Bethesda Downtown Plan
As expected, the Council has taken up the Bethesda downtown plan. Several items merit note. First, on April 14, CCCFH’s Executive Committee voted to sign onto a letter to the Council on the Bethesda Downtown Plan by the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents (CBAR) Communities. Somerset, Chevy Chase West, Kenwood and Wood Acres signed the letter. The letter addressed data integrity, urban design, parks and open spaces, the Pearl district, educational facilities, staging, the Bethesda Overlay zone, public amenities and benefits, legacy open space designations, a greenway, and building heights, among others. Second, on April 18, the Council held the first of two sessions on the Bethesda downtown plan. This plan is an enormous undertaking. Bethesda contains hundreds of properties, each of which has to be zoned. There were about 230 zoning recommendations. The packet memo by Marlene Michaelson dated April 14 does not address each of the properties; it addresses those that were the subject of a Planning, Housing and Economic (PHED) Committee discussion. The Council discussed how to address general issues such as affordable housing and public facilities, and specific matters such as height limits on properties in the nine districts that Bethesda was divided into. In addition, the Council discussed land use/transportation balance and staging, which were addressed in a packed memo by Glenn Orlin dated April 14. There will be votes in the next and last Council meeting on the plan, which is scheduled for April 25. Third, the PHED Committee and Council will consider a ZTA for the Bethesda Overlay Zone in the near future and will not be long and drawn out, per PHED Committee Chair Nancy Floreen. This will address density, affordable housing issues and park funding, among others. After that, there will be a Sectional Map Amendment (SMA).
The Planning Board had a Briefing on the Status of the Process for the Cemetery Delineation on April 6. Robert Kronenberg spoke and provided an update on where the applicant is on the cemetery delineation. He mentioned that Gwen Wright reported a few weeks ago that the delineation will take longer than the estimated 2 months, which was the estimate at the Feb. 23 Planning Board hearing. The planners returned to the Board earlier than the 2-month period with an update. A contract with the oversight group did not happen. On March 8, the Planning Department gave a green light to Regency [Equity One] to proceed. Regency has a contact with the Ottery Group, which is doing initial research. Field work will start in mid-May. After that work is complete, it will take a few weeks for a report to be prepared. Overall, it will take about 3 months from March 8 for the delineation, with the work expected to be complete in June. Mr. Kronenberg added that it might be prudent to come back to the Planning Board in mid or late May with an update. No public input was allowed.
The Planning Board’s April 20, 2017 agenda includes a Consent Agenda item: Adoption of Resolutions: Westwood Shopping Center Sketch Plan.
Planning staff are working on design guidelines for Westbard. There will be opportunities for public participation.
The developer of the storage facility to be located behind McDonald’s has not yet submitted a plan to the Planning Department.