December Meeting Notes

Bethesda Self-Storage Plan

Timothy Dugan, who represents Westbard Self Storage (Bethesda Self Storage Partners LLC), attended the CCCFH meeting to outline plans to build a storage facility behind the McDonalds on River Road. The maximum building height will be 50 feet, and they could go a few stories below ground.  The parcel that is zoned IM, with a 2.5 FAR is about an acre in size.  They will develop about ~120,000 square feet of space. The main entrance will be off the access road that runs along the access to the Capitol Crescent Trail.

The owners are planning to dedicate parcel 177, which is zoned residential, to the Parks department for the Willett Branch Greenway (0.4 acres or ~17,000 sq ft).  This is part of the area that is being assessed regarding possible graves remaining from an African-American cemetery.  The owners are looking to encroach on the stream buffer a bit in the corner of the land, and say they need to do that to economically develop the building. They are exploring if there is a way to improve access to the greenway along the facades of the building.

They acquired the land last Friday and plan to submit the preliminary site plan to the Planning department in January. Planning Board hearing likely will be in May/June timeframe.  The conversations for the next 4 months will be around where the building is going to be located, access to roads, stormwater management, forest conservation, and the greenway. The hope is that the storage building will be under construction by this time next year and completed in a year or so.

Bethesda Downtown Plan

It has been in the works for 2.5 years and just got to the Council this fall. Rumor is the Council is not happy with what they were sent, and may re-write it. The Planning Board draft plan would cap density at 32.4M sq ft. There is 24M sq ft on the streets today, with the zoning limit from the 1994 plan of 28.4M, so a very large increase is proposed. This draft plan is different from other Sector Plans in that the plan maps height, but not density for each parcel.

Building heights are quite high – in general (290’ in some cases) and adjacent to single family homes. No one (communities, developers, land owners) has a clear view of what this will look like in either execution or upon completion. When the Planning Board attempted to map out densities on a per-parcel basis, it would have added another 2.9M sq ft to the 32.4M sq ft in the plan, so the simply adopted the 32.4 million square feet in the staff draft.

The proposed sector plan creates a density pool. Properties have the density they have in the 1994 plan, and then can purchase density up to the cap by:

  1. CR transfer
  2. Buying density from priority sending sites – historic or greenspace
  3. Park impact payment

Determinations on density would be made based on design guidelines that have not been written yet. It is a very complicated plan to implement in its current form.

A coalition of communities has been working on issues presented by the draft plan  for the past few months.  The communities agree that the park space increase from 2% to 4% is insufficient. Schools info is positioned the same way as in Westbard.  There are significant traffic issues.  This coalition is asking for, among others:

  1. Staging: Particularly if there is no clear mapping of densities in the Sector Plan. They would ask for a pause at the current plan maximum (28.4M sq ft), then again at 30M sq ft. These pauses would check in on the progress and make sure the area within and outside the plan is protected against the uncertainties in the current plan.
  2. Big question of what happens with Fire Station 6 – the plan maps it at CRF 1.5 H 70 (a floating CR zone with 70 ft maximum height and the potential for mixed use development). All the communities would like it to remain a stand-alone fire station.

Like Chevy Chase West, the communities of East Bethesda and the Town of Chevy Chase are impacted by this plan as they have houses that are close to areas that could have large buildings under the draft plan. The coalition of 11 communities is working on a letter and would like support from the CCCFH on it. CCCFH will need to review letter and discuss this further.

Two meetings in January! January 18 will be a standard meeting. January 25 will be focused on the Equity One sketch plan and preparing for the planned Feb 2rd hearing before the Planning Board.

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