schiffenbauer:

I have lived in Montgomery county for most of my life and have seen our county grow. I would like to see the big box community empowerment bill passed as I feel many of the big box stores (particularly Wal Mart) are interested in coming to our community to be leeches who suck away jobs and tax revenue instead of supportive active members of the community. I am taking the time to write this to hope my voice is heard.

Abigail Brassil Adelman:

Council Chair Valerie Ervin and County Council Members,

I am writing to support with some reservations the above mentioned Bill 33-11.
In particular, I wish to express support for lines 73-75 as written. This is very important as in my community, Kensington Heights, we have experienced great difficulty dealing with Costco concerning the specifics of their yet to be built new store in Wheaton at Westfield Mall.

Last week, on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 the Kensington Heights Citizens Association (KHCA) met with 2 Costco officials and 13 of their hired ‘experts’. The meeting ended at 9:30 pm with NO mention of a schedule for site preparation and demolition mentioned or discussed.

At 4: 30 am, on October 26, 7 hours later, in violation of the Noise Control Ordinance and exceeding the 85 decibels allowed for construction from 7am to 5 pm, demolition started on the old Hechts Building.
Why? The poorly prepared and poorly secured site along with the unlawful timing points to undue haste to “start” the project. It has now been halted.

The is only one reason why this situation occurred: the proposal of Bill 33-11. Westfield and Costco will point to this poorly prepared and secured site to claim that the project was already underway when (and if) the proposed legislation is passed.

As a citizen and a taxpayer , I am respectfully requesting that the clause (lines 73-75) stand as written and the Costco NOT BE ALLOWED any ‘grandfathering opportunity’. Any claim by Westfield or Costco that the project was ‘underway’ on October 26 is false and should be so noted.

Thank you for your consideration in this very important issue.

Dean S. Cooper:

Dear Councilmembers,

In these tough economic times, which you’ve made worse with your proposals for anti-business legislation, it’s amazing that any businesses would want to do business in Montgomery County! I don’t understand why you are now proposing legislation to deter big box stores, and am especially dismayed that you’d have this apply to the Costco which you previously approved and we are waiting to be built at Wheaton Plaza. Come on: we need the jobs and the taxes from these businesses.

Warren Manison:

I have been a resident of this County for almost 40 years and it has becoming increasingly difficult to remain a resident. I see that the Council is about to dictate to private business that they can no longer use their business acumen to make decisions on their own regarding such things as where best to locate a business enterprise, but will have to negotiate with civil and governmental entities, as if these have any foggy notion what business is all about. I refer to Bill 33-11 Urban Renewal and Community Development – Community Benefits Agreements – Large Retail Stores.

This legislation is an abomination and must be killed before it places too much power and potential for more graft in the hands of politicians and self-interest groups. Dictating to a business who to hire, where to locate and what is to be the actual design of a store goes beyond the pale. Is this Council trying to drive business out of the county and make this a more inhospitable county in which to do business? Do more of our citizens have to flee this county for a less dictatorial county/state in order to free ourselves of actions such as these? Reminds me of the ridiculous action by President Obama’s NLRB preventing Boeing from building new airliners in So. Carolina, forcing China to cancel orders and instead buy from Airbus. Is this the kind of atmosphere this County Council wishes to foster here in Montgomery Country? WAKE UP, COUNCIL MEMBERS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE COUNTY AND ITS CITIZENS.

Brian Haney:

Council members,

As a native Washingtonian (3rd generation), a current downtown Silver Spring resident, and employee of a Bethesda-based firm founded in 1890 (the second oldest continuously operating business in Greater Washington), it has come to my attention and to the attention of the members of our firm, our families, and what I would consider the greater community at-large that legislation such as the proposed Bill 33-11 is an unnecessary and unproductive use of the council’s time, and an absolute detriment to our county and community of registered voters. The Community Benefits Agreement legislation is at best redundant to federal and state laws regulating employment practices, redundant to the County’s current regulatory review process and at worst, another example of Montgomery County’s trend towards business unfriendliness, putting us at an even further comparative disadvantage to our neighbors in DC and Virginia. Having worked in Bethesda for the last 10 years, and having seen several good firms move their Headquarters out of the County (like a CoStar for example), this is a serious concern!

As an employee of a firm who will be making a relocation decision in the next 12-18 months, legislation like this makes it measurably easier to move out of the area, quite candidly. I won’t beleaguer you with charged rhetoric, but simply request you do what I personally, the members of my community, the Chambers in the county, and the area at large demands you do – VOTE AGAINST THIS BILL!

Arnold J. Kohn

I would like to register my opposition to this measure. If community members are concerned about a specific land development application, they would have ample opportunity to air their concerns before the Planning Board. Site plan applications currently require applicants to meet with community members prior to the public hearing on their applications. Many of these community meetings already result in voluntary developer-community benefit agreements under the current procedures.

And Planning Board hearings are open public events at which community members frequently voice their opposition to specific proposals. I have personally seen Planning Board members act during public hearings as unofficial mediators between developers and community opponents, brokering ad hoc developer concessions for the benefit of residents.

But the message that Bill 33-11 would send to future retailers looking to add County locations is, at best, that the development of their store will be difficult and costly, and at worst that they simple aren’t welcome in Montgomery County. Some retailers would, I fear, just redirect their search for new locations to other jurisdictions where they would feel more of a welcoming atmosphere; Bill 33-11 will thus be viewed as anti-business and anti-retail in particular.

County residents looking to shop in some of these large stores without convenient County locations will instead either drive by automobile to jurisdictions like Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, thus adding vehicular trips, additional traffic and air pollution to Montgomery County while depriving the State of needed sales tax revenues, to say nothing of the loss of potential property taxes and income taxes for the County.

Terry Fortuna:


Peter Anton:

Please do not allow any big box stores on Rockville Pike. The traffic is already dreadful!!