Box 22, Folder 18, Document 18

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Box 22, Folder 18, Document 18

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Poirt lo r .i-D /U ll to Ponder
The co nt roversy bct\reen _,M,ont m nic ry C'.J.ll.Ult.Y
an the Department o, Housing and Ur ba n Developme 1t h olcl s a much broader interest than
the rezonin g of three squ:-ire miles in the Wash ingi on suburbs. We clo not, of course, wish to minimize the importa nce of nullifying the butchery of
planning by the old Montgomery County Council
in its lame-cluck r ampage . But this is an in teresting
test case which is certain to have an important
b ea ring on the r elations between HUD and local
governments in all parts of the country.
HUD must necessarily invest its matching funds
for the purch ase of park land and the protection
of open space in accord with the standards that
Congress and the agency have prescrib ed. It cannot be, exp 1-cted t o assist a county which makes a
farce of planning and ~ou,i_ug protection. At the
same time, however, HUD must avoid usurpation
of the powers of local government and the use
of pr essur e in deciding local issues.
In the case at hand, we think HUD went over
the line in applying pressure at a moment when
the unfortunate situation in Rockville seemed to
be righting itself. Unquestionably its intentions
\\·ere good . But unless its pressure can be relaxed,
the result may be to defeat its own purpose. Senator Brewster and numerous local officials have
pointed out to HUD that the net effect of .its pressure on the new County Council to cancel its
predecessor's last-minute r ezoning decisions may
be to throw the entire controversy into court on
the issue of intimi dation .
A significant precedent for su9h suits is r eadily
at hand. The grant of a n exception to the Soviet
Union to per mit the construction of an embassychancery in Chevy Chase wa s upset in court some
months ago because the State Department had ,
brought pressure on t he District's Board of Zoning
Adjustment. HUD officials should realize that any
specific zoning change which they impose upon
un willin g local zoning authorities is highly vulnerable to legal attack.
HUD needs to have assu ra nce that the reckless
zone-busting policies of the old Council in Montgomery County have been abandoned . It needs assurance that proper safeguards will be ad hered
to in areas for which Federal aid is sought. But
these assurances appear to have been given not
only by statements from the new Council but also
by its vigorous action to wipe out the effects of
the r ezoning spree, so far as that is possible. The
grand jury investigation into possible irregularities
and abuses affor ds~ further evidence of the new
atmosphere in Rockville.
In view of these vigorous efforts to undo the
wrongs of the past and to adopt sound new p oli, cies, we think HUD should withdraw its freeze of
Federal funds for the Maryland suburbs before
the Council decides the rezoning cases' which it
has reopened . HUD could again suspend the
matching fLi'nds if the final policy which emerges
should prove to be unsatisfactory. But if it insists
on turning the thumb-screw whi1e the Council is
sitting on these controversial cases it may defeat
its own purpose and greatly embarrass the cause
of proper development of the National Capital
The Washi ngton Post - Nov . :2-S, 1966

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