Fascinating Facts in the White Flint Monitoring Report

The Planning Board discussed the 2019 Biennial Master Plan White Flint Monitoring Report yesterday, and I encourage you to at least give it a glance as it’s chock-full of info about the White Flint/Pike District area. Just in case you don’t have a half-hour to read this report, here are a few highlights. We’ll post more in the coming days.

Western Workaround The White Flint Western Workaround (Phase 1) is complete. This project includes the construction of realigned Executive Boulevard (future Grand Park Avenue) and Banneker Street (Main/Market Street) on the Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center property.

Capital Bikeshare In 2018, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) installed several Capital Bikeshare stations in the plan area, including a bikeshare station at the White Flint Metro Station and another along the North Bethesda Trolley Trail at Woodglen Drive and Executive Boulevard.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Improvements The MCDOT has continued to implement new bikeways in the plan area, including along Executive Boulevard, between Nicholson Lane and Woodglen Drive, and along Marinelli Road, between Rockville Pike (MD 355) and Nebel Street. These bikeways will be implemented in fall 2019. The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) will be addressing pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues along Rockville Pike (MD 355), including at Marinelli Road and Nicholson Lane with the installation of highly visible crosswalks. The MDOT SHA is also exploring the reconfiguration of the intersection of Old Georgetown Road (MD 187) and MD 355 to remove dedicated slip lanes.

White Flint Metro Station Northern Entrance In 2018, the County Council approved $3.5 million for preliminary planning and engineering for a new northern entrance to the White Flint Metro Station. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is currently conducting a feasibility study for the northern entrance.

White Flint 2 Sector Plan The Approved and Adopted 2018 White Flint 2 Sector Plan expanded the development capacities associated with the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan by adding 1,800 residential units and 750,000 square feet of non-residential development to the first two phases of the recommended staging plan in the 2010 Sector Plan.

Development Moratorium Based on the 2019 annual schools test, the Walter Johnson Cluster has been placed in a development moratorium since the cluster is at 129 percent. Any high school cluster that is above 120 percent of capacity is placed into a moratorium. The Planning Board cannot approve any new residential subdivisions in the Walter Johnson cluster.

Planning Board Transportation Priority List Reflects the Importance of the White Flint area

Here is the staff memo for the Planning Board’s Capital Improvements Program Priorities – Transportation and School Facilities. The Planning Board will discuss these priorities on Thursday. https://montgomeryplanningboard.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/FY2021-2026-Capital-Improvements-Program-Priorities_MR2019023-final_09-19-19.pdf

Below is a list of the school and transportation projects that affect the White Flint/Pike District area. We’re thrilled that Woodward is the top school project — it is the key to lifting the current moratorium. 

We;re also delighted that so many White Flint/Pike District projects make the top ten of the transportation projects — BRT, the other road network improvements, and the White Flint Metro North entrance.  We might quibble over putting the north metro entrance higher in the list … and higher than the Forest Glen metro stop north entrance … but considering the large expanse of our county and its many needs, but getting three of the top ten projects for our area is a testament to our advocacy efforts and the potential of our area to become all that is envisioned.

Note that the City of Rockville to Friendship Heights Breezeway that is mentioned in various segments throughout the priority list will also be a positive bikeway addition to our neighborhood.

WJ Moratorium Review at the Planning Board Thursday

The Planning Board will review the annual schools test next Thursday, which will determine if a school cluster (including the Walter Johnson cluster) would be placed in moratorium and if a Preliminary Plan of Subdivision could be submitted .

The staff report can be found here and recommends the Walter Johnson cluster be put in moratorium for one year because WJ is at 129.3% of capacity.

Planning Board Takes Up White Flint Projects

On May 3, The Planning Board will review the Site Plan Amendment for Pike and Rose (Phase I and II) as well as the Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) for a Signature Business Headquarters.

ZTA No. 18-05 amends the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance to create a new use for a Signature Business Headquarters, and to provide a process for approval of a Signature Business Headquarters plan. SRA 18-02 amends the Subdivision Regulations to create an administrative subdivision process for a Signature Business Headquarters under certain standards

Planning staff recommends approval of ZTA No. 18-05 to create a new use for a Signature Business Headquarters, and to provide a process for approval of a Signature Business Headquarters plan. Staff also recommends approval of SRA 18-02 to create an administrative subdivision process for a Signature Business Headquarters under certain standards. Staff believes that ZTA 18-05 and SRA 18-05 provide economic development tools to help the County attract jobs and residents, increase its tax base and achieve master plan goals for specific communities while maintaining the public input component of the development review process that is vital to all planning decisions.

Pike and Rose, Phase I: Site Plan Amendment No. 82012002D

Request to revise the Phase I Public Use Space plan; modify the Public Benefit Points and Development Program to reflect addition of solar panels and bikeshare stations, and removal of daycare center; and minor modifications to reflect as-built conditions.

Pike and Rose Phase II, Site Plan Amendment 82013012D

Request to revise the design of Building 3B and associated parking garage within Block 3; update Public Benefit Points to reflect addition of solar panels and bikeshare stations, and removal of daycare center; modify the bicycle parking provided; and minor modifications to reflect as-built conditions.

More information is available at http://montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda-item/may-03-2018/

Bicycle Master Plan Public Hearing February 15

On January 25, 2018, the Planning Board conducted a public hearing on the Bicycle Master Plan Public Hearing Draft and received testimony from more than 270 people.
The next step is for the Planning Board to review the testimony they received and to consider changes in the plan based on those comments. Over the next 2+ months, the Planning Board will conduct work sessions are held at the Planning Department auditorium (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD) which are open to the public. Consult the Planning Board’s agenda for more details.
Their first work session with the Planning Board will be held on February 15th and will cover these items:
  • Issue 1: Four Types of Transportation Cyclists
  • Issue 2: The Bicycle Master Plan Marginalizes “Moderate-Stress” Bicycling
  • Issue 3: Conventional Bike Lanes and Bikeable Shoulders are Better for Moderate-Stress Bicyclists
  • Issue 4: Breezeway Network
  • Issue 5: Two-Way Bikeways on Both Sides of the Street
  • Issue 6: Provide Equal Access to Low-Stress Bicycling for All Members of the Community (Goal 3)
  • Issue 7: Connectivity to Schools, Libraries and Recreation Centers.
The staff report, public testimony and responses to public testimony are available here.
The second work session on February 22nd is anticipated to include these issues:
  • Protected Intersections
  • Breezeway Network Attributes
  • Development Impact Taxes
  • Use of Developer Contributions
  • Bicycle Parking
  • School Policies
  • Bikeway Prioritization
  • Loading Zones
The March 1st work session is anticipated to address any remaining non-bikeway issues.
Future work sessions after March 1st will review comments on specific bikeway recommendations.

What do you want to tell the Planning Board about the Bicycle Master Plan?

The community is invited to comment on the Bicycle Master Plan Public Hearing Draft. You can read the plan here.

The Bicycle Master Plan Public Hearing will take place on January 25, 2018 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm at the Montgomery County Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland).

Beginning on January 15, you can sign up online to testify.

The public is also invited to submit comments about the Bicycle Master Plan via email to mcp-chair@mncppc.org.

All comments and testimony will become part of the public testimony and public record for the plan.


Developers Push for More Housing Density in Grosvenor-Strathmore Plan

From Bethesda Beat

Metro site offers rare chance to build new housing around transit station

A slide showing a plan for the area around the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

A slide showing a plan for the area around the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station. VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT

Developers and smart-growth advocates on Thursday asked planning officials to include higher building densities in plans to replace a surface parking lot near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro  station with a neighborhood and high-rises.

The Montgomery County Planning Board heard the feedback during a public hearing on a master plan for the North Bethesda area. The drafted document deals with 117 acres encompassing the transit station, including property housing The Music Center at Strathmore, and several communities, but the bulk of the planning debate centers on a 15-acre Metro property now dominated by a surface parking lot.

Numerous speakers described the vacant site as a precious resource.

“This remains one of the last Red Line stops to be developed,” said Jennifer Russel, vice president of economic development and government affairs for the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce.

She urged the board not to be “shortsighted” by failing to use the land to its greatest potential.

Environment and mass transit advocates agreed that densities should be maximized to encourage Metro ridership and take more cars off the road.

The current version of the plan would allow about 1,100 new homes and two “signature” buildings of up to 260 feet next to the Metro station. Elsewhere, heights would be limited to 160 feet and would gradually step down approaching Tuckerman Lane across from the Strathmore Park condominiums.

In recent months, Metro officials have been working to forge an agreement to sell the transit agency’s property to Fivesquares Development, a Washington, D.C., company. The land’s selling price will depend on how many new homes are permitted by the amended Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Area Minor Master Plan.

Fivesquares executives have predicted construction could start in 2021 and continue into the 2030s.

Company representatives stood outside the planning headquarters in Silver Spring on Thursday, handing out yellow stickers labeled, “Support Smart Growth.”

But not everyone in the audience of roughly 70 was urging more intense development.

Marilyn Block, president of the Strathmore Park at Grosvenor Condominium Association, said her community had concerns about building height and the project’s impact on the neighborhood.

“Except for the Meridian, a 15-story apartment building, all buildings along Tuckerman Lane east of Rockville Pike are three- and four-story townhouses, apartments and condominiums,” she said. “Towers of 260 feet are not in keeping with the neighborhood character of the communities in proximity to the Metro station.”

Wendy Calhoun, a parent-teacher association representative for the Walter Johnson High School cluster, said the new housing would worsen school overcrowding problems. She urged the board members to make sure the developer makes some type of adequate contribution that can be put toward adding a new school.

Fivesquares representatives praised the drafted plan during the hearing, but requested several changes. They asked for higher allowable building densities and wanted the ability to construct a third signature building of up to 220 feet, just across from the intersection of Tuckerman Lane and Cloister Drive. They also asked for greater flexibility in scaling down building heights through the transition zone.

Andy Altman, managing principal of Fivesquares, said their project is not simply about putting up new housing.

“That’s easy,” he said. “The trick is how to make a place, create a center.”

As is, housing complexes dot the area, but aren’t integrated as a community, he said.

Beyond guiding growth at the Metro property, the drafted master plan also sets transportation and open space goals. As now written, it calls for creating a civic green of at least 1.25 acres near the transit station, enhancing sidewalks and building bike lanes. Public and private groups should look at putting “parklets” on the roof of the Metro garage and pop-up retail activities near the civic green and plaza at the station entrance.

Ron Kaplan, principal of Fivesquares, said his company has a vision for creating these shopping and recreation opportunities, although he asked that the plan allow a slightly smaller civic green of 1 acre. Fivesquares and Metro recently teamed up to put pop-up shops at the Metro station, and Fivesquares representatives presented pictures of the temporary setup as an example of their vision for the site.

With the public hearing completed, the drafted master plan will head toward a series of board work sessions scheduled to begin July 13.

Proposed heights for buildings around the Metro station. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Department.

What was discussed and decided at last week’s White Flint 2 Work Session at the Planning Board.

The June 8th White Flint 2 work session was a short meeting (relatively speaking) but a productive one.  Nkosi Yearwood was unable to complete his presentation, so look for a part-two for this work session in the near future.

First, Chair Casey Anderson invited various developers, lawyers, and community members to speak.

Wendy Calhoun of the Walter Johnson cluster requested clear responsibilities, hard caps, hard stops, and dedicated and/or reserved land for a middle school.

Steve Silverman, representing several Executive Boulevard property owners, said that they were not unalterably opposed to a taxing district but needed more information and conversation about what will be funded via this tax and when it will get funded.  He also requested more details about the staging requirements; since they are hard stops, they need  quite detailed definition.

Francois Carrier said that land for a school should not be put in reservation if it’s not clear that it will ever be used for a school and reiterated Steve’s concerns about staging, specifically questioning what defines a shuttle. She also advocated for above ground parking if it’s disguised, although she agreed that below grade parking should be encouraged.

Barbara Sears requested a 2.75 FAR for the Wilco property, suggesting anything over a 2.5 FAR would need to have a public benefit attached to it.  The board agreed with this.

Other people, board members, and planning staff discussed the overlay zone for the Light Industrial area. They like the concept of the overlay zone but determined it needs refining by the planning staff.

Allen Kronstadt said the community wants a town center at Randolph Hills.  He also said the industrial property market has moved to the upper county and Beltsville.

Steve Robbins and Matt Leiken said the Pickford property wants greater residential  FAR. Casey said he wants one to one replacement of industrial space. Staff said they didn’t want to cannibalize White Flint 1.

Jay Corbalis said FRIT was doing an engineering study for a low cost second entrance to Metro. He said Federal Realty was opposed to a school site on Montrose Crossing and suggested the SHA parking lot for a school site since it is already owned by the government.

During Nkosi Yearwood’s presentation, he said the overlay covers all IL zones. Casey suggested the overlay could be the interim step to further clarification of the industrial/residential zone to ensure industrial space doesn’t get wiped out.

Planning staff reminded everyone that any major project in White Flint 2 will require an exploration of the opportunity for a school site. Casey said that every property in the sector should be involved in the school site and said that choosing a site in the master plan ties everyone’s hands.

White Flint 2 Worksession Tomorrow, March 23

At tomorrow’s White Flint 2 Worksession, planning staff will discuss financing possibilities that could support the infrastructure needs for the White Flint 2 Sector Plan area. The White Flint 1 Special Taxing District will also be discussed. Executive Branch representatives will attend this worksession to discuss their perspective regarding financing alternatives for the Plan area.

The worksession is scheduled for the afternoon, and you can read the staff planning documents here.