Vision for White Flint: Issues by District; The Mall throws in a curve (or no curve)

Vision for White Flint: Issues by District; The Mall throws in a curve (or no curve)

The Montgomery County Planning Board is working through the “design guidelines” for each “district” within the White Flint Sector. Live streaming video is available at

White Flint Planner Nkosi Yearwood: Maple Ave. District: Issue: Historic Montrose School. One-room school building. Issues of access from Montrose Parkway. Recommendation is to retain the zone as C-2. Planner Piera Weiss: kind of cute. Cmsnr Cryor: it will have to be moved. Doesn’t have to stay where it is on that isolated property.¬†Hanson: I think we should just leave it alone. Weiss: we’ll put something in the Plan on that. Yearwood: second issue: transfer of density. Not on the table within the CR Zone. Both of the Washington Real Estate Investment Trust properties have the same zoning, so it’s not the same issue. Support for that.

Yearwood: Metro East district. Issue: grandfathering protection for LCOR property (North Bethesda Center). Use of Montouri property (formerly considered for a new commuter rail station). Nebel District: apparently no issues discussed.

NRC District: WMATA asked only rezoning exempt their property. Eatzi’s property, with up to 300′ building on the site. More non-residential development at that site. Weiss: we don’t disagree. Narrow site. That’s example of the flexibility we mentioned earlier. Robinson: why leave WMATA industrial? Yearwood: we’re recommending that we rezone it. Robinson: we should rezone it. Weiss: it’s a non-issue. Robinson: unless they decide to make a lot of money and move somewhere else. Yearwood: Strathmore Court: any redevelopment should require significant amount of affordable housing.

Yearwood: White Flint Mall district. Broken up into several smaller blocks. Including additional FAR to Eisinger property to include more affordable, work-force housing. They’re saying workforce housing. Weiss: small units for workforce. All workforce housing. (Workforce housing = 20% above and below median income.) Presley: what kinds of jobs? Hanson: $70,000-$110,000 household income. Some families. Presley: are those people going to be able to afford to live in the area we’re designing. Hanson: would fit a big slice of federal agency employees or business or professional service firms in this area. An excellent location for housing. A lot of them will walk. A fair percentage will work in the area. The access to Metro is a draw. Cryor: one-room efficiencies. I would have thought you don’t want this. Why having a 19-story building with just efficiencies is a best use of this space, other than having them walk to Metro? Weiss: I agree with you. Almost 2000 units in a small space, but that’s not what you’re deciding here. You’re deciding if it’s a viable neighborhood. Variety of units. Poor investment. Hanson: what’s before us now is the amount of density to recommend for this property. When a plan comes before us, we can review these questions and we can expect lots of other things to be done. Presley: I wouldn’t set any sort of benefit for doing this sort of units. Alfandre: we’re doing a Master Plan for another generation, and we don’t have anything before us for that. So we don’t know if developer can do that at the time. I like the statement we are making to users of this Master Plan that we are thinking about the next generation and how they are going to live. I believe that’s how most people will be using this property in the future. It’s compatible with what we are trying to do here. I’m considered that we’re mixing two districts into one, and we’ll be stuck so one or the other won’t be allowed to develop its own character. This is access to a neighborhood that is very, very important, and if we don’t recognize that, we’ll miss the connection.

Weiss: Fitzgerald got 4.0 FAR. Robinson: I predicted he wouldn’t get that, but I was wrong. Staff has recommended that.

Yearwood: new White Flint park area. Area just south of Combined Properties land (Shoppers, Petco). 1.5 acres, zoned R-90. Not recommending this area for additional park land. Farquhar: would support youth size soccer field. Especially if we don’t have to accommodate parking on site, and neighborhood parks usually don’t have parking on site. Hanson: we met Monday night with the School Board and they were not thrilled with the position we were taking. Their view was that Rocking Horse would be more suitable for a Middle School; it’s large enough for that purpose. Not for an elementary school. They wanted a smaller site in the planning area. Presley: we considered that it could be both middle and elementary. Cryor: they didn’t want to lose any particular piece of ground. They didn’t have any reason for the small site. No groundswell for going back on the decision. But they don’t want to lose Rocking Horse for administrative offices. But as we know, it’s 187 people use that property. I didn’t hear that we want this site because it’s the best site; what I heard was that they didn’t want to let go of the land. Didn’t convince me. No school board member came forward. It was just that they would love to have more land all over the county. Presley: I’m still convinced of my first thoughts on it. Hanson: I don’t see any inclination to change. But we will end up with no elementary school site. In reality. Let’s go on.

Weiss: do we keep the park recommendation as it is and designate another public use space. Hanson: I would be reluctant to lose this as park space. What about the alignment of Executive Blvd? Weiss: for equitable allocation between properties and to slow traffic down. Alfandre: how do we incentivize green space? Weiss: it’s a requirement in the base zoning. Hanson: having open space to serve the residential component means that park space should be put in Eisinger space, or by the MARC station.

Weiss: White Flint Mall just handed me a new picture of their relationships and planning. Robbie Breuer, representing the Mall. I realized yesterday that all the pieces of connected communications had not occurred. Our planners concluded that, while the overall density was fine with us, but the heights that were assigned were not. We concluded that we can’t get to where we had planned. We’ve lowered the FAR near the Garrett Park community, and we’re continuing that dialogue. This doesn’t achieve our objectives or yours. Building heights are not high enough. OK by the communities, but by the Pike we need higher heights and FARs on the western, northwestern and northern parts of the Mall, and you can reduce them on the southern edges of the Mall. Weiss: this confuses me.

Presley: so you want higher on the Pike side, and lower on the community side. Natalie Goldberg, Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park: this new map doesn’t include some of the things that we’ve already seen and agreed to. This is a surprise to us. We thought the Board had decided that this ring road will have a gentle curve, but this Mall map has the old road without the gentle curve.¬†Presley: all this shows is the difference in FAR and heights. Breuer: I apologize. This is an awkward moment. Hanson: there was general agreement on overall FAR for the Mall. General vicinity of 2.5. Goldberg: depends on how it’s distributed. Hanson: of course; that’s why it’s an average. Areas of specific density and specific heights. We will deal with the buffer issue at the proper time. First of all let’s deal with the density and height. Weiss: impossible to compare.

Alfandre: I’ve never seen something with this level of complexity. Density allocations, transportation, districts, design guidelines and more. We don’t have this coordinated yet. For me to understand what I am voting on, I would like some overall look by district at how these things work together. We have to have one meeting where the Plan is pulled together so we know what’s going where, what’s going to get paid for. A summary would be nice. Hanson: if you’ll be patient, we’ll get there. Weiss: road network, open space network, heights, all put together on this slide. Presley: it’s easier for me to work from the overall to the pieces, than the pieces to the whole.

Weiss: I ordinarily don’t get upset, but coming in at the eleventh hour is unfair. Breuer: I apologize. A mathematical issue to where the buildings. Goldberg: for us it’s much more than a mathematical issue. Robinson: road network has been decided; this is a straightforward issue. Offsetting the lower heights on the part of the property near your neighborhood by higher heights on the parts that are not near you. Road network is a closed issue. Hanson: I don’t want to have another session on this. We have to get closure. Once we have seen the draft final plan, we still have the opportunity for any Board member to make any amendment. Robinson: a plan this complicated means that you have to do regional decisions. Staff’s methodology is appropriate because of the nature of the transportation network and zoning. Hanson: we’ll finish today the overall diagram and all the districts.

Barnaby Zall


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