Bethesda Downtown Plan
Reminder: The general approach of the plan is that the FAR is set in the 1994 plan, and they are mapping new heights in this update. If you want additional FAR, you have to acquire it somehow.
There is a focus on road capacity. The County is exploring improvements to interchanges at Cedar Ln and Bradley Blvd. The road modifications for Bradley Ln they are discussing are at Connecticut Ave.
Schools – there is a capacity study going on. Last week, Roger Berliner held a meeting of neighborhood association leaders and highlighted this concern. Berliner had a meeting with MCPS and is trying to get a handle on the capacity issue, particularly with BCC, Whitman and Walter Johnson. It is being explored if BCC should acquire more land near the current school. The planners are also suggesting generally that existing high-rise office buildings could be used for schools, but this is not a cost-savings due to the amount of work needed to be done to bring an existing building to code for a school. This study will likely take months to complete.
The main amenity they are looking at for downtown Bethesda is parkland. There really is an absence of parkland in Bethesda. There are 4 – 5 proposed priority parks in the draft Bethesda downtown plan. The cost for the parks is approximately $110M. Mike Riley (Head of Parks) indicted to the PHED committee that he has $20-$30M a year for acquisitions, maintenance, etc. which goes beyond Bethesda. There is a significant gap between the cost of the desired parks and what is available, even including the revenue that is expected to be obtained from developers. This necessitates focusing on land the county already owns, because that does not involve acquisition costs. Most of the county-owned land in Bethesda is parking lots (which generate revenue for, among others, Bethesda Up!), particularly behind the Women’s Farmer’s Market. The need to fund parks is not unanimously agreed to by the PHED committee.
Hearing on Sketch Plan: A number of CCCFH people testified and did a great job. The Planning Board basically accepted the Staff recommendation. The sketch plan, as approved, does not specify details – it is still fairly high level. The preliminary plan, which is the next step, will set out the dedication of any lands to the Willett Branch. After that, the site plan will lay the buildings out on the lots and bind the proposal. John Marcolin will not be the point person on the Preliminary Plan – someone else will do that.
Sketch Plan amendment to cover the HOC parcel: Equity One has been told it should proceed with the study in area 175 (where the African American cemetery is thought to have been). The consultants that the Church wanted to be under contract are not under contract at this time. It does not seem that this will be completed by the April deadline, but they are hoping it will still be completed in ~2 months. One improvement in the Sketch Plan is the increased size of the Springfield park from 1/3 acre to 2/3 acre.
Storage Facility: There was a meeting at Westland Middle school last week. It was pretty much the same as the presentation from last December. Lloyd asked if there was a part of the building in the buffer, and Dugan said that it was not, but an engineer said there was. LFWA thinks the creek is going to be moved to slow down the flow of the water. If you move the creek, that will mean the Storage Facility is more in the buffer. It is unclear who would fund moving the creek.
SaveWestbard continues to reach out to communities for contributions for its lawsuit. SaveWestbard reportedly has collected $75k and have spent $65k of it. WoodAcres is taking a vote on if they would like to donate to SaveWestbard and it will be up for discussion in Springfield also. If SaveWestbard wins the lawsuit, in the view of some, it is most likely that the Council will correct the errors. It is not clear that any parties will be successful in then changing the minds of the Council to lower the zoning density and heights, consider schools, etc. If this goes to trial, it will likely cost a lot to litigate.