From Bethesda Magazine:
Development that includes nearly 6,000 homes could halt without progress on school, transportation projects
Montgomery County planning officials on Thursday debated whether it’s fair to freeze development in the White Flint area if public projects stall.
Under the drafted White Flint 2 Sector Plan, growth would proceed in three phases, but moving through them would require progress on school and transportation improvements.
Montgomery County Planning Board member Norman Dreyfuss said he’s not convinced that’s fair to developers. “We’re throwing in a wrinkle … they can’t iron out,” he said during one of the board’s work sessions on the plan.
The proposed White Flint plan would permit up to 5,938 new homes and nearly 3 million square feet of nonresidential development on 460 acres clustered in a bowtie shape around Rockville Pike and Montrose Road. Developers could build 1,800 homes in both the first and second phases of the plan, with the remaining 2,338 units going up in the final step. Construction of the office and commercial square footage also would be spaced out over the three phases.
But one of the plan’s conditions for moving from the first to second phase is that Montgomery County Public Schools looks at establishing a new elementary school in the Walter Johnson High School cluster and figures out when it would be funded. Progress would also depend on the Maryland Department of Transportation determining whether the area needs a new station for the MARC commuter train.
A local land use attorney objected to these requirements, saying they could cause unnecessary delays in an area that could benefit from revitalization. “It seems like it’s not in the best interests of that part of the county or the county as a whole,” said Francoise Carrier, who was chairman of the Planning Board from 2010 to 2014. She asked the board to reconsider the conditions related to schools and to the MARC station.
Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson said he sees the need for appropriate project staging.
“Whether it’s fair to the applicants or not, it’s the world we live in,” he said.
However, he added that he’d like MCPS officials to provide more assurance that the school sites identified in the plan will be acceptable. Board members and planning staff suggested engaging in more dialogue with MCPS and perhaps asking them to express in writing their approval for potential school sites designated by the plan.
The next work session on the White Flint plan is scheduled for Feb. 9.