Monday, July 28, 2008
White Flint Sector Plan Piles on New Development
The White Flint Advisory Group has been meeting for about a year, making recommendations to the county planning staff about what downtown North Bethesda should look like in the next 20 years. Essentially, the county revises, about every two decades, the projections for parts of the county. The North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan was adopted in 1992, so we are coming up for the long revision process before a new Master Plan is adopted. In this go-round, since our area is urbanizing rapidly, the planners have sub-divided the Master Plan area to create a separate plan that addresses only the central business district for North Bethesda. They are calling this are the White Flint Sector Plan. The advisory group has been composed of business owners, land use attorneys (hired by major commercial property owners and developers), and volunteer members of surrounding communities. Representing us in the Luxmanor, Tilden Woods, Old Farm, Walnut Woods area have been Paula Bienenfeld (current LCA president), Ken Hurdle, and Ed Rich. I have attended a few of the sessions as an observer, and have been allowed to participate on the perifery. The members of the group have invested an enormous amount of time, giving the community's input for our needs as pedestrians, bikers, drivers, shoppers, employees, and residents of the region. At the last meeting, July 22, the planning staff presented the recommendations and plans that they hope to present to the planning board as a result of the advisory group's meetings. However, the plans presented were not at all what the members of the group had seen before. Prior to the presentation, staff was instructed to increase the density of housing, retail, and commercial development for the sector. The members have not been able to get any studied reasoning from the staff or other participants as to how the density increases were derived. As part of the density discussions, there are assumptions about school enrollment, number of school-age children that will be generated by the higher densities, and where any new schools might be located. This type of change to studied plans, at the last minute, is not new to us. It happened with some regularity with the planning of the Montrose Parkway, and we have some bizarre traffic patters as a result.