Archives April 2009

Partnership decries rejection of Pike Redesign

The White Flint Partnership, formerly the Collaborative, has been actively promoting a redesign of Rockville Pike, including stressing the use of transit lanes in the middle of the redesigned Pike, special bike-friendly intersections and lanes, and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. The redesign was prepared by Glatting-Jackson, an influential walkability and transportation consulting firm whose other major transportation innovation (adding a robust network of streets to relieve the traffic burden on the Pike) the Board has eagerly embraced. Street design firm Vika has drawn several “sections” of a redesigned Pike which are available on the Partnership’s web site: www.whiteflintpartnership.org.

Friends of White Flint has joined the Partnership in advocating the bike- and pedestrian-friendly design. At the recent Pikes’ Peek road race, the redesigned Pike (at least the Glatting-Jackson version) was very popular.

As noted below, the Planning Board today appeared to reject the Glatting-Jackson redesign in favor of one with a combined bike and bus lane on the outside, or curb, part of the Pike. The expressed reasons for the rejection included the fact that curb lane shared bus and bike lanes would be more friendly for busses coming into the Sector from beyond the boundaries, traveling a few blocks along the Pike, and then turning off, and for local busses which stop at every intersection.

Partnership chair Evan Goldman, who is coincidentally also Co-Chair of Friends of White Flint, reacted  strongly to the Board’s action: “We had never asked for them to remove their section, just to have this as an alternate given that it is more feasible from an engineering standpoint and has much greater civic and land owner support.” Goldman said. “Regardless of our disagreements over density, the design of the Pike seems to be something where we found general agreement.” Goldman urged the Board to “leave the sector plan open to a road section that is more feasible to achieve, includes dedicated bike lanes, dedicated transit lanes, the same number of through lanes, and the opportunity for a streetscape that will actually get pedestrians, cyclists, and retail users to use the Pike!  The road section we are proposing is actually wider than staff’s so this is not an instance where land owners are trying to take the cheap or easy way out. This is a greater land dedication but will create the type of 21st Century Boulevard we have been talking about for 2 years!”

The issue will come up at tomorrow’s initial Friends of White Flint Speakers’ Series presentations. Metro Chairman Chris Zimmerman, who has a long background in both civic activism and New Urbanism redevelopment in Virginia, will likely be able to address the Board’s position on local vs. outside busses. Ian Lockwood, principal for the White Flint project for Glatting-Jackson, who has worked on the Pike redesign for two years, will also be a speaker, as will Don Briggs, Vice-President of Federal Realty Investment Trust, one of the members of the White Flint Partnership.

The event will be held at Dave & Buster’s in White Flint Mall at 8:30AM, tomorrow, May 1. More than 70 people are expected to attend.
 

Planning Board Rejects Glatting Design for the Pike

The Montgomery Planning Board is grinding slowly through its agenda for today’s meeting, but anticipates that it won’t finish today. Chairman Hanson has proposed an additional hearing on Monday night, May 4. Topics: unresolved school issues; unresolved transportation issues. Won’t be able to deal with the environmental issues.

Dan Hardy, head of the Vision Division for the Planning Board, is currently discussing differences in plans for Rockville Pike. Asked by Cmsnr Alfandre if the staff support the private proposal, Hardy replied that they did not, that they still have problems with the private proposal. The biggest difference is moving the transit lanes into the median, which Hardy says that wouldn’t work well for circulator buses (around the sector) and getting people from east to west and vice versa. Hanson points out that BRT operates like light rail and will stop every mile or so, but you need bus service that stops at every intersection. Robinson: if you have lanes on the outside, you can use BRT and local busses. Main problem is having a dedicated lane that work well for busses that come in from adjoining communities. With a lane in the median, those busses won’t turn off. Alfandre: not sure that north-south corridor will be less served than east-west. Cryor: key word is “flexible.” Hardy: staff believes Board should support 150′ Pike right-of-way and curb lanes for transit, not private proposal by the Partnership.

Bikeway: off-road bikers have sought space. Shared-use paths on high-volume roadways that are not real retail streets. Otherwise county-wide paths are in Plan. The Promenade is a destination, so don’t want 20MPH bikes speeding along. Can be used by bikers but not to ride your bike fast. Hanson: we’re agreed on the bike system.

Montgomery Planning Board Worksession April 30, 2009

The Montgomery County Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in worksessions arranged around topics. Today’s hearing is live streamed at www.montgomeryplanningboard.org. Today’s topics are parks, environment and transportation (bicycles).

Board running well behind schedule, so not opening up to presentations. Received new materials (including from FoWF on parks), but will call up only if the Board has questions. May 7 topics: design guidelines and status of fiscal implementation and analysis.

Brooke Farquhar, Parks: no changes from recommendations from PH draft. Respond to testimony on parks; making sure WF Park is preserved as a buffer. Feel the draft covers points brought up by FoWF. Role of parks in the open space system. Connections to parks without and beyond the boundary.

Role of parks: Wall Park and Civic Green. How WF connects to the regional parks: we look off-road and regional connections. We feel this area is very well connected to the region. Making sure people can get to open space. Need flexible recreation spaces for multiple users. Could have a soccer game, a picnic, or a gathering. These kinds of parks tend to be more successful.

Civic Green: Space to allow community-wide events, with streets that could be closed. Hanson: size? Farquhar: large enough for outside public events, allow for local street closure and to draw people from surrounding area. Near the promenade, near ground-floor retail. Hanson: why are we talking about it here on the north side of the Conference Center rather than on the east side of the Conference Center where it has direct access to Metro? What do we have on the other side of the Pike? Farquhar: too close to all that traffic if it were closer. Piera Weiss: no vacant properties in that area. All small sites. Alignment for Main St., and important to tie it to Main St. Would be a capturing area off the Pike. Robinson: what if it were on the top of a parking structure? Weiss: county was not interested in using the conference center parking area for the park. Many discussions over the years. Hanson: county owns the conference center, and the park is right at the conference center. Use structured or underground parking and use the surface for the park, would turn what is a detriment into an enormous asset. County just isn’t interested in that. Weiss: county wanted to put affordable housing on that property. Cmsnr Presley: how would this work with Main St? Why can’t we be more prescriptive? Hanson: already have an area in public ownership. Plenty of room for new housing and parking and a park. And removing an eyesore. Weiss: we’ll need to realign roads, so will have to buy land anyway. Coordinated effort. Public sector will have some upfront work to put the infrastructure in place.

Area diagram; Civic green: Alfandre: this is a district, and what do we have to give to get this? If we really want to get districts, we need to get modeling in this. This is an integral part of a district or neighborhood. We need a reason to say why? I want that Civic Green in that neighborhood. Hanson: we’re all agreed on that. Do we want it on the north side of the street? Alfandre: if they have to do it through assemblage, they should get something for it. These parks are crucial. But we can’t add on to what’s there already. We should do everything we can do to get someone to donate this land. Robinson: concern. Staff is setting up a heirarchy of parks and spaces. For everything other than Civic Green, getting the space is easy because the projects are large-scale. The scale of the civic Green is beyond the scope of the immediate land-owners when you put together streets and the projects, particularly because the county is unwilling to play. So you’ll have to look beyond the boundaries of this neighborhood. Alfandre: I’m afraid if we leave it too vague, it will go away. This should be a high level priority. Presley: do we need that size to get what we want? If so, how do you achieve that? Certain things are mandatory, so how do we tie these all in to get to that level? Farquhar: along the main east-west street, in the core. So it makes sense to put the central gathering space in the core. Alfandre: this seems to be the most difficult. Let’s not just say, we’ll buy it; that may be too long. Don’t identify the exact location. Weiss: we’ve met with all landowners, but only one was remotely interested in selling, but none were large enough. the public sector must go ahead first and acquire the land. We could talk to the County about putting the land in. Farquhar: either location would be fine, but need activating uses around it. In Wheaton, have parking garage on two sides of a similar space and it’s not very inviting. Nkosi Yearwood, planner: when come up from Metro have a “civic presence.”

Presley: what size will accommodate what you plan? Farquhar: we did studies. If WF has 21,000 residents, and 20% attended, that would be 5,000 people. One acre space could handle that. We didn’t take it further than that. Over 5,000 people at about 8 square feet per person would need that. We’ve been thinking an acre with additional space from closed-off streets. Hanson: could block off Woodglen and Main St. Some advantage in leaving the specifics a little uncertain. The retention of the parking lot goes against everything we’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a waste. Now if it’s redeveloped, there’s an opportunity to get something in addition to the building that would occur. Having a better place for conference center attendees to go outside besides the parking lot would be nice. Cryor: how small? Farquhar: 3/4 acre is too small. Hanson: between 3/4 and 1 acre. Cryor: I want to be sure that bottom line is firm. Hanson: if we put a park in the master plan and say it’s an acre, we will get it. If we say approximately, we’re in the ballpark. We leave ourselves and the property owners an opportunity to reach agreement on what the size should be. Putting it between Main St and Old Georgetown.

Robinson: putting symbols on the Plan gives us legal basis to require a developer to provide the park when they come in with their proposal. Presley: we still need to be as specific as we can be. Hanson: WMATA bus service area doesn’t have a park, and it’s another large parking lot. A prime example.

Wall Park: different character from Civic Green. This is an existing 11.7 acre park, more of an active park for recreation, relaxation, natural. Parking lot of almost 2.5 acres will be removed to a structure to the north. 92 Plan provided for more parkland to the north, but removing the lot would result in a more activated park, so worked with developer to have a garage. A variety of uses, retain existing trees along western side of the park nearest the residences. Facility plan process to take ideas further. Destination park outside the sector. Already draws people to the Aquatic Center, and this would be the same.

WF Neighborhood Park: questions last week. Slopes are as much as 30% in some areas, down to 6% in the unprogrammed open space. Two tennis, two basketball courts. Trail from neighborhood. Hanson: question is whether seek additional land to the north, or whether it will be available.

Robinson: 2-2 vote last week on whether there should be a school, but not sure what the alternative was if there wasn’t a school there. Hanson: alternatives: private, school, park, or public use as either school or park. Alfandre: stick with the women. Cryor: only discussing not a school site. Alfandre: I want to see 19 acre site (Rocking Horse) before deciding. I want to see the drainage and the rest. I didn’t put it at the top of my list because I didn’t realize how important it was. Hanson: we have got to make decisions. As soon as possible. Robinson: if you don’t reserve it, it is open to development and we have to decide on buffer issues. Trying to understand what’s on the table. Natalie, I keep trying to get an answer and we just can’t seem to get one.

Taking a break for lunch, and will come back for environment later.

Montgomery County Planning Board Worksession April 30, 2009

Live blogging from the worksession of the Montgomery County Planning Board. Topics include parks, environment and transportation update.

The Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in worksessions. Ordinarily, the Board rapidly passes through routine “consent” materials on its way to the worksessions, but today the subjects seem to be more controversial, and the auditorium is full of suits with earnest expressions. Clarksburg and a multi-modal study on I-270 seem to be on the agenda.

 Maryland Transit Administration: Discussions of Bus Rapid Transit and Express Toll lanes on 270, congestion pricing of toll lanes in Florida (I-95). Target is 55 Miles Per Hour at all hours until 2030. Chairman Hanson: to maintain the flow you jack up the rate to reduce the number of people who use the lanes. Cmsnr Alfandre: is this as much asphalt as you’ve got in this area? Still have room to pave in Gaithersburg? MTA: We could continue to pave but there are trade-offs, particularly when we have these high densities next to 270. Hanson: equivalent of old sewer moratorium. didn’t work well. MTA: Express toll lanes extend from Urbana to Shady Grove Rd. Cmsnr Robinson: extend below Shady Grove? MTA: it would not be precluded. $5 Billion project.

Corridor Cities Transitway: CCT starts at Shady Grove Metro station, through King Farm, Washingtonian, West Gaithersburg, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, back north to Metropolitan Grove, up to Germantown, north of Dept. of Energy, and up to Comsat. Example of BRT in King Farm and Light Rail; stations are nearly identical. Only difference is the vehicle itself and wires on top. Alfandre: would you consider using existing lanes? MTA: yes. we consider what we can use today that’s not at capacity that we can use for BRT to delay capital investments. Run in the lanes against rush hour traffic to use that available capacity. CCT right-of-way is mostly protected already so don’t have to relocate homes, and unprotected section is to the north where the county is already preparing for expansion. Either BRT or light rail cuts travel time from 60 mins (Shady Grove to Comsat) to 36-38 minutes, and that reduced travel time will remain for the life of the plan, while the travel time on roads will continue over time.

Cmsnr Cryor: enormous change in sentiment and support from Light Rail to Bus Rapid Transit. MTA: requirements are similar, but cost are much different. Federal requirements push toward BRT; $400 million vs. $700 million for light rail. Robinson: BRT have maximum flexibility to extend service, especially at Shady Grove and Life Sciences Center. MTA: federal government cares about annualized cost per hour of user benefit. BRT is $18.25/hr, light rail is $32.43/hr.

Schedule is Public hearings in June with further activity in late 2009. Website: www.i270multimodalstudy.com.

Next White Flint Steering Committee Meeting: May 5

The Montgomery County Planning Board established the White Flint Steering Committee to give it feedback on proposals for inclusion in the White Flint Sector Plan. Nkosi Yearwood, White Flint planner, has announced that the next meeting of the Steering Committee will be held on May 5, at 7PM in the Silver Spring auditorium at the Planning Board, 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.

The topics for the evening’s discussion will be:

a presentation by Metro staff on the proposed second (northern) entrance to the White Flint Metrorail station, and

a discussion of the long-awaited Design Guidelines. The Design Guidelines are a new feature of this planning process under which certain elements are removed from the Master Plan itself and put into separate guidelines. For example, the Plan might establish specific open spaces for recreation, while the design guidelines might require that every development project submitted for Planning Board review describe how recreation space will be incorporated into the project design.

The Steering Committee is made up of highly-opinionated representatives of interested stakeholders, all of whom have been working on the White Flint plan for two years or more. Expect a lively discussion.

Barnaby Zall

Staff Memo Available for Planning Board Worksession 4-30-09

The Montgomery County Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in “worksessions” arranged around particular topics. As the Planning Board is steaming rapidly toward completing the White Flint Plan, the worksessions are growing much more densely-packed with information and topics.

The Planning staff has issued its discussion and recommendations for the Planning Board worksession on Thursday, April 30. Topics in the staff memo include parks, environment and sustainability, and renewed discussion of transportation and mobility. The parks segment is similar to that described and posted on the FLOG several weeks ago. The environment section is similar to that presented to the White Flint Steering Committee on April 14.

The transportation section is new, and includes an expanded discussion of bicycle-related topics, including attempts to “connect” the bicycle network. The section also describes a number of new roads and road alignments, some of which have been negotiated between various stakeholders.

The staff presentation also includes summaries of comments made in earlier worksessions and letters to the Board, and staff responses to the comments. Once again, the staff has chosen to use an awkward landscape format designed to induce neck-aches in readers when read on-line.

The memo can be found at:

http://montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda/2009/documents/WHiteflintsecondattempt.pdf

Time is Running Out to RSVP for May 1 Speakers Event

On Friday, May 1, at 8:30 AM, the Friends of White Flint Speakers’ Series kicks off with a blockbuster event at Dave and Buster’s in White Flint Mall: “Transit-oriented development, smart growth and the principles of New Urbanism.”  New Urbanism is the philosophy underlying the new White Flint plan.

FoWF is co-sponsoring the presentation with the White Flint Partnership and the Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. Speakers will include Christopher Zimmerman, Chairman of Metro and a member of the Arlington County Board, Ian Lockwood of Glatting-Jackson planning consultants and a nationally-recognized figure in walkable communities, and Don Briggs, Vice-President of Federal Realty Investment Trust. Zimmerman is a former civic activist who has an extensive background in New Urbanism and redevelopment of places such as Clarendon. (We modeled much of Friends of White Flint on the very similar Clarendon Alliance: www.clarendon.org.)

Did I mention the free breakfast? Begins at 8:00 AM. Speakers begin at 8:30.

Although the breakfast and presentation are free, you must RSVP to Gail Calhoun at 301-692-2377, or gcalhoun@lerner.com.

Latest Parks Recommendations

Regular readers will recall that I have been preparing recommendations for changes in the Parks Section of the White Flint Sector Plan. On April 17, 2009, the Planning staff issued a brief memo describing some parks plans. The proposed FoWF Parks statement has been updated to reflect the staff memo. Comments are welcome, but the memo will be presented as soon as Wednesday, so comments must be received by close of business Tuesday.

Here is the latest draft: Parks Recommendations

Barnaby Zall

Ian Lockwood to speak at FoWF Board Meeting

The next Friends of White Flint Board of Directors Meeting will be held at 4PM on Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at Federal Realty’s office, 1626 E. Jefferson, Rockville.

After the business meeting, Ian Lockwood, transportation and walkability expert for Glatting-Jackson consultants, will discuss the latest studies they have done on Rockville Pike and White Flint. Ian is a dynamic and informative speaker, with a wealth of information about New Urbanism and its applications to White Flint. We expect a preview of his speech to the May 1 Speakers’ Series kickoff program.

All are welcome to attend the meeting and Ian’s presentation. There is a chance that a portion of the FoWF Board meeting might need to be closed for an executive session.

For more information, contact Evan.Goldman@friendsofwhiteflint.org or Barnaby.Zall@friendsofwhiteflint.org.