Monday, November 16, 2015

Planning

This article from Bethesda magazine has some interesting perspectives on the Montgomery County Planning Board and the perception of its role by its members.  Some thoughts:
  • It's impossible to excessively stereotype the attitudes of Bethesda residents.  One of them actually wrote in an email, "We want to live in a SUBURBAN community, not an urban community.”  Ummm, apparently that self-created bubble environment has succeeded in keeping out most trends in social and cultural thought from the last 40 years, as intended.  
  • Planning Board members view themselves as technocrats, if not Platonic guardians, who should not be swayed by public opinion.  As board chair Casey Anderson said, "If we became political in that sense and we said, ‘We’re taking a poll and most of the people say X and not Y,’ what would be the point of having a Planning Board? Seems to me that we’re not useful if all we do is try to figure out which way the politics work."  Former board chair Royce Hanson portrayed the board's role in even more exalted terms.  “While all public servants—elected and career—have a dual ethical obligation to both present and future, planners have a special obligation to future generations,” Hanson said. “Planners are not elected. Their role is advisory in preparation of master plans. A plan is a policy for the future. Its constituency is not merely the current inhabitants of a place, but those not yet born or living there."
  • Erudite allusions to classical antiquity may hold sway if Hanson's comments comparing development issues to the Battle of Pharsalus are any indication of the board's aesthetic preferences.

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