Live blogging from March 5, 2009, Montgomery County Planning Board meeting. Live streaming video is available at www.montgomeryplanning.org.
Presentations by individual property owners and developers of their proposals for how their properties might develop under the proposed White Flint Sector Plan.
Cmsnr Robinson: what is unique in this Sector Plan is that property owners have banded together and figured out what they intend to do. Perhaps most advanced Master Plan proposal. Don’t have as much guesswork about what will be proposed to be developed. Just need to figure out what we would need to make that work, and that, if we want parks and schools, we need some help. So give us your views on that. There will be common ground, and let’s see the push and pull. Less people angry at us at the end of the day, and we’ll be closer at the end of the day to a plan that will actually operate. Piera Weiss: we don’t think we’ll get a lot of “this doesn’t make sense,” and more “here’s something that makes more sense.”
Mike Smith representing LCOR (no one from Sterling), David Frieshtat representing the Jolles property, a small property on Nebel St.: New name for North Bethesda Town Center (drop the “town”), so it’s now just North Bethesda Center. LCOR has just signed an agreement with WMATA for a “tree save” area with 55 trees just off Chapman Ave (extended). It’s the old driving range area, and it’s currently full of old golf balls. Will be an active space. Will move forward within 45 days on that. New Metro entrance improvements, especially on the streetscape area. Moving storm water pond from the vig green space on the SE corner of the property, and put it completely underground beneath “community green” in existing plan. New residential tower on the green space. Current master plan has shorter buildings on Rockville Pike; proposal is to have larger buildings in the back because the land slopes away, so that the buildings would appear to be the same height. So a total of 7 residential towers proposed, an increase of density of about 60% on the residential component. Non-residential development has been constrained for 15 years; that’s the challenge now. We don’t see the demand out there. Neighborhood-oriented retail space consistent with our development plans, not a big box area. To add several 400,000 square foot office towers in this neighborhood would be a challenge. Proposed hotel in the NW corner. Cmsnr Alfandre: I’m interested in seeing more diversity of housing stock, and I don’t see that here. MS: we are constrained by ground lease with Metro. Need Board’s help on locating public utilities underground. Reluctance by utilities on locations that are urbanizing. County Exec needs to be aware of and needs to trickle down. Otherwise have to have utility strips in front of buildings, which push our buildings back and undercut our streetscape efforts. Studies show that repair issues don’t happen very often, but it’s just utility companies are reluctant to do this. Cmsnr robinson: governor needs to do this through the Public Utilities Cmsn. Chrmn Hanson is trying to meet with State Planning Director and will bring it up to him.
Bob Stoddard for Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, on the Nebel St. Sector, and the Randolph Shopping Center: proposed redeveloment of two old strip centers into a mixed use curving tower. Site now has no pervious cover, and the proposal would put parkland and public space on top of underground parking, so might add up to the 20% pervious land requirement. Would require transfer of densityh between sites on each side of Nebel St. Tree canopy might be a problem throughout the sector. May want to use this land for something else.
Cmsnr Alfandre: plan is driven by park land, open space. BS: most plans are here. Alfandre: have we thought about better use of open sapce to provide better parks if we got a better place? Piera Weiss: we have that as a goal. Alfandre: better than having just a few little spaces. Seeing them in all the plans. Robinson: transfers in Silver Spring where under common ownership, but that’s different than transfers to a third party to aggregate parkland. Cmsnr Presley: we need specific language in the Plan to encourage that sort of consolidation and aggregation. What’s the dividing point between liveability and workability with regard to commercial vs retail space? Presley: that’s why a 60-40 mix was recommended, but I hear lots which indicates the need for a possible pullback. Hanson: higher residential reduces trip generation and increases use of transit.
Metro West: Conference Center, Wall Park and Holladay: Greg Trimmer for JBG, and lots of other people for the other owners in the area. Conference Center = lots of surface parking, so an opportunity to develop right on top of the Metro zone. Wants “landmark, iconic building” at the center of the Sector. Only site where running into a height problem, because conference center and hotel already on the block are “land hogs.” So would have a big shadow from a square building, but if the height limit is relaxed, would have a slimmer, more elegant building with a smaller shadow. Want an Observation Deck at the top. Price Waterhouse has done a study for the Conference Center and showed that it needs to expand; the county wants to expand it. Alfandre: consolidate green space. Why haven’t you connected the Conference Center to anything? It’s the heart of Main St. GT: Preliminary plan, and we’ll look at that. There are difficulties on the north side, which we mask with a garage, but we need to match alignments.
Alfandre: hoping for a slightly different way to bring this together. IS there a way to make this better to solve or explain density, heights and that sort of thing? Other than White Flint Mall, this will be the epicenter of the sector. So there are some interesting things that could be done. I don’t see how we’ll get a Civic Green and a Main St otherwise. Asking you to be open-minded and continue to work with other folks in the District.
Scott Wallace for VOB car dealers: Existing viable dealerships with no realistic short term redeveloopment prospects. Perhaps long-term. Assemblage will be necessary of these and other owners. Won’t happen in Phase One. New road goes right through a car dealership. Need new alignment. Roads converging on this area will result in too small parcels divided among many land0wners, making planning difficult. Robinson: we won’t defer to developers; we’ll do what we think is best for the Sector as a whole. You’re in Phase One, so you better talk to people and come to some agreements. The redevelopment potential is your client’s problem. Whether there’s condemnation is not within the control of the public; it is within the control of the [Chevy Chase] bank which is in hard times right now.
Joergen Punda (sp?) representing the Gables property, currently used as an auto storage lot. Connecting to Montgomery Aquatic Center. Structured parking in middle of space north of MAC with a walking connection to the MAC. New Main St. clips off the top part of the property. Realignment of Executive Blvd toward Conference Center property. Will eliminate Wall Park surface parking and make larger park area (this is in the Public Hearing Draft plan). Plan is mostly retail in this area; Gables wants more residential.