Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Why serve on SSCAB? (By Mark Mendez)

A guest blog by Mark Mendez, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member

September 2017


Fellow advisory board members,


As we enter the fall and a new year, I’d like to share why I applied to the Silver Spring Citizens’ Advisory Board in 2012. A former SSCAB member suggested that our neighborhoods needed to know 'what was coming down the pike' and felt I had the temperament to represent us on the board.

Over the past five years, I’ve enjoyed my time on the board and have been able to get ahead of the curve on some events. I could relay information and get neighbors involved on behalf of my local neighborhood of Rosemary Hills and Silver Spring in general. Through SSCAB meetings, I've made important connections with agencies and individuals that impact what happens where we live and more importantly, come to understand their priorities.

My own interests have centered on how county planning decisions impact current residents and businesses. The neighborhoods of Silver Spring all have aspects that can be improved, but also have unique strengths that should not be taken for granted.

I’ve realized that displacing or destabilizing longtime businesses and assuming they can find another home in the county or that new entrepreneurs will fill the void is risky planning at best. To this end, I suggested a topic and offered to organize two of the advisory board’s public meetings in September 2016. I invited members of the county planning board, planning department and county council to review the role of community input in our current planning process. The meetings were well attended and participants benefited from candid discussion and new perspectives.


On a more micro level, I’ve been able to bring attention to small business owners in an industrial area that was slated for redevelopment for additional residential housing. Working with neighbors and business owners to change the conversation surrounding industrial zoning was a 2+ year process. Part of this effort for me was creating an FB Page and website that shined a light on small business owners in West Silver Spring so their livelihoods were seen as more than a zoning category. I included a number of employer profiles within the videos here:

www.reallife20910.com


This year, the council came to recognize the importance of this area and reversed the trend of rezoning industrial areas for more housing. In the end, the business area was preserved and the council approved a unique sector plan that creates a variety of housing options in Rosemary Hills and significant affordable housing directly at transit. This ‘20-year’ plan for west Silver Spring plays to the strengths of the area and supports the region with important services while recognizing the role of transit.


In the coming months and years, all of us will have the chance to shape where we live. This is especially true for Purple Line or BRT neighborhoods where change is coming. I believe that being an active member of the SSCAB makes Silver Spring a stronger and more authentic home.


Mark Mendez
Rosemary Hills
SSCAB