The Montgomery County Council has referred the White Flint Sector Plan to its Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, known as the PHED Committee. The PHED Committee has held two hearings on the Plan, including one yesterday afternoon looking at the transporation elements in the Plan.
The PHED Committee staff prepared a memorandum over the Thanksgiving break with a number of tough questions. (The first ten pages are the staff memo; the rest is appendices.) Among the memo’s discussion points: removing the median from Montrose Road towards I-270 and adding a reversible rush-hour lane, and widening Rockville Pike below Edson Lane. The memo can be found at:
I wasn’t able to attend the Committee meeting, but reports indicate a few significant discussions. One of the biggest was on the proposed commuter rail station in the Sector. This station had been the subject of much discussion at the Planning Board, which devoted several sessions to discussing the issue with a variety of interested parties. The two principal proposals were to put the station on the “Montouri” property, across from the new Harris-Teeter supermarket in North Bethesda Center (known as the northern site) and putting it at the end of Nicholson Court in the southern end of the Sector. Although the Planning Board staff had recommended the northern site, which was closer to the Metro Station, the local community of Randolph Hills successfully argued that using the southern site would benefit that underserved and oft-forgotten neighborhood. In addition, the family which owns the northern site did not want the station on its property, while the property owners near the Nicholson Court site lobbied hard for the station as a way of tying into the overall transit-orientation of the Plan. Ultimately the Planning Board supported the Nicholson Court location.
Yesterday, despite further statements from Randolph Hills and from the property owners, the PHED Committee reversed that decision, citing, again, the proximity to the Metro Station. That decision compounds the shock to Randolph Hills from the Council’s earlier decision to abandon the Rocking Horse Elementary School site in Randolph Hills, and left the community quite upset.
In addition, the PHED Committee rejected the Montrose Road and Pike widening proposals, and accepted a 162′ foot right-of-way (necessary for the Glatting-Jackson Transitway Option recommended by Friends of White Flint). The Committee’s staff spent much time trying to get the Committee to reconcile the Council’s unwillingness to exempt White Flint from outmoded, automobile-oriented traffic congestion tests with the needs of a transit-oriented community. Those discussions appear in the staff memo as largely reflecting the County’s earlier automobile-oriented strategy, where development depends almost entirely on how fast cars move through intersections. The Committee largely punted those decisions until later.
The PHED Committee will meet again next Monday, December 7, and Thursday, December 10, to examine specific project proposals for White Flint and look at land use issues. You can see these project proposals and community groups’ reaction to them on the White Flint Sector Plan – Specific Projects and Community Reaction pages on the Friends of White Flint website: www.whiteflint.org. The meeting will be held at the County Council Office Building in Rockville.