Restrictions spur dispute over public rights in Maryland center
Conflicts continue to arise between privately owned town centers and people who think the centers should uphold all the freedoms the US Constitution guarantees in the public domain.
In June a security guard at a large Maryland development known as “Downtown Silver Spring” ordered photographer Chip Py to stop shooting pictures on its property. “I am on a city street, in a public place,” Py told the guard, according to The Washington Post. “Taking pictures is a right that I have, protected by the First Amendment.”
The guard informed Py that what appears to be a public street is in fact managed by the developer, Peterson Companies. The street, Ellsworth Drive, was leased for $1 to the developer by Montgomery County, which helped the $450 million, 22.5-acre retail, office, residential, civic, cinema, and entertainment complex come into being. Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, said the county spent about $187 million on land acquisition, environmental cleanup, renovation of a historic theater, construction of two parking garages, and work on streetscapes and public spaces.
Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich objected to Peterson’s policy, saying, “We created the downtown to be a public space, and