Please have a look at the attached invitation/announcement of a presentation by Regency Centers of their concept for redoing Westwood Center. This redevelopment has been the focus of intense interest over the past couple years.
We urge attendance in order to be informed on a matter that affects all of us.
To RSVP to Regency Centers:
Call: 240 883 6494
For the full text of the letter including the illustrations please click on the link below:
David Anspacher of the Planning Dept presented on the the Bicycle Master Plan in the works. It is intended to appeal to those with low tolerance for traffic stress (approx 51% of people). See the presentation here.
Developer filed a Local Map Amendment to raise the permitted height in Sector Plan from 90 feet to 180 feet. The latest plan is that the existing building would remain, and a condo of 180 feet would be added (100 upscale condos). They are thinking of a small greenspace in front of the building being used as a dog park. Tentative hearing dates with Planning Board on Dec 7. On Oct 10, the developer will make a presentation to the Friendship Village Council. They will be presenting to CCCFH in our October meeting. Friendship Heights will vote to take a stance on their proposal after the presentation and has asked that the CCCFH do the same.
On the Council Agenda for tomorrow (9/19/17). The Sectional Map Amendment seems to be on track for approval. The SMA adopts the zoning proposed in the Sector Plan for over 200 properties.
Sept 12: New site plan looks very similar and has building height measuring point. They would like a tree variance as well. They also filed a response that is an 18 page document that seems to say they are willing to push back against the community concerns.
There is a planning board meeting on Oct 19. This is an extension meeting at which the Planning Board is likely to extend the deadline to November. Staff report will come in early November. There is a decent amount of coordination needed on the CCCFH front in the next few months.
Reminder: Regency owns a lot of strip malls. They are in the retail business. Traditionally, retail developers do not switch over to residential development. It will be interesting to see if they flip the residential property to someone else and move forward with their retail developments.
Oral arguments heard in August on two of the three claims (the procedural claims). A decision on either of these claims could cause a remand. The third claim is on illegal contract zoning and is scheduled to go to trial in October (this has since been rescheduled to January).
The mediation process with the Baptist Church and the Cemetery is ongoing but confidential, so not much to report.
Reminder: There is no August meeting of the CCCFH. The September meeting will be on Monday, September 18 to avoid a conflict with the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The meeting will still be held at the Somerset Town Hall at 8 PM.
At the last meeting, CCCFH voted to send a letter to the developer supporting Friendship Heights’ stance that they did not want redevelopment at this location. The developer responded that they are not trying to amend the Sector Plan. They are asking for a floating zone designation that allows the same density as is currently permitted, but with a higher building height.
The developer met with neighbors at Elizabeth House and presented both a 180 foot and 90 foot option (90 foot option requiring the tear down of adjacent office building). The majority of the neighbors did not think a 180 foot building was a good option. There is a sense that the developers are trying to meet with each condo building to get support. It is unclear how successful they might be.
There has been a contentious debate about which areas may be eligible for height bonuses provided for excess of 15% MPDUs. CBAR and CCCFH have argued that any areas near and adjacent to single family homes should be excluded from these incentives.
At the Council meeting, the Council presented a two new maps – one that only focused on changes to the South Bethesda boundaries. This did not include just HOC properties, but also included Alden Properties (which has discussed going up to 25% MDPU). This change was accepted as an amendment to the ZTA. The Council ultimately moved Battery Lane and Sport & Health also inside the incentive zone. The final vote removed any incentive zone on the east side of Wisconsin Ave., but left open the possibility that there could be a sloping decrease in heights away from the Metro, and then an increased height south of Bradley Blvd due to HOC and MPDU height incentives.
Next steps / Options going forward –
Save Westbard Hearing was postponed until sometime in August. The judge asked the plaintiffs to prepare an amended complaint, and then the County and EquityOne would submit a reply.
Two lawsuits –
Related: The County is developing two laws to address cemetery issues, one adding the County cemetery inventory into the Planning Board process.
Development Review Committee (DRC) was last month. The attorney opted to skip the comments, as they were all “No”. There are several issues with their proposal.
The first issue had to do with being inside the Willett Branch buffer. The attorney seemed to feel the buffer boundaries were negotiable, and that they should be allowed to infringe on the buffer (EquityOne got to, so why can’t I?). The DRC pushed back that they could not enter the buffer. The attorney also argued that they should be allowed to enter the buffer because they are donating parcel 177 (adjacent to the cemetery). Parcel 177 is in the flood plain, and potentially part of the cemetery as well.
They also discussed access to the storage center. The self-storage unit would be the largest unit of all in the River Rd/Westbard area. This is because the land slopes down, so they will go 3 stories underground – and the underground levels are not counted in the FAR. They have a very narrow driveway from River Rd (18 ft wide). Lack of sufficient access for the fire department may create a safety issue, plus they need to provide access to the Capital Crescent Trail and the greenway.
Timing: They have until July 26 to resubmit to address the DRC issues. The final submission would be mid-August and the Planning Board will take it up in October. It seems likely that timeline will shift by 30 days at least.
There is no August meeting of the CCCFH. The September meeting will be on Monday, September 18 to avoid a conflict with the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The meeting will still be held at the Somerset Town Hall at 8 PM.
Montgomery County Parks and the Park Police attended the meeting to explain the current status of intersection of the Capital Crescent Trail and Little Falls Parkway. There have been accidents, including one fatality at this intersection in recent years.
The incidents that have occurred have been low-speed incidents that resulted from the inside lane of traffic not being able to see that there are people (pedestrians and/or bicyclists) coming on the trail. Cars on the outside lane block this ability. Bicyclists on the trail tend to run through this intersection without making sure all four lanes of traffic have stopped/seen them. Currently, they have responded to the fatal accident by narrowing Little Falls Parkway to one lane in each direction. The speed limit has also been lowered from 35 MPH to 25 MPH (which is consistent with other parkways). This is a temporary solution. It is liked by folks who use the trail, but not liked by the commuters who rely on Little Falls Parkway and feel the temporary solution creates more traffic. Some nearby communities also feel that there is increased cut-through traffic.
This intersection was modified in 2011 with the goal of improving safety at the trail. That was not successful insofar as the accidents have continued. Thus, they are beginning a study to determine how to best improve the traffic flow while ensuring that the trail users can be safe. They have started some traffic counts while simultaneously receiving proposals from traffic consultants. The traffic study will look broadly at Little Falls Parkway from Bradley to Dorset and Arlington between Bradley and Little Falls Parkway. It will also look at potential bike lanes to add and connect to CCT.
There is no pre-existing preferred path forward – they are starting with an open mind. They know that whatever happens will have to be funded by the Council. They expect the consultant on board by late summer, public meeting in the fall, iterate on proposal over the winter, and hopefully have a proposal to the Planning Board in the spring (and eventually County Council).
Options suggested at meeting by meeting attendees:
You can contact the Parks Dept with more questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
County Council considered the Bethesda Downtown Plan on April 18 and April 25 as it relates to building heights. The CCCFH wrote to the Council and supported the Riemer/Michaelson Approach to Affordable Housing South of Bradley Boulevard. This proposal ran into issues at the Council and was retracted without a vote. The CCCFH also supported staging, but that measure was declined by the Council. The next step is for the Council to adopt the resolution. It will be taken up on May 25. The Overlay Zone, which allocates density, will be taken up in June.
The April 26 resolution adopted by the Planning Board approving, subject to substantial conditions, the sketch plan application by EquityOne does not specify requirements for development with regard to the HOC area. Instead, it requires Regency (which acquired EquityOne) to submit an amendment to the sketch plan for the HOC site. This will require further work related to the African American historical burying site in the vicinity of the HOC site. The study work has been done, but the field work has not been done yet. There is an effort to mediate that between Regency, the Planners and the Macedonia Baptist Church. Under the resolution, Regency cannot go to the preliminary plan stage for the entire development until it has submitted a sketch plan amendment for the HOC site and the Planning Board has approved it.
Bethesda Self Storage is assembling their application now and hope to have it completed this month.
On June 12, a Zoning Text Amendment will be considered to allow height limits for roof top terraces to NOT be counted in the overall height of the building. This is contrary to what the CCCFH discussed with Marlene Michaelson while reviewing the Westbard Sector Plan.
5550 Friendship Blvd is opposite Brighton Gardens. There is a 5-story office building and substantial greenspace there currently. The developer would like to build an 18 story building on the greenspace at that location. They have hired a PR firm and are trying to sell this concept to area residents. This does seem to require an amendment to the zoning, which could open up the Sector Plan for the Friendship Heights area, including the GEICO tract. This is still in the initial stages, but something we will be keeping an eye on.
The home and associated acre of land abutting the Willard Avenue Park has been owned by the County under control of the Parks agency for more than 20 years. It was purchased with the intent of demolishing the home and converting it and the acre of land into an expansion of the park. That hasn’t happened. The current effort is to get the County to move the fence surrounding the acre of land leaving the house in place but by moving the fence, significantly expanding the park. It was also noted that the four parking spaces for the park are altogether insufficient.