Privatizing retail permitting

by Walter Olson on November 22, 2011

The Washington Post offers an editorial caution to lawmakers in Montgomery County, the famously liberal slice of Maryland suburbia:

A bill before the Montgomery County Council would force big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target to negotiate with neighborhood groups as a condition for getting their new stores approved. This is such a spectacularly bad idea, on so many levels, that it’s hard to imagine how it came to be taken seriously in the first place.

By contrast, the nearby District of Columbia, often seen as a challenging place to do business, seems to be making its peace with Wal-Mart, which has announced plans to open six new stores there.

{ 1 comment }

1 Daniel Berlin 11.22.11 at 12:09 pm

Being a montgomery county resident, I agree the idea is a bad one, but the article is fairly silly.

It states “For an array of reasons, Montgomery is rapidly developing a reputation as a poor place to do business, at an enormous cost to the county. In the decade ending in 2010, its job growth badly lagged Fairfax County’s, as well as the region’s.”

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Not every county needs mega population growth and job growth (well, some do because they’ve spent so much they have to continuously grow to keep up with their pyramid scheme for a few more years), and in fact, it’s actively harmful to residents in a lot of cases.

Way too many counties in the area trade having reasonable traffic and not being horribly crowded for being “A good place to do business”.

Last time I looked at the plan, the place they were thinking of building the Walmart is already incredibly busy (which is why they want to build it there). There is literally nowhere there to build new roads in that section of the county (there is not even any land you could take over, it’s all commercial space on both sides of a 4 lane highway), yet building a Walmart is likely to further increase traffic (it used to be an Office Depot, which is not exactly a traffic grabber :P).

In the past, the answer of most counties has been to simply “raise the allowable limits” on traffic to be “business friendly”, instead of “let the increased cost of figuring out what to do be born by the developer”, so that there is some level of supply and demand (IE as an area gets more traffic, it becomes more expensive to build new stuff there due to having to mitigate traffic).

In any case, like I said, I think the act they are thinking of passing the suggested act is a bad idea, and I already let my councilman know, but at the same time, the rest of the article reads like a badly thought out hit piece.

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