Why the Council voted to override the veto of the Metro smart growth plan

Dear resident:

On Tuesday, the County Council voted to override County Executive Elrich’s veto of the “More Housing At Metro” Act, a smart growth plan adopted by the Council a week earlier.

Read the op-ed I wrote about it in the Washington Post

Our County’s 9 Metro station properties could be delivering enormous benefits to the County — including substantial tax revenues — but instead they are a drag. From a real estate perspective, some are nearly “brownfields” due to the overwhelming expense of building above a station.

The Council has a plan to break the status quo and generate some economic momentum. The legislation, vetoed by the County Executive, would provide a highly targeted property tax abatement exclusively for high rise construction on these 9 Metro station properties.

While the County Executive claims the bill will cost the County money, the opposite is true. Without this legislation, the County will not be able to generate significant revenue from the Metro station properties for decades, if ever.

The incentive exclusively applies to property owned by Metro, and Metro does not pay any property taxes to the County at all. If we can get development going there, we have a lot to gain.

Facing a housing shortage that is making it harder for young workers and seniors to live comfortably here, WMATA has determined that the sites can deliver as many as 8,500 new housing units to the County, including 1,200 – 1,300 units for our low income affordable housing programs.

Not only will these projects generate more construction jobs and more one-time revenue for the County, such as impact tax revenue that can be used to add school and transportation capacity, but they will also generate tens of millions of dollars of developer-funded public infrastructure.

Furthermore, these compact communities at Metro will deliver new housing options, office building sites, shopping destinations, public parks, and recreational opportunities.

As I wrote in the Washington Post, “The incentive would invite the private sector to the table at scale to invest in our future. The county could market the entire Red Line corridor as a transit-oriented location for the life sciences companies and technology workers we need to power our future.”

Let’s make our Metro stations into hubs of economic vibrancy that radiate outwards into smart growth for the County. We have a solution at hand that brings substantial benefits to

  • Housing (more market rate housing and more affordable housing)
  • Climate change (less pollution from driving)
  • Transportation (less traffic)
  • Economic development (transit oriented hubs for life sciences companies and tech workers)
  • Community amenities (restaurants, performance spaces, urban parks and more)

As I concluded in the Washington Post op-ed, “The executive’s veto is regrettable if unsurprising given his decades-long pattern of opposing new housing. Yet this plan is intended to make us a more prosperous, inclusive and resilient community.”

I hope you agree that we need to think bigger about housing and economic development. The County Council did just that by overriding the County Executive’s veto.

Hans Riemer

P.S. I don’t need to tell you what it is at stake in this election. If you haven’t made a plan to vote yet, there is still time to do so! Check out this resource guide, and make your voice heard!

Smart Growth at Metro