The Montgomery County Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in worksessions arranged around topics. Today’s hearing is live streamed at www.montgomeryplanningboard.org. Today’s topics are parks, environment and transportation (bicycles).
Board running well behind schedule, so not opening up to presentations. Received new materials (including from FoWF on parks), but will call up only if the Board has questions. May 7 topics: design guidelines and status of fiscal implementation and analysis.
Brooke Farquhar, Parks: no changes from recommendations from PH draft. Respond to testimony on parks; making sure WF Park is preserved as a buffer. Feel the draft covers points brought up by FoWF. Role of parks in the open space system. Connections to parks without and beyond the boundary.
Role of parks: Wall Park and Civic Green. How WF connects to the regional parks: we look off-road and regional connections. We feel this area is very well connected to the region. Making sure people can get to open space. Need flexible recreation spaces for multiple users. Could have a soccer game, a picnic, or a gathering. These kinds of parks tend to be more successful.
Civic Green: Space to allow community-wide events, with streets that could be closed. Hanson: size? Farquhar: large enough for outside public events, allow for local street closure and to draw people from surrounding area. Near the promenade, near ground-floor retail. Hanson: why are we talking about it here on the north side of the Conference Center rather than on the east side of the Conference Center where it has direct access to Metro? What do we have on the other side of the Pike? Farquhar: too close to all that traffic if it were closer. Piera Weiss: no vacant properties in that area. All small sites. Alignment for Main St., and important to tie it to Main St. Would be a capturing area off the Pike. Robinson: what if it were on the top of a parking structure? Weiss: county was not interested in using the conference center parking area for the park. Many discussions over the years. Hanson: county owns the conference center, and the park is right at the conference center. Use structured or underground parking and use the surface for the park, would turn what is a detriment into an enormous asset. County just isn’t interested in that. Weiss: county wanted to put affordable housing on that property. Cmsnr Presley: how would this work with Main St? Why can’t we be more prescriptive? Hanson: already have an area in public ownership. Plenty of room for new housing and parking and a park. And removing an eyesore. Weiss: we’ll need to realign roads, so will have to buy land anyway. Coordinated effort. Public sector will have some upfront work to put the infrastructure in place.
Area diagram; Civic green: Alfandre: this is a district, and what do we have to give to get this? If we really want to get districts, we need to get modeling in this. This is an integral part of a district or neighborhood. We need a reason to say why? I want that Civic Green in that neighborhood. Hanson: we’re all agreed on that. Do we want it on the north side of the street? Alfandre: if they have to do it through assemblage, they should get something for it. These parks are crucial. But we can’t add on to what’s there already. We should do everything we can do to get someone to donate this land. Robinson: concern. Staff is setting up a heirarchy of parks and spaces. For everything other than Civic Green, getting the space is easy because the projects are large-scale. The scale of the civic Green is beyond the scope of the immediate land-owners when you put together streets and the projects, particularly because the county is unwilling to play. So you’ll have to look beyond the boundaries of this neighborhood. Alfandre: I’m afraid if we leave it too vague, it will go away. This should be a high level priority. Presley: do we need that size to get what we want? If so, how do you achieve that? Certain things are mandatory, so how do we tie these all in to get to that level? Farquhar: along the main east-west street, in the core. So it makes sense to put the central gathering space in the core. Alfandre: this seems to be the most difficult. Let’s not just say, we’ll buy it; that may be too long. Don’t identify the exact location. Weiss: we’ve met with all landowners, but only one was remotely interested in selling, but none were large enough. the public sector must go ahead first and acquire the land. We could talk to the County about putting the land in. Farquhar: either location would be fine, but need activating uses around it. In Wheaton, have parking garage on two sides of a similar space and it’s not very inviting. Nkosi Yearwood, planner: when come up from Metro have a “civic presence.”
Presley: what size will accommodate what you plan? Farquhar: we did studies. If WF has 21,000 residents, and 20% attended, that would be 5,000 people. One acre space could handle that. We didn’t take it further than that. Over 5,000 people at about 8 square feet per person would need that. We’ve been thinking an acre with additional space from closed-off streets. Hanson: could block off Woodglen and Main St. Some advantage in leaving the specifics a little uncertain. The retention of the parking lot goes against everything we’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a waste. Now if it’s redeveloped, there’s an opportunity to get something in addition to the building that would occur. Having a better place for conference center attendees to go outside besides the parking lot would be nice. Cryor: how small? Farquhar: 3/4 acre is too small. Hanson: between 3/4 and 1 acre. Cryor: I want to be sure that bottom line is firm. Hanson: if we put a park in the master plan and say it’s an acre, we will get it. If we say approximately, we’re in the ballpark. We leave ourselves and the property owners an opportunity to reach agreement on what the size should be. Putting it between Main St and Old Georgetown.
Robinson: putting symbols on the Plan gives us legal basis to require a developer to provide the park when they come in with their proposal. Presley: we still need to be as specific as we can be. Hanson: WMATA bus service area doesn’t have a park, and it’s another large parking lot. A prime example.
Wall Park: different character from Civic Green. This is an existing 11.7 acre park, more of an active park for recreation, relaxation, natural. Parking lot of almost 2.5 acres will be removed to a structure to the north. 92 Plan provided for more parkland to the north, but removing the lot would result in a more activated park, so worked with developer to have a garage. A variety of uses, retain existing trees along western side of the park nearest the residences. Facility plan process to take ideas further. Destination park outside the sector. Already draws people to the Aquatic Center, and this would be the same.
WF Neighborhood Park: questions last week. Slopes are as much as 30% in some areas, down to 6% in the unprogrammed open space. Two tennis, two basketball courts. Trail from neighborhood. Hanson: question is whether seek additional land to the north, or whether it will be available.
Robinson: 2-2 vote last week on whether there should be a school, but not sure what the alternative was if there wasn’t a school there. Hanson: alternatives: private, school, park, or public use as either school or park. Alfandre: stick with the women. Cryor: only discussing not a school site. Alfandre: I want to see 19 acre site (Rocking Horse) before deciding. I want to see the drainage and the rest. I didn’t put it at the top of my list because I didn’t realize how important it was. Hanson: we have got to make decisions. As soon as possible. Robinson: if you don’t reserve it, it is open to development and we have to decide on buffer issues. Trying to understand what’s on the table. Natalie, I keep trying to get an answer and we just can’t seem to get one.
Taking a break for lunch, and will come back for environment later.