Update on 5550 Friendship Blvd
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 –
- CBAR could submit a request for reconsideration: The request for reconsideration would be difficult to see succeeding as they will need 5 votes for any reconsideration to take place (and vote was 7-2 in favor of the current plan).
- Let it go and deal with each property as they come up: There may be traffic and access issues that come up.
- Leverage Subdivision Staging Policy: Somerset Elementary will be 1 student short of 120% this year. That means that they are close to the moratorium on development. We cannot put all our eggs in the school moratorium basket as that could potentially be addressed with redrawing boundaries and moving some children to Westlake.
- File a lawsuit since vote was based on erroneous info
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.
Lawsuit(s) Challenging HOC Cemetery Site
Two lawsuits –
- One brought by a group similar to (or the same as?) SaveWestbard, who felt that the sketch plan that was approved did not reflect what was discussed in the earlier meetings.
- EquityOne brought suit because the Sketch Plan was approved except for the HOC site, but they cannot move forward until the HOC issues are resolved, so they are stuck for now.
Related: The County is developing two laws to address cemetery issues, one adding the County cemetery inventory into the Planning Board process.
Westbard Self Storage and DRC Hearing
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.