Please join us November 19 for an interesting and informative online Community Meeting

Please join us for a one-hour community Zoom meeting on Thursday, November 19 at 7:00 pm. Register at https://cutt.ly/FOWFNov19. Walker Freer and Atul Sharma from the Planning Department will update us on a

  • proposed extension of the Trolley Trail through the Pike District
  • pedestrian improvements at the intersection of Route 355 and Route 187
  • the Advancing the Pike District initiative
  • development data over the decade since the passage of the White Flint Sectors Plans

We’re also excited that Councilmember Hans Riemer will join us at 7 pm for a few minutes to welcome everyone and answer a couple of questions from our members.

A veto and response on Bill 29-20

On Friday, County Executive Marc Elrich issued the first veto of his administration against Bill 29-20 by the county council offering 15-year property tax breaks for high-rise developments at Metro stations. Adam Pagnucco wrote an informative blog post discussing this veto on Seventh State at http://www.theseventhstate.com/?p=14013. Adam discusses what the County Executive got right and got wrong in Marc Elrich”s detailed explanation of his veto, in Adam’s opinion, of course. It’s well worth reading.

In response, Councilmember Andrew Friedson, one of the bill’s sponsors, wrote on Facebook:

“I’m confident we will have the votes to override the veto to continue our efforts to make Montgomery County more attractive and accessible for new residents, businesses, and investment.

There are so many misleading points in the County Executive’s lengthy statement so I won’t dispute line by line but here are the few key points: 1) The County Executive’s core argument is that these projects would proceed regardless so this incentive comes at a cost despite overwhelming and undeniable evidence demonstrating that simply isn’t the case. None of the WMATA sites are being developed and developers with Joint Development Agreements are walking away all over the region, due to unique infrastructure requirements on these sites, high costs of high-rise construction, etc. 2) These sites currently collect ZERO property tax, generate ZERO housing, and provide virtually no public benefits aside from surface parking. I view that as an abject public failure, but respect anyone who prefers this status quo. 3) Multiple fiscal analyses have demonstrated both that high-rise projects don’t work without the incentive and that the Grosvenor project in particular would generate more revenue to the County in impact and income taxes than the property tax abatement (which the county wouldn’t otherwise receive without a project). 4) The Executive “spiked” his fiscal analysis and has been trumpeting those “costs” despite the fact that they’ve been discredited. For instance, they assumed all 1 bedroom units and all sites generating N. Bethesda rents — both representing far higher numbers than any semblance of reality. 5) The bill gives discretion to start the abatement in Year 2 instead of Year 1 in case Question A doesn’t pass (which shows why it should!). This lowers the value of the benefit, but ensures the County receives the revenue/tax base benefit of the new construction in the future.

All that said, here’s the bottom line: if you believe in the social, economic, and environmental value of high-rise, transit-oriented development and that we have a severe housing crisis that has severely hindered our progress, this bill simply forgoes revenue we wouldn’t otherwise receive to generate housing and smart growth development we desperately need in the strategic locations where we clearly want it. If you’re willing to wait until the market changes — which could easily be 10, 15, 20 years, or to accept low/mid-rise development at Metro sites that will stand for 50-60 years, then this isn’t the best or most appropriate solution. That’s really the choice. The rest of the same, tired talking points aren’t really relevant to the discussion.

As you know, Friends of White Flint advocated for passage of this bill, and we hope the Council overrides this veto.

Montgomery County Recreation Launches New Pool Reservation System

Interested in swimming at our neighborhood pool at the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center? Montgomery County Recreation is launching a new pool reservation system designed to create an easier and better user experience. The new system will go live on Monday, Sept. 28 for pool reservations on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020 or later.

Montgomery County Recreation pools are currently open to Montgomery County residents and to valid pool pass holders. While reservations are not required, they are highly encouraged as pool capacity is limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We heard from many customers, listened to their feedback and found a system that we believe will creates a better user experience,” said Montgomery County Recreation Director Robin Riley. “We appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as we navigate these new waters.”

The new system will be used to make reservations at the County’s four indoor aquatic centers. Reservations will be available beginning exactly seven days in advance of the activity’s scheduled start time. For example, reservations for Monday, Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. will be available beginning on Monday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. Users can select from a variety of activity types including:

  • Lap Swimming: Current health guidelines allow for one person per lane. This activity requires continuous swimming.
  • Deep Water Running: Open space for exercise in deep water. Swimmer’s body must remain vertical in the water. Lap swimming is not permitted.
  • Open Rec Area: Shallow water available for general use. Lap swimming is not permitted.    
  • Rec Swim: Available for general use. Diving boards, slides and leisure pool open. Lap lanes available as first come, first serve for lap swimming only.

Reservations for indoor and outdoor swim sessions through Oct. 4 will continue to use the current reservation system.

For more information including pool hours of operations and schedules and a link to the new reservation system, visit www.mocorec.com/aquatics. Customers may also call 240-777-6840 or email rec.customerservice@montgomerycountymd.gov for additional assistance.

Pike & Rose Restaurant News

Congratulations to Kusshi Sushi the winner of the Taste of Moco bracket challenge for Best Sushi.

Also, as reported by the MoCo Show, the founders of Cava, Cava Mezze, and Julii are bringing their newest concept to Pike & Rose. Melina, named after Chef Dimitri Moshovitis’ daughter, will open in the 909 Rose office building across from REI.

The Greek restaurant will have a “vegetable-forward” menu that includes salt-baked beets with roasted lemon Greek yogurt and a pork belly gyro on homemade pita, according to a press release from Federal Realty.

Moshovitis (Quince Orchard HS) joins partners Ted Xenohristos (Paint Branch HS) and Ike Grigoropoulos (Gaithersburg HS) in bringing their second restaurant to the Pike & Rose development, following the success of their French concept Julii. The MoCo natives first opened Cava Mezze in Traville Gateway in 2006 and the first Cava in Bethesda Row in 2011.

Latest Update on the Western Workaround

FROM MCDOT: (Learn more about the Western Workaround project.)

Photo thanks to Don Weinstein

As of July 8, 2020, Executive Boulevard between Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center is permanently closed; look for the “DETOUR” signs that are rerouting traffic. On Monday, July 13, 2020, Corman Kokosing Construction Company began tearing up the old Executive Boulevard roadway in order to facilitate both new storm drain system construction and the start of work on the extension of Banneker Avenue.  Banneker Avenue will cut across the Gables parking lot and eventually tie into Old Georgetown Road just north of the MNCPPC Aquatic Center rear service entrance. 

The Berg Corporation is proceeding with the demolition of the old VOB Nissan Dealership structure and site; demolition will last for at least the next three weeks.  Large tractor‐trailer vehicles hauling away debris and recyclable materials are entering and exiting the property via Grand Park Avenue off of the Executive Blvd. dead end.  Motorists and pedestrians in the area of the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, as well as the M & T Bank and Aquatic Center & Park at Marinelli Road, should pay special attention to the increased presence of large vehicles.  In addition, Corman will close the northbound right lane of Old Georgetown Road in front of the VOB property on Monday, July 13, 2020; the Contractor will place concrete “Jersey barriers” to close the lane. 

Over the next month, Verizon crews will continue with their cable/wire splicing and other telecom work along Towne Road.  Verizon linemen and technicians in multiple vehicles will continue to install overhead cable and work in manholes in that project area.  Verizon should complete the overhead work on Towne Road by early August, weather permitting.  In addition, look for Verizon crews working in other parts of the White Flint West project area including on Banneker Avenue, Executive Boulevard., and Old Georgetown Road.  Keep an eye out for their own lane closures and flagging operations as they are separate from Corman Kokosing and affiliated sub‐contractors’ construction operations.

Photo thanks to David Walters

Anchor Construction is working presently at the north end of Towne Road between Prose Street and Montrose Parkway.  During the next month, Anchor crews will complete PEPCO‐related work that will take them into the section of Towne Road between Montrose Parkway and Montrose Road.  The Anchor staff is scheduled to excavate for and place a large pre‐cast concrete vault there.  Their other tasks include placing six-inch fiberglass conduits in various configurations.  At any time, Anchor crews could be roadway saw cutting, excavating, placing shoring, installing conduit, backfilling, and/or restoring roadway pavements.  Please be patient with their lane closures and subsequent delays on Towne Road and Montrose Parkway. 

Corman Kokosing’s own crews continue with Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) sewer and water line upgrades between the hours of 6:00 am to 2:00 pm in the northbound and southbound lanes of Old Georgetown Road north and south of Executive Boulevard, as well as the grassy area in front of the PALLAS Apartment Building.  This work will continue with daytime multiple lane closures to facilitate excavation, pipe and structure placement, and backfilling.  Periodically, one of Corman Kokosing’s general construction crews will complete hot mix asphalt (HMA) paving to replace the roadway steel plates that cover trench work.  Work for WSSC should wrap up by the middle of August 2020;

Parking is still not permitted on either side of Towne Road, or in the Cul‐de‐Sac; especially with the uptick in construction activities. Violators will be subject to citations; violators impeding the construction will be towed.   In these active work zones, be sure to look for the orange warning signs, cones and arrow panels, and flaggers! Please pay attention to any temporary road closure(s), look for steel roadway plates, expect probable driving delays, and look out for workers.

Reinventing ‘the burbs’ with an urban twist

The Washington Post could have been writing about the Pike District instead of Atlanta suburbs in this recent article. (In fact, the question does occur to me: why didn’t they mention the White Flint/Pike District area’s burgeoning transformation to a walkable, urban lite community?)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/realestate/city-living-in-the-suburbs-drives-housing-trend/2020/06/24/e7e52b6a-6de3-11ea-aa80-c2470c6b2034_story.html

“Looking at the history of human settlement, it was one of mixed-use and walkable environments,” said Hull. “Why did people live that way? Because travel was arduous either by foot, riding in a buggy or on horseback. . . . The automobile enabled the suburbs. Now things have devolved and travel has once again become arduous. We’ve come full circle in a way.”

Our draft testimony on the proposed new Growth Policy

We’d love to know what you think about our draft testimony on the Planning Board’s proposed new growth policy which will replace the Subdivision Staging Policy. Please email your thoughts to info@whiteflint.org or comment on this post.

Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization composed of residents, property owners, and businesses, works to transform the White Flint/Pike District area into a vibrant, walkable, transit-oriented community and fulfill the vision of the White Flint Sector Plans.

The new proposed growth policy will have a large impact on the development of the Pike District, and Friends of White Flint offers the follow comments on the proposed policy.

Moratoria

As you know, stopping development with a moratorium does not actually solve school overcrowding; less than thirty percent of Montgomery County’s growth in school enrollment can be attributed to new development. The vast majority of new students come from neighborhood turnover of single-family homes. Moratoria also prevent the county from increasing the housing supply and stifles the MPDU program.

We wholeheartedly support the Planning staff recommendation that eliminates automatic moratoria except for Clarksburg. We also support the designation of the White Flint area as an Infill Impact Area.

Impact Taxes

Montgomery Planning recommends lowering the impact tax from 120% of the cost of a classroom seat to 100% and lowering it to 60% in Activity Centers which include the Pike District. We support this targeting of impact taxes to encourage transit-oriented development in urban centers such as White Flint and the lowering of the impact tax to 60%.

The Planning Board recommends that developers would have to pay Utilization Premium Payments in areas with overcrowded schools as an alternative to an automatic housing moratorium. For elementary schools, the premium payments would be 25% of the standard impact tax for the School Impact Area. For middle and high schools, the payment would be 15 and 20% respectively. If multiple schools serving the project site exceed the given threshold, then payments would be required for each.

Because the White Flint/Pike District is considered an Activity Center, the highest possible impact tax/utilization premium payment would be 120%. Because this is revenue neutral, Friends of Whit Flint supports these new impact taxes and utilization premium payment.

Recordation Tax

The proposed increase in the recordation tax is progressive — an 11 to 14% boost for homes priced $300,000 to $1,000,000; a 26% hike for $1 million homes; and a 31% rise for $2 million homes. Increased revenue would go to school construction and rental assistance for low-and moderate-income households. A million-dollar house would see a $1,400 increase in the recordation tax.

While we like that the tax increase is progressive, and we agree that because school capacity issues largely stems from neighborhood turnover, it makes sense that this turnover fund school construction and rental assistance.  That said, we are wary of new taxes in the current economic and pandemic crisis.

Vision Zero

Planning staff recommends adjustments that better incorporate the county’s Vision Zero goals. This includes increasing intersection delay standards along future Bus Rapid Transit corridors, including Route 355 in White Flint. Friends of White Flint fully supports requiring a Vision Zero Impact Statement that will examine a residential development plan’s transportation impact, and that prioritizes travel safety considerations as a mitigation strategy.

Metro Station Traffic Tests

Friends of White Flint supports the proposal to remove traffic congestion adequacy standards around Metro stations, like the White Flint station, to promote transit-oriented development and recognize the unique requirements of development that lies within the walkshed of a Metro stop.