Box 22, Folder 18, Document 18

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Box 22, Folder 18, Document 18

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Point jor HUD to Ponder

The coutroversy between Montgomery County
and the Department of Housing and Urban De-
velopment holds a much broader interest than
the rezoning of three square miles in the Washing-
ion suburbs. We do not, of course, wish to mini-
mize the importance of nullifying the butchery of
planning by the old Montgomery County Council
in its lame-duck rampage. But this is an interesting
test case which is certain to have an important
bearing on the relations between HUD and local
governinenis in all parts of the country.

HUD must necessarily invest its matching funds
for the purchase of park land and the protection
of open space in accord with the standards that
Congress and the agency have prescribed. It can-
not be expected to assist a county which makes a
farce of planning and zoning protection. At the
saine time, however, HUD must avoid usurpation
of the powers of local government and the use
of pressure 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
were good. But unless its pressure can be relaxed,
the result may be to defeat its own purpose. Sen-
ator Brewster and numerous local officials have
pointed out to HUD that the net effect of its pres-
sure on the new County, Council to cancel its
predecessor's last-minute rezoning decisions may
be to throw the entire controversy into court on
the issue of intimidation.

A significant precedent for such suits is readily
at hand. The grant of an exception to the Soviet
Union to permit the construction of an embassy-
chancery in Chevy Chase was upset in court some
months ago because the State Department had
brought pressure on the District's Board of Zoning
Adjustment. HUD officials should realize that any
specific zoning change which they impose upon
unwilling local zoning authorities is highly vulner-
able to legal attack. @

HUD needs to have assurance that the reckless
zone-busting policies of the old Council in Mont-
gomery County have been abandoned. It needs as-
surance that proper safeguards will be adhered
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 rezoning spree, so far as that is possible. The
grand jury investigation into possible irregularities
and abuses aifords-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 poli-
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 funds if the final policy which emerges
should prove to be unsatisfactory. But if it insists
on turning the thumb-screw while the Council is
sitting on these controversial cases it may defeat
iis own purpose and greatly embarrass the cause
of proper development of the National Capital

The Washington Post - Nov. 28, 1966


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