The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee (WFDAC) met again on Tuesday, June 11 at the Rockville offices of Federal Realty Investment Trust. The agenda included general updates, a briefing on the Washington Gas Communications Tower, a few new items of business, and more information on subcommittees. Here are the details:
** Peggy Schwartz, Transportation Management District – Bike to Work Day was a big success, there were between 15 and 17 pit stops in Montgomery County alone, including a pit stop at the NRC. A bike class was offered to those who hadn’t biked in a while, and the North Bethesda Transportation Management District realizes that there is a need to have more of these classes as Capital Bikeshare comes to the area.
** Ken Hartman , Regional Service Center – both on-street and off-street bike lanes will be coming to Woodglen Drive. The sidewalk width will be increased from 5 feet to 8 feet. Some parking spots on the east side of Woodglen will be moved elsewhere to provide space for on-street bikelanes. Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) wants these lanes in place by October. Ken noted that this project had previously been delayed because there is an upcoming WSSC project, and they didn’t want to redo roads to have them be torn up again. The lanes will include sharrows; the width of those lanes will likely be about 15 feet.
Additionally, on July 10th there will be a meeting with the Postal Service, somewhere between 4-6pm at the Wall Park/Shriver Aquatic Center. As many of you probably know, the Kensington post office is currently located in the White Flint Mall. The Postal Service wants to relocate around the same area, and in order to do so, needs to go through a public process to get ideas from the community. The new post office will have retail components as well, meaning it will need a loading area and easily accessible parking. The building itself will probably be around 2,000 square feet, and likely on the East side of the pike.
** Dee Metz, White Flint Implementation Coordinator – Monday June 10th’s Implementation Advisory Committee meeting included the 35% design for the western workaround (more on that soon). Now MCDOT is gathering comments before they go forward. Additionally, now that some of the basics of the roads are established, they will start to look at how to make the area more pedestrian friendly. This road design will go through the CIP budget for this session – Dee will clarify the numbers and take them to Council next spring. Dee added that if properties are dedicated in a timely manner, construction of the roads could start in the summer of 2015; however, properties with buildings on them may need to go through a court process to be dedicating, pushing the time frame back.
Washington Gas Communications Tower
As we’ve written before, the property that Washington Gas owns – on Nebel Street, at the edge of the White Flint sector – is industrially zoned, meaning that communication towers are allowed there by right (with some setback requirements). Orlando Spencer and Mike Marsters from Washington Gas explained that because this is a by-right tower, there is a 30 day process for getting approved by the County’s Tower Committee; it will likely be on the Tower Committee’s agenda in July. This tower would allow Washington Gas to automatically control their stations, so they could remotely shut down gas to properties in event of an explosion, or if there was any risk of explosion. The company needs a secure facility, that they own, to make this a reality, which is part of the reason why the tower will be located where it is. Additionally, the towers need to have a line of sight with other towers in order to communicate with them. Spencer and Marsters said that Washington Gas will need about a third of the tower for their own communication, and the rest would be available for commercial use. They confirmed that the tower would be a 145 foot monopole (not the towers with three legs), and that they looked at many towers and buildings in the area but that this is the most, if not the only, suitable site due to the many constraining factors. The tower will be located in the back right corner of the Washington Gas property, close to the railroad tracks. Orlando Spencer said he believes the tower will be shorter than some of the surrounding buildings. When asked what they will do if the line of sight is interrupted by construction or new buildings, Mike Masters responded that they have dealt with this issue before and will need to negotiate or adapt as necessary. Washington Gas is hoping to have the tower up by this September.
Francine Waters of Lerner and Tower Enterprises, and chair of the WFDAC, brought up four issues that she has heard raised during various meetings about White Flint.
** History book – because there is so much change happening in White Flint, Francine asked how we are going to capture what has happened and what is going to happen in the area. This project could be a component of a web portal on development in White Flint, and there may be an opportunity for the community to post or send their own pictures. Bob Daley, senior manager of the Bethesda North Conference Center and the North Bethesda Marriott, suggested that Montgomery College may be a resource to learn more about past history, or create a photo journalist project.
** A mural at the Metro station – Evan Goldman from Federal Realty (not present at this meeting) raised this idea. Local resident Paul Meyer voiced his concern about how the community would react to this. Ken Hartmen replied that it would likely take a while for this project to come to fruition, since there would have to be coordination with Metrorail. Francine noted there are many arts groups in the county to possibly partner with.
** Lights on the Bethesda Trolley Trail – this issue was brought up at Friends’ most recent board meeting. As we mentioned then, it is difficult to determine who will pay for the lighting (there are several trails around the county, and if the county were to light one trail they would have to light them all). Additionally, there is the issue of easements through private property – some people may not want lights in their backyard.
** Post Office – while this issue was brought up earlier at the meeting, Francine noted that the White Flint area was split between a Rockville and Kensington post office. She suggested that the group not only talk to the Postal Service, but also engage members from Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s office.
The meeting was then adjourned to sub-committees, which include the following:
** Strategic Planning (Chair: Cliff Cohen)
** Maintenance and Beautification (Chair: Deirdre Johnson)
** Communications (Chair: Francine Waters)
** Safety and Security (Chair: Paul Meyer)
** Municipal Impact (Chair: Bob Daley)
** Executive Committee (Chair: Francine Waters)
Subcommittees are in the process of being finalized and will identify short and long term action items in the near future.
The meeting with the Postal Service on July 10 will take the place of the next Downtown Advisory Committee meeting. The public is encouraged to attend, and we will be sure to post the details as soon as they are finalized and made available!