Tag Urban Road Code

Urban Road Code PASSES!

Dear Friends – I love going out with a bang!  First, we made great progress on the issue of Old Georgetown Road’s design and now, the County Council has ensured that county roads in our urban nodes will have stricter requirements to ensure pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Yesterday, the County Council voted unanimously to enact the amendments to our Road Code that we’ve been telling you about for nearly a year.  Under the deft leadership of Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, the Council has sent a a major signal that all users of our roads – not just those in cars – are to be valued and kept safe.  Take a moment to thank them by sending an email (just click on their names) to Councilmember Berliner, Councilmember Riemer or the entire County Council.

We so appreciate their work on behalf of not just White Flint but every county resident who wants a more vibrant, walkable, safe community! Learn more about the road code changes by clicking here. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Show Your Support of the Urban Road Code Bill 33-13

Calling all who are interested in making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists!

There will be an upcoming vote on the Urban Road Code Bill 33-13 by the county council tomorrow and we need all those who know how important it is to improve our current county road code standards to show their support of the bill. Bill 33-13, introduced by Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, will help lower speed limits, make our street intersections safer, and narrow lane widths on county roads. We want our streets to be as complete as possible so they are safe for all.

The best way to show your support is to email the county council at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov  and let them know you support Bill 33-13.

Update on the Urban Road Code Bill 33-13

This morning, the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee is meeting to discuss the amended Bill 33-13: Streets and Roads- Urban Road Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements. The committee meeting will take place at 9:30 am and will be televised on County Cable Montgomery (CCM), as well as available for viewing on the county council’s website.

Councilmember Roger Berliner and Councilmember Hans Riemer first introduced the bill to the County Council in late 2013. The first public hearing on the bill took place in January 2014. Many community organizations, individuals, residents, and civic associations sent in testimonies supporting the need for updated urban road standards and providing suggestions for improvements on the bill. Since the bill was introduced to the County Council, a multi-agency workgroup was formed to discuss, refine, and improve it. Revisions to the bill were put forth by the workgroup, which will be what the committee discusses this morning.

The bill is designed to provide standards that will make the roads in our urban areas become complete streets, which are defined as streets accessible to all users – driver, pedestrians and bicyclists alike. The bill focuses on our streets in the Metro Station Policy Areas and Road Code Urban Areas designated by Council resolutions.  White Flint will be one of these areas so it’s important to keep our eyes on the policy.

Some of the changes to the bill include the maximum target speed, narrower lane width, and narrower curb radii, strengthened language of pedestrian and bicycling facilities, and the requirement that MCDOT creates a complete streets design guideline.  Pertinent to our discussion about the design of Old Georgetown Road, this bill will only address county roads.  Old Georgetown Road, and Rockville Pike for that matter, are both state-controlled roads that will not be subject to these amendments.  But, the hope and presumption is that the state will be swayed by our  municipality’s emphasis placed on these design elements.

Stay tuned for more information about the next steps for the amended bill. In the meantime, click here to read the new bill and click here to see our blog posts from last year on the subject.

Urban Streets and Fire Departments

If you’re familiar with this blog, and with White Flint redevelopment in general, then you know that we’re working toward making our area more friendly toward all modes of transportation.  Car can no longer be king – people should be the kings (and queens!).  A major barrier toward getting people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks and bike lanes (where we have bike lanes) is the safety of our roads.  That’s why we applauded the effort of Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer when they introduced a county bill late last year that would improve the road code in our urban areas and give us the “Complete Streets” we need.  (Click here for more information).

The proposal would do such things as limit speeds and lane widths, address turning radii on curbs and require pedestrian refuges for those crossing the street.  All of these would lend for a more comfortable pedestrian experience, something anyone who’s tried walking along the Pike would value.  (Yes, we know that Rockville Pike is a state road, and not county controlled, but the hope is that we could get the State on board with the surrounding roads).  Concerns have been raised, though, that these recommendations could be improved.  Most notably, there’s a concern that fire and emergency equipment, as well as commercial vehicles, will have trouble navigating narrower roads and negotiating restrictive turns.  Certainly, we would not be reaching our pedestrian-friendly goals if a person is hit by a truck that bumps up on the sidewalk while making a tight turn.

Thankfully, the county has not seen this as a reason to scrap the improvements but they’ve convened a multi-disciplinary workgroup to try and find smart, creative solutions.  We’re also not the only urban area navigating these issues (pun intended).  The Atlantic’s CityLab ran a piece on this very issue — urban roads vs. fire departments — just yesterday.  Written by Scott Weiner, who sits on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is the chair of their Land Use & Economic Development Committee, the piece tackles these issues head on – from the updating of fire codes to the scrutiny of which fire trucks the county is purchasing, there are ways to make sure everyone wins.

In San Francisco, we are attempting to ensure strong fire safety while also promoting compact, walkable, well-designed streets. We are looking at the size and turning radius of fire trucks to see if our fire department is purchasing the best equipment for our city, as opposed to insisting that our city be re-designed for large fire trucks. I recently authored an amendment to our fire code to clarify that pedestrian bulb-outs are permissible, and I’m moving forward with additional legislation to ensure that our fire code is not an obstacle to improving the safety and livability of our streets.

Street design matters. Street safety matters. Fire safety matters. We have to get each of these priorities right. With smart choices, we can.

Learning from other jurisdiction has been the bailiwick of White Flint redevelopment.  Why reinvent the wheel when there are so many national and global examples from which we can learn?   We’re looking forward to the results of the county’s multi-disciplinary group on urban road code amendment proposal but, in the meantime, read the full CityLab piece by clicking here.

Draft Minutes of FoWF’s Feb. 24th Board Meeting

** The following are draft minutes of the meeting held on February 24, 2014, of the Board of Directors of Friends of White Flint.  These minutes will remain in draft form until approved at the next Board meeting.  In the meantime, please email suggested edits to Info@WhiteFlint.org **

**Updated on 3/17/14 at 4:46pm with edits**

 

Draft Minutes of the February 24, 2014 FoWF Board of Directors Meeting

Minutes

2014 Board of Directors Meeting

February 24, 2014, 6:30pm

The Forum Condominium

 

The Friends of White Flint (FoWF) Board Meeting was called to order at 6:37pm at the Forum Condominium in North Bethesda. The agenda was prepared by Lindsay Hoffman. Present were Directors David Frieshtat, Todd Lewers, Howard Feldman, Chad Salganik, and Suzanne Hudson. Also present were approximately fifty members and guests. Not present were Directors Evan Goldman, James Schaeffer, Ken Hurdle, Francine Waters, Greg Trimmer, Bill Hard, and Barnaby Zall. A quorum was not present.

 

Approval of Minutes from September 19, 2013 Board Meeting.
A quorum was not present at this meeting. The draft minutes of the September 19, 2013 meeting could not be approved. There were only 6 board members present.

Treasurer’s Report
No treasurer’s report was available. We will a written report into the minutes.

Friends of White Flint Update from Lindsay
**FoWF Website: FoWF launched its new website at the beginning of 2013 and there have been over 10,000 unique visitors since our September meeting alone.  The problem for White Flint right now is that there is no online location with a cohesive picture of what is happening in White Flint. Chad Salganik is building an interactive development map of the White Flint district. Users will be able to click on a development area and learn more information about the site. It will also include the route of the Bus Rapid Transit and road projects. The plan is to launch the website in 2 weeks. FoWF will continue to make the sure the information is up to date. Also, FoWF has hopes to make a directory of information things that available in the area.

**Membership: Right now, FoWF has 8 property owners/developers, 10 businesses, 5 civic or community associations members. 127 individual residents joined in the past year. FoWF will continue to spread the word and engage with people.

**Events: On March 10th, FoWF will be sponsoring a White Flint Showcase and Happy Hour at Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar. This event will include displays of development projects from the various developers, remarks from County Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, small appetizers, and a cash bar. This event gives FoWF a chance to provide more people with information about what is happening in the area.  These councilmembers are involved with what we are trying to accomplish here in White Flint so it is important to hear their messages.

**Mission: The mission of FoWF is twofold. FoWF advocates for successful implementation of White Flint Sector Plan. We hold the state government, local government, and private property owners accountable. FoWF educates and engages the community to make sure they know what is going on and why.

Issues on the Forefront
**FoWF is an advocate at every political level, but especially very active at the county level. The County Executive puts together a 6-year budget plan for the Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) every 2 years. The CIP was sent to County Council on January 15th, 2014, and worksessions are ongoing to look at each recommendation. There are many White Flint projects in the mix, some of them are only at their beginning stage. These projects include but are not limited to 355- Rockville Pike, District West, District East, Fire Station, and the Western Workaround. It is important for members to let the County Executive and County Council know that White Flint related projects are important by emailing.

**Urban Road Code Update: County Bill 33-13, introduced by Councilmember Berliner, will update the urban road code to incorporate the “Complete Streets” model.  This bill will provide updates to the code that has not been updated since 2007. Currently, the County Council has convened a multi-disciplinary workgroup to figure out the most productive details. The hope is that this summer, the bill will be passed.

**BRT: The Bus Rapid Transit system will have a route down Route 355 from Bethesda all the way up to Clarksburg. This is very exciting for White Flint district because it will provide infrastructure for residents to get around the county, without a car. BRT will be a full service transit network.  The County Council has approved a map of routes for the system.  Next, the county will convene a workgroup for each of these routes to determine exactly which treatment will be appropriate for each.

**Next Board Meeting: The FoWF Board of Directors is divided among the 3 groups of stakeholders that make up the organization. The board is made up of 4 residents/civic associations individuals, 4 business individuals, and 4 property business owners. The next board meeting will take place in May. The board will have 3 rotating seats that will be up at the next board meeting. More information about these positions will be announced in the next couple of months.

County Executive’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator Report
** CIP budget process: A Special Tax District was set up for the White Flint district, which will provide the county with money to pay for new infrastructure, especially roads. Although the taxing district is not bringing in the expected revenue at this time, the County Executive proposes forward-funding many CIP projects from the general fund, which would be reimbursed later.

**Western Workaround: The Western Workaround project is very important for the White Flint district. It will straighten out Executive Boulevard. The hope was that all the private property surrounding the intersection of Executive Boulevard and Old Georgetown Road would be dedicated to the county. But, the county is still working to acquire all of the required property to move this project forward.

** New White Flint Projects in CIP: The first is the relocation of the fire station to Chapman Avenue and Randolph Road. Along with the fire station, a mixed-use development is proposed with senior housing, a police sub-station, and community meeting rooms. The county is starting to acquire the land now. The other project is a new parking garage behind the North Bethesda Conference Center. The new road design with the Western Workaround will take away parking for the conference center so the county wants to create a structured parking site. The county completed a feasibility study for the garage. Eventually, the site will be mixed-use. The parking will come first and the mixed use elements of the building will come second. The plan is to design the garage/mixed-use building this summer.

** North Bethesda Community Recreational Center: The recreation center will co-locate with the Shriver Aquatic Center. This will create a much larger center component for the White Flint district. Currently, this project is in the very early planning stages.

**Chapman Avenue project: The project has been constructed in phases. The county has acquired the properties to complete the project, extending the road north to Randolph. This summer the buildings on the properties involved will be demolished. However, it will take at least a year to move all the utilities. The plan is to start construction the winter of 2014 or spring 2015.

**The County Executive is also looking at Nebel Street to create more traffic calming elements and possibly bike lanes. They hope to accommodate both pedestrians and bikers more in this area.

Lindsay discussed the need to create a street grid to make White Flint walkable. Currently, residents are limited in their road choices.  It is important to integrate new streets and to diffuse traffic onto side streets creating more options besides Rockville Pike. The Western workaround project is the most exciting project in relation to the street grid. This new design will straighten out the rectangle around Executive Boulevard, where Gables Residential will create a mixed use space and build a garage for Shriver Aquatic Center. The giant parking lot near the Aquatic Center will be pulled up, allowing Wall Park to become active green space. None of that can happen until the roads are straightened. Dee discussed that the Western Workaround will require land acquisition that was not originally part of plan.

Property Owner and Developer Updates
**Vanessa Rodriguez, Federal Realty: Pike and Rose is well underway. The project construction is on time. The first phase of shops and restaurants is on schedule to open this fall. FRIT opened the first leasing opportunity on March 1st.  There are 174 units available in the PerSei Building. They are offering tours of 2 models of the PerSei apartments currently.  In addition, La Madeleine will open again in White Flint in Pike & Rose during their phase 1 this fall.

**Brian Downie, Saul Centers: They filed their application for development last year and received their first round of responses. A public hearing was expected on April 17th.  The plan they designed now has a few minor changes that focus mostly on the new road network. The plans were presented to every single community organization in the White Flint District. Saul Centers, who owns Metro Pike Plaza and property on the east side of the Pike, wants to consolidate a curb at the intersection of Woodglen Avenue and Rockville Pike along with a few other changes.

**John Malone, Gables Residential: Gables’ project hinges on the Western Workaround.  The sketch plan was approved in April.  Gables will be building the garage that will accommodate both their property and visitors to Wall Park/Shriver Aquatic Center.  The public piece of that project, however, is not yet funded.

Issues for Discussion
**White Flint Post Office: The White Flint Post Office location has changed again. The lease the post office has with White Flint Mall expires this spring. They recently identified a location on Nicholson between Nebel Street and Parklawn Avenue. The USPS is working on negotiating with the Mall to get a lease extension because their timeline has been disrupted by the change.  A up-side of the change is that the post office will remain in the 20895 zip code.

**Second Entrance to the White Flint Metro:  There is a second entrance to Metro in the master plan, but it is not funded.

**Businesses Need in White Flint: FoWF has received many emails about bringing a bookstore to the area. Many people want this type of space that is not available in the area.

**Children’s Museum: A children’s museum is incubating in Montgomery County.  KID Museum will be geared specifically toward elementary and middle school students and will give children opportunities to develop skills needed to thrive in the 21st century, including but not limited to STEM and cultural competency.  The museum has been in the works for some time now and is looking for brick and mortar space in a variety of locations- White Flint, Twinbrook, and White Oak. The museum will include a Global kitchen, Kids Corps, outdoor garden, maker playground- media, electronics, wood. A prototype of the museum will launch in a space in the Davis Library very soon. The goal is to transition in next 2 years to a permanent space.

Items from the Floor
**Urban Road Code: A community member asked about the Urban Road Code update. He mentioned that the last update in 2007 had issues with AAA. Lindsay discussed that many things have changed since 2007. There have been spikes in pedestrian accidents, especially in urban districts.

**Woodglen Avenue: Chad Salagnik asked about the cycle track around Woodglen Avenue. Dee Metz said that the west side of Woodglen has a 2 lane for cyclists. The county wants to make sure the sidewalks are 8 ft. but utilities and posts prevent that from happening. They are looking into this issue.

**Nebel Street: Howard Feldman asked how to best to accommodate bikes and traffic calming on Nebel Street. He suggested perhaps the county should change the configuration of street lanes to include space for bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

**Executive Boulevard: A community member asked about traffic calming on Executive Boulevard.  Dee discussed that with the Western Workaround projects, people will naturally slow down. The design for the new street grid will also allow for narrowing of the street lanes, which will calm traffic.

**Safety: Another community member asked about a plan to make it safer to walk in White Flint. She feels like she is risking her life every time she walks from Metro to her apartment. She hopes that there is a plan to make the street lanes smaller and the sidewalks bigger. In addition, another community member mentioned issues with snow removal and the ability to walk around White Flint. Lindsay mentioned that the County Council is having a hearing about snow removal and pathways but the date has not been assigned yet. We need to remind people, especially business and landowners, that they need to clear the snow within 48 hours of snowfall. David Freishtat discussed that Bethesda Urban Partnership does snow removal on corners and curbs. The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee could include this in their task. White Flint does not have an Urban Partnership yet.  When White Flint has their own urban partnership, we hope they will do this, too. Lindsay discussed members’ ability to share issues such as pedestrian safety spots where they feel unsafe for practical reasons, crosswalks, paint, and lighting with FoWF.

Subcommittees
** Members and board members broke up into the 4 subcommittees listed below to begin their conversations. FoWF has created more opportunities for members get more actively engaged. FoWF is implementing 4 subcommittees for members to join. Members will have a chance to exchange ideas over email and perhaps opportunities to get together.

  • Events: Opportunities to help design events to network and build stronger community connections by involving FoWF and businesses.
  • Membership: Opportunities to create better strategies to engage as many people
  • Transit: Opportunities to advocate for road and transit projects and make sure they are going as planned.
  • Branding and marketing: Opportunities to help other groups in White Flint focus on a cohesive name or brand.

No motion to adjourn meeting. Meeting adjourned at 8:15pm.