Does Columbia need a High Rise?
Posted by bsflag2007 on Sunday, May 6, 2007
I have not weighed in on the High Rise controversy because I really didn’t feel like I knew enough about the situation to make any kind of comment – though like most people, I have my personal gut level feelings about the need for a high rise.
So, like the product of too much formal education that I am, I started doing some research and talking to people on a very informal level. The history of the use of this site – and the applicable regulations, etc make it very difficult to make an easy “cut and dried” declaration of who is right about what is or should be “legally” allowed (in spite of what any side might like to claim).
Sure, there have been various “rules” in place at various times, which may or may not have been promulgated at the behest of certain influential groups or individuals instead of in the interest of the common good.
Bottom line: I think (as Mr. Ulman keeps saying) the best resolution to this issue is a negotiated compromise.
Developers (and anyone trying to do business or simply function) in HoCo truly need to be able to rely on the stability of the rules and laws.
There are lots of decisions and investments made based on the existing rules and laws at any given time. Changes to them simply cannot be arbitrary or unnecessarily frequent — and they cannot result in financial losses to citizens honestly trying to navigate the rules without the municipality making financial amends.
It is fundamental — no taking of property (or the value of the property) without due process or compensation.
Arguments predicated on excluding “developers” as a special class of citizens who are not entitled to this protection don’t persuade fair minded people.
If you are tempted to deny some “rich developer” or company these basic rights, take a deep breath and consider how you would feel if you bought a lot in order to build a house…. spent a substantial portion of your savings on engineering and plans and fees to get a building permit, got a loan and started paying interest to a bank…. maybe sold your house and moved into a rental …. then the city said, “uhhhh, wait a minute … we’ve decided we’d rather not have a house built on that lot…. you can always sue us if you don’t like it” — get ready to cough up huge legal fees, and continue to pay your mortgage and your rent and have all your money and your future tied up for as long as it takes…. maybe years.
If you think this kind of stress does not apply to “developers” — think again.
You may think they reap gazillions of dollars for very little work. Not so. These “deals” tend to be pure examples of capitalism – risk versus reward. Most of the time someone “personally guarantees” the loans. When was the last time you risked everything you own on your business?
I’m not saying “poor developers”.
Some of them are real jerks – some of them “come out o.k.” no matter how ill-conceived the project. Some of them live off the construction loans and future deals in a big house of cards. Just like any other group of people – there are mostly honest, hardworking individuals in real estate and some pond scum money grubbing ethics challenged jerks.
The problem is it is just “unAmerican” to treat everyone as is they are of the “pond scum” variety.
However, when it comes to the proposed tower for Columbia……
Without comment on the personalities involved (on any side) , after a fair amount of research, I have two comments.
1) If the best argument the developers can make “for” the size of the tower is “but you already said we could!” (picture a 12 year old who managed to get you to agree to something which you immediately regretted but are hesitant to renege on because you value your credibility) – which seems to me to be the only valid argument — then the answer needs to be “no”. However, it is important to behave like adults and negotiate a compromise that acknowledges the original error and “gives” a little something extra for the “inconvenience”.
2) Columbia does NOT need that huge tower. When looked at from a purely objective position, it is a BAD idea. It is too big, too tall, and unless it is going to provide low income housing is not needed to fill a specific housing shortage. It is simply not driven by a market need. It is a monument to ego – a giant self-absorbed phallic symbol that will alter the character of Columbia in a way that only the developer seems to want.
Driving through Bethesda/Chevy Chase a few weekends ago I counted my blessings that I don’t have to deal with that traffic and congestion and bad attitudes and road rage and stress and etc…. on a daily basis.
Then I thought about how much some folks would like Columbia to be “more like” Bethesda/Chevy Chase…. prestigious high end enclaves … forgetting about the nose to nose congestion and smarter and richer than everyone else residents.