Not if you live in Silver Spring, Maryland where the private company that revitalized the area is now claiming ownership of the city’s downtown, thus barring photographers from snapping photos.
Never mind the fact that Montgomery County taxpayers paid $100 million towards the $400 million it took for The Peterson Companies to complete the project that included a bustling restaurant scene and business center.
The mind-boggling news comes to us from The Washington Post, which reports that earlier this month, longtime Silver Springs resident Chip Py ate lunch at one of the new restaurants, taking in the new atmosphere and all the positive changes.
After lunch, he decided to take some photos and was confronted by a private security guard who ordered him to stop.
“I am on a city street, in a public place,” Py replied. “Taking pictures is a right that I have, protected by the First Amendment.”
The guard sent Py to the management office of the Peterson Cos., the developer that built the new downtown. There, marketing official Stacy Horan told Py that although Ellsworth Drive — where many of the downtown’s shops and eateries are located — may look like a public street, it is actually treated as private property, controlled by Peterson.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Py, 43, who knew through his old sales job that Montgomery County had made a huge public investment in the new downtown. County tax dollars accounted for $100 million of the $400 million it took to transform the area. “There’s all kinds of county activities there, promoted by county money. How could this be private?”
That is Peterson’s right, says Gary Stith, director of the county government’s office in Silver Spring. “It’s like any other shopping center,” he says. “The street was vacated by the county and is leased to the developer. We wanted them to maintain and manage the area.”
Methinks the citizens of Montgomery County are owed a significant tax refund.187