Thursday, July 05, 2007

Trouble a-Brewin'

Right next door a rather unique controversy has been brewing up over the past few days. The much talked about, renovated, rejuvenated (urban planners love throwing these terms around) Silver Spring Downtown is actually private property and not a public street as most of us believe. So we can run across that fountain all we want but capturing the act on camera is not allowed...atleast that's what the owners Petersen Inc. are saying.

A lot of ink, bandwidth and radiotime has been devoted to this issue and the rather vociferous, civic minded citizenry of Montgomery County are up and about trying to create a picturesque ruckus about it. But in an economy where cash strapped local governments are looking more and more towards public-private partnerships and its many variants to meet growing infrastructure needs, the question of public vs. private property becomes a very challenging one to answer. In this case since Ellsworth Drive happens to look and function as a normal street (during most hours of the day) the public percieves it is a public space with private shop fronts. Unfortunately the owners claim it is an open air mall, like many others in the area and hence its private property. Lengthy contracts and lease agreements work on paper but when it comes to popular perceptions, there are no easy answers.

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