Please find below our written testimony to the Planning Board on the proposed White Flint 2 plan, written with the insightful input our supporters provided. The Planning Board is keeping the comment period open for another week and a half, and I strongly encourage you to let them know your thoughts and share your ideas to improve the plan.
Dear Montgomery County Planning Board:
Friends of White Flint is a nonprofit organization composed of residents, businesses, and property owners. We work to ensure the full implementation of the White Flint 1 plan, and soon the White Flint 2 Plan, transforming the Pike District into a walkable, transit-oriented, vibrant community. There is much to like in the proposed White Flint 2 plan, but we have fairly long list of changes we’d like to see.
1. We are pleased that plan suggests dedicated sites for the elementary school needed in the White Flint area to address school capacity. While we are not advocating for any site in particular, we agree that dedicating sites in the plan is essential to addressing current and future school overcrowding.
2. We strongly support the connectivity outlined in the plan, especially the bike paths along Randolph Road and Parklawn Drive. We believe that bicycle and pedestrian connectivity is crucial to the success of this area.
3. We are, however, quite disappointed that there was no solution to creating a pedestrian-bike path over the railroad tracks to connect White Flint 2 and White Flint 1. We would very much like to see such a connection included in the plan. While we acknowledge there are engineering and other challenges creating a bicycle-pedestrian path over the railroad tracks, we believe that difficulty is not a reason to omit a needed connection from the plan. This pedestrian-bike path should be incorporated into the future MARC station.
4. To enhance connectivity and encourage walking between White Flint 1 and White Flint 2 area, we would like to see a sidewalk included on the east side of Route 355 along the bridge over Montrose Parkway to connect with the sidewalk that ends in front of Montrose Crossing.
5. To enhance pedestrian access, we request a crosswalk on the east side of Towne Road at the intersection Montrose Parkway as well as a pedestrian path through the park and ride lot to connect the Monterey Apartments, the Jewish Community Center, and other properties with Rockville Pike.
6. We support a lighted pedestrian path behind Executive Boulevard near Luxmanor Elementary.
7. We support the plan’s re-configured intersection at Parklawn Drive and Randolph Road to ease traffic, increase walkability, and provide a better site for the redevelopment of Loehman’s Plaza.
8. We support the reconfiguration of the intersection of Boiling Brook Road and Rocking Horse Drive. The current intersection is confusing and dangerous for both cars and pedestrians.
9. We recommend a signalized intersection where the new Rose Avenue intersects at Hoya Street at the Willco property. Both Federal Realty and Willco want this intersection and are willing to fund it. An intersection here is critical to achieving the goal of extending the White Flint 1 street grid into White Flint 2 while providing a much needed mid-block crossing for pedestrians and vehicles.
10. We suggest the plan more clearly define, with detailed larger illustrations, how the roadways, bikeways, and pedestrian paths will connect with White Flint 1 so that their recommended locations can be better understood.
11. A MARC station should remain part of the plan.
Office, Business, Industrial, and Residential Space
12. We very much would like to see more innovative office and residential concepts included in the plan. These might include micro-units, shared housing, and condominiums and apartments that could be used for either residential or office purposes in the same building. These types of creative residential and office buildings are being constructed and leased in other areas in our region. The plan should add language to specifically encourage taking advantage of the Zoning Ordinance’s bonus density for “development that increases the variety and mixture of land uses, types of housing, economic variety and community activities” under Section 4.7.3.D.
13. We suggest that the White Flint 2 plan include language to encourage new small businesses, such as an incubator. The plan should add language to specifically encourage the retention of locally owned small businesses. Emphasis should be added to refer to the density points under Zoning Code Section 4.7.3.D.7, regarding “Small Business Opportunities: Up to 20 points for providing on-site space for small, neighborhood-oriented businesses.”
14. We would like to see the plan encourage traditional and innovative senior housing options.
15. We endorse keeping light industrial space in the White Flint 2 area but would support plans to change the light industrial space in and around Randolph Hills Shopping Center to a flexible, mixed-use, higher density, residential-commercial zoning.
16. While we appreciate the need to have some light industrial space in the down-county area, we would like the Planning Board to consider creating a flexible mixed use zone around the Nicholson Court area as it is quite close to metro. We support the request for Oxford Square to have a density of 1.0 F.A.R to increase the stock of low and mid-rise residential units.
17. Apartments that are designated market rate affordable housing will eventually become obsolete. They also lack any MPDUs, ADA accessibility, modern fire code protection, storm water management systems, or forest conservation measures A large portion of housing costs are related to utilities. As these “market rate affordable” units further decline and are not modernized, these costs will increase. Additionally, nothing is better at reducing housing costs than increasing supply. Therefore, we do not support the plan’s recommendation to effectively under-zone specific properties because they are currently providing market rate affordable housing. The law of unintended consequences is immutable. Zoning should permit the economically feasible redevelopment of older residential properties so that a variety of housing types can be part of the mix of properties in White Flint 2. This would also permit more MPDUs and hopefully units in a variety of sizes.
18. The plan discusses preserving affordable housing through the use of tax credits and other financing tools, but it does not explain them in any detail. The plan should describe such vehicles so the Council may evaluate their efficacy.
19. We applaud the plan’s goal to create 12 acres of public space. However, we would like to see innovative public space that meets the needs of residents, not just the creation of small contemplative plazas or athletic fields that people from other parts of the county would drive to White Flint to use.
Staging and Implementation
20. Regarding Implementation Phase 1 recommendations, we request that you eliminate the MDOT study as a staging requirement. Merely conducting a study does not add density nor does it provide any concrete infrastructure improvement.
21. The approved White Flint 1 Plan and the proposed White Flint 2 Plan both recommend a shuttle system. We think that Pike District businesses, residents and commuters would all benefit from implementation of a circulator system at the earliest practicable date. A dedicated and branded circulator system would greatly enhance the visibility the Pike District. To expedite implementation, the circulator feasibility and planning study could be undertaken in 2017, and a circulator system could be in operation in time for new development in the approved White Flint 2 plan area.
22. The Non-Auto Driver Mode Share (NADMS) goals are a key mechanism for controlling traffic congestion and promoting pedestrian-friendly connectivity and walkability in the Pike District. However, the White Flint 2 Plan recommends lower NADMS goals than the White Flint 1 Plan:
Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
NADMS NADMS NADMS
White Flint 1 (approved) 34% 42% 50%
White Flint 2 (draft) 27% 35% 42%
We can understand why White Flint 2 areas east of the CSX tracks might have lower NADMS goals. However, those portions in the western part of the White Flint 2 area that are just as close to Rockville Pike and metro as properties in the White Flint 1 area should have the same NADMS goals as the White Flint 1 plan area.
23. Finally, there must be greater clarification how White Flint 1 and White Flint 2 will work together for the betterment of both. For example, the plan must articulate how the improvements made possible by the special White Flint 1 taxing district, improvements that impact White Flint 2, will be funded so that it is equitable to all parties in both White Flint 1 and 2, including the community. The plan must also delineate how development of White Flint 1 and White Flint 2 properties will be coordinated so that the Pike District is developed in the fastest and most successful way possible.
In particular, if development is “locked” in White Flint 1 due to any of the staging requirements not being met, will it also be “locked” in White Flint 2? If not, will it be possible to justify the redevelopment of properties further from metro while closer proximity properties are unable to proceed?
Because we represent all facets of the community and because the nearly 2,000 Friends of White Flint supporters live, work, and play in the Pike District, we hope that you will include our suggestions in the final White Flint 2 Sector Plan. Thank you.
Amy Ginsburg, Executive Director