What happened at last week’s genuinely interesting White Flint 2 Work Session
The Planning Board discussed the Parklawn District and Randolph Hills part of White Flint 2 on March 9th. And the Planning Board had quite a bit to say about the staff’s draft plan. (View the staff presentation.) Read on for some wonderful news about the CSX pedestrian crossing and other favorable news.
As you probably know, generally the planing staff recommends 1) keeping nearly all of the light industrial space in the area, 2) preventing older multi-family apartments and condos from redeveloping to keep market rate affordable housing in the area, and 3) redeveloping Randolph Hills and Loehmans Plaza shopping centers into neighborhood town centers.
The planning board, supported by public testimony, had different thoughts on some of these plans.
Chair Casey Anderson said that creating a pedestrian path across the CSX tracks needs to be a priority. (This is an issue about which FoWF advocated quite vigorously so we were delighted by this.) In fact, he said that this is the single most important public infrastructure amenity. (Note, that’s a paraphrase.) The planning board suggested that developers requesting a map amendment or developing via the optional method could have to pay for some of that crossing. This crossing will help justify a new MARC station, and a new MARC station may justify a floating zone for much of the light industrial area.
Chair Casey Anderson said he doesn’t understand the economic logic of preserving light industrial space so close to metro and other large development projects. The planning staff showed research detailing why they think maintaining light industrial space is important. The commissioners want the planning staff to study floating zones and and EOF zone for the light industrial properties on Nebel and Parklawn that are close to metro.
The Pickford Enterprises project, located at the corner of Parklawn and Boiling Brook, wants to create a new type of housing: residential units over ground floor light industrial. The board looked favorably on this and asked the planning staff to investigate its feasibility.
The commissioners did not agree with the planning staff’s plan to retain multi-family zones for the Morgan, Miramont, Randolph Square, Walnut Grove, and Oxford Square communities. The planning board agreed with the public testimony (including FoWF’s) that keeping as market rate affordable housing outdated properties without current environmental and safety features is not a good policy.
Finally, the Walter Johnson cluster rep testified about the need for new elementary and secondary schools. They recommended that the plan define sufficient school sites but not specify whether those places are for elementary, middle, or high schools. MCPS has said they want to save Rocking Horse for a secondary school but has not specified middle or high school.
Ed Rich, President, GFCA
I’m glad to see that Chairman Anderson has recognized a need for a pedestrian bridge over the CSX tracks. However, rather than just build a pedestrian bridge over the CSX tracks on existing Randolph Road, the Planning Board should consider building a combination vehicular/pedestrian bridge that would totally separate the tracks from the roadway. That, along with widening Randolph Road from two to three lanes in each direction east of Parklawn Drive, would solve the east-west traffic issues without having to build the costly and ill-advised Montrose Parkway east of Rockville Pike, a roadway that stands to destroy acres of mature woodland and forever change the nature of Rock Creek. With Earth Day coming up, let’s think of some creative and environmentally friendly options to Montrose Parkway, a solution in search of a problem. The Coalition for Smart Growth, one of the driving forces behind creating urban nodes around Metro stations, including White Flint, does not support the expansion of Montrose Parkway, nor do many in the development community, although they will not come out and publicly acknowledge it for fear of ticking off the County’s Transportation Department.