Archives April 2011

New “Development Finder” Web Tool from Planning Board

The Montgomery County Planning Board is moving into the 21st Century, aided by Google Maps. Now you can go to: http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/development/finder.shtm

click on a map, and see information about various projects in the County. The map, for example, shows the three pending White Flint “sketch plan” proposals at Mid-Pike Plaza (Federal Realty), North Bethesda Market Phase II (JBG), and North Bethesda Gateway (ProMark). Clicking through for more information adds some interesting stuff, such as the fact that the architect for Mid-Pike Plaza is from White Plains, New York. Be sure to look at the bottom of each of the sketch plans for the link to all the paperwork for each project.

Site’s still a little buggy, though, especially on some browsers. YMMV.

Barnaby Zall

Diane Schwartz-Jones Responds to Concerns About Public Amenities Charette Process

Diane Schwartz-Jones is Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s chief staffer on the White Flint Sector Plan. She has been intimately involved in the planning and approval processes for some time, and is an active member of the White Flint Implementation Committee.

Diane Schwartz-Jones

She has proposed a new series of community meetings on the “public amenities” in the White Flint Plan. These amenities include a new library, parks, school, recreation center, and so on. The proposal has generated some discussion in the WFIC. At Monday’s WFIC meeting, there was confusion about whether the proposed hiring of consultants was consistent with open contracting rules, especially when chief Planning staffer for White Flint Nkosi Yearwood announced the hiring of a consultant for the project already.

Nkosi Yearwood (c) chairing April 11 WFIC meeting, with (from left) Mike Coveyou of the County Executive's Office, Jacob Sesker of the Planning Department and Dave Freishtat, Co-Chair of WFIC (and FoWF Board Member)

Diane has now responded with a full explanation to the Committee members, and a scope of work for the new project. Among other things, she told the WFIC that:

In conversations with Park and Planning we have come to understand that this effort is very time sensitive and may be useful in helping shape what, if any, changes should be made to the CR Zone. Planning is interested in the County concluding this process as soon as possible due to both the CR Zone amendments that are pending, and, hopefully in advance of additional plans.

The County maintains contracts with a number of planning consultants to help with tasks that arise. Due to the short time frame we looked at contracts that we have in place for similar services under which this task could fit. These contracts that we maintain are the result of competitive solicitations. We identified Oudens Knoop Knoop + Sachs Architects – (Architecture, programming planning, and project management) who will provide the charette services in partnership with Torti Gallas.

I understand there is a question about how these consultants will be paid. We are working to put a Joint Funding Agreement in place pursuant to which several developers would help provide some of the funding. We believe we have seven developers who have agreed to provide a share of the costs and the County is putting in two times what the individual developers will be contributing. Of course if we cannot reach agreement with the development community on the joint funding, we will not be able to continue with this process as currently envisioned. This would be a real shame because I think that there is enormous benefit for all to be obtained from this process.

The work is to be done under contract with the County and the County will control and direct the work.

The developers’ role will be to participate in the charettes and there will be a specific developer charette for the purpose of understanding development plans that are on the horizon and what types of amenities might be likely in such plans so that the public amenities that are listed in the attached scope of work complement the types of amenities that would be provided in projects without unnecessarily duplicating amenities. The focus being sustainable, complementary, interrelated amenities that will contribute to making White Flint a great place.

The consultants would be charged with looking at examples of great, vibrant urban areas in other locations and relating these examples to the amenities under consideration and the vision of the White Flint Sector Plan. There will be a public charette which will seek public input from the broader community on needs, desires, and priorities. There will then be an draft implementation plan developed.

A draft plan reflecting the input from the public agencies, developers and community will then be presented in a second community worksession where the public will be able to review and provide further comments.

 The process will culminate in an implementation strategy that will be reflected in a final report to the county that will be intended to inform the implementation of the individual public amenities.

 All stakeholders will benefit from an amenities plan that reflects the vibrancy, sense of place and overall desirability of White Flint as a destination and an attractive place to live, work, shop, recreate and gather. 

The three-page scope of work includes more detail, and can be found at CharetteScopeofWork.

Diane has invited comment on the Scope of Work. She can be reached at Diane.Jones@montgomerycountymd.gov. You may want to copy Nkosi Yearwood as well: Nkosi.Yearwood@mncppc-mc.org, and comment or post here at the FLOG as well.

Barnaby Zall

“Do You Know Who You’re Hiring?” – April 11 Meeting of White Flint Implementation Committee

The White Flint Implementation Committee met again last night in a sweltering conference room at the Montgomery Aquatic Center to discuss progress on the White Flint Sector Plan. It was a light agenda, and the meeting adjourned shortly after 9PM, just before participants began keeling over from heat exhaustion.

April 11 WFIC meeting

April 11 meeting of the WFIC

But first, there was the usual attendant controversy. After last month’s meeting, when Montgomery County Executive Assistant Diane Schwartz-Jones revealed a plan to raise private and “unused” planning funds to hold a series of “charettes” on White Flint amenities, there was an active discussion of Planning staffer Nkosi Yearwood’s report on progress toward hiring a consultant. Two consultants, Torti Gallas and Partners (Silver Spring) and Ouden Knoop Knoop + Sachs Architecture (Chevy Chase, MD) have been hired to help plan the hiring of the consultant to run the charette. There apparently is no contract, no RFP, no public scope of work, or any other of the usual accoutrements of contracting in the modern era. No one at the meeting knew much more, but someone offered the rationale that it was essentially a privately-funded activity (though I pointed out there were $20,000 in “unused” planning funds in the mix). Mike Coveyou of the County Executive’s office reported that the Department of Administrative Services “freed up” that money; it wasn’t actually Planning Board funds.

So Della Stollsworth of Luxmanor, turned to Francine Waters of Lerner Enterprises, and asked: “Do you know who you’re hiring?” “We’re not hiring them,” Francine replied. WFIC Co-Chair Dan Hoffman tried to soothe the agitated residents by pointing out that the initial consultant was probably just doing “scoping” for the project, but the whole discussion left some (including me) quizzical about the whole idea.

Francine Waters

In other news, Yearwood reported that there was a second vacancy on the WFIC, with former member John Frye, from Fallstone, resigning. The earlier vacancy from Karl Girschman from the Wisconsin, has not yet been filled, even though Paul Meyer, another Wisconsin resident and long-time activist, had applied for the vacancy weeks ago. Nkosi said that the Planning Board would be sending requests to various community organizations to nominate persons to fill the Frye and Girschman vacancies. No timetable to fill these.

The CR Zone amendments, which in this case, amount to making the “sketch plan” process where residents have input into an early stage of a project’s development, essentially only advisory to the Planning Board, are still being discussed, with hearings before the Planning Board on April 27, and public hearings before the County Council on May 17.  The Washington Suburban Sanitary District has proposed new “free and clear” areas of up to 80′ on either side of the various pipelines that run through White Flint, which will affect two major planned developments: North Bethesda Market Phase Two, and North Bethesda Gateway. It will likely not have any effect on area communities such as Old Farm and Luxmanor, where enormous pipes carry millions of gallons of water a day right next to homes. So residents who want to dig in their yards may continue to do so, but should expect to keep swim suits nearby in case the pipes break.

And the meeting concluded with an extended discussion of the new White Flint Implementation Guidelines, which are the Planning staff’s attempt to combine transportation and “adequate public facilities” monitoring programs into one, (relatively) easy-to-understand analysis of “staging” requirements. Much discussion of parking requirements and other ways to get people out of their cars. The WFIC includes a couple of experts on evaluating the success of these “mode share” efforts, but most of the people in the room looked lost.

The next WFIC meeting will be May 9.

Barnaby Zall

In-Fill Development Speaker on Weds April 13

The Montgomery Planning Board’s Speaker Series continues with a speaker on “in-fill development” in established neighborhoods like White Flint. The session will be held in Silver Spring at the offices of the architecture firm Torti-Gallas, 1300 Spring St., Suite 400. The presentation will begin at 6PM. Planning staff Director Rollin Stanley told me: “The speaker, Deni  Poletti, is an architect from Toronto whom I worked with to transform a neighborhood in Toronto through very cool infill mixed use, residential medium and high rise buildings.  The examples are very relevant to White Flint and in fact illustrate what I would hope will be the outcome as new buildings are constructed.” 

Barnaby Zall

Staff Recommendations for Changes in White Flint Implementation Guidelines

As mentioned in the last few posts, the White Flint Sector Plan requires the Planning Board to adopt implementation guidelines to cover both transportation and planning processes changes necessitated by the new features of the Plan. Some of these include the new Comprehensive Local Area Transportation Review (CLATR), which substitutes for earlier “how fast do cars move through intersections” tests, and the new “sketch plan” process, which provides for public input at earlier stages than the prior site plan-only process. The Montgomery County Planning Board has been reviewing and discussing these Implementation Guidelines for several weeks, and has another review session scheduled for next Thursday. The White Flint Implementation Committee will also discuss the Implementation Guidelines at its meeting next Monday night at the Montgomery Aquatic Center.

The Planning staff has now prepared some recommendations for changes in the draft Implementation Guidelines. Most of the changes are conforming to comments from participants, including the White Flint Implementation Committee’s Natalie Goldberg, who has suggested corrections to the “mode share” (use of public transit) requirements.

The staff memo can be found here:   mmo_to_MCPB_re_White_Flint_Transportation_Approval_Mechanism 

Barnaby Zall