Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Check out proposed building heights

Some of the plans for North Bethesda include building heights as high as 28 stories around Rockville Pike. This is approximately 300 feet. On Saturday, Sept. 20, Luxmanor Civic Association sponsored a balloon test, in which they flew a huge balloon near Marinelli Road, demonstrating the potential height of such buildings in our town center.

Letter to planners regarding North Bethesda development plans

Below are some of my suggestions to the county planners and councilmembers as they consider White Flint Sector Plan. Currently, planning staff is recommending phasing the development by geographic area, which ignores the readiness of owners of various sites and will throw the area into chaos. Also at stake is the redevelopment of Rockville Pike into a Bethesda-style boulevard (see Wisconsin Avenue), with smaller blocks to facilitate pedestrian crossing and use. We can't create a "town center" if people can't walk around, and the shops created won't be successful without pedestrians. They are now talking about needing a new elementary school to accommodate the new local population. Placement of the school is being discussed... 1. Rockville Pike improvements phasing - Rockville Pike is the backbone of the sector. All planning is directed toward its success as a circulation corridor. It is critical that the conversion in the Rockville Boulevard concept is begun in Phase 1 so that any commercial development in the corridor can proceed with the Pike infrastructure in place. It cannot be left till the last phase. 2. Geographic project phasing - I heard about this concept first at the last advisory board briefing by staff. This concept was dismissed by all of the private citizens and developers in attendance as an artificial barrier to the development process. Phasing should proceed using the criteria currently in place in the Bethesda CBD, with individual projects staged based on the sector development and needs, not cutting the sector into smaller geographic pieces. This coordinates with the concept that the Pike must be constructed in its "boulevard" design at the earliest opportunity. 3. Revenue distribution - Any tax revenues generated by developers in the White Flint sector must remain in the sector for infrastructure and transit use. These monies cannot be diluted into the general Montgomery County "pot." Infrastructure needs in this sector are and will remain extremely high, and the money the developers contribute is critical to the success of the overall plan. 4. MCPS elementary school site - I understand that MCPS wants a future school site to be located within the sector plan. However, the two sites that have been identified to date, Wall Park and White Flint are each totally unacceptable. Wall Park is right on major roadways and will be an unsafe site, as well as removing an important park asset for the surrounding residential communities. White Flint is too close to Garrett Park Elementary School, is on the fringe of the sector (not near much of the new housing to be built) and will also remove a valuable asset from the White Flint and Garrett Park Estates communities. The optimal site for a new elementary school is the current WMATA bus depot, which is of sufficient size and is located near The Sterling, The Gallery, and the new LCOR residential units. As a bus depot, it is a supreme waste of acreage as the sector density increases. The depot must be relocated and the land used as a positive community resource.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New, free website rates consumer products

Check out www.goodguide.com. This new site is free and has rankings on over 61,000 household products, with ratings for effectiveness, environmental responsibility of the company, social responsibility, and consumer satisfaction. The detailed information on each product includes the product's ingredients, and there is a "shopping list" you can compile for the products you want to start buying so you will remember the ones you liked the best. It is easy to use, and you can also sign up so that your settings can be saved. All around, a great new site!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Green" remodeling- our bathroom adventures

We are in the middle of planning a total remodeling job in our master bathroom, which was precipitated by leaks in the shower pan, shower drain, and sink drain in our 44 year old house. The room is small and has no windows, and we have decided to make this environmentally as low an impact as possible. To this end, I have been doing massive research on materials, designs, supply sources, etc. So far, here are some of the factors involved (what to look for and where I found it): 1. Cabinetry Looking for a renewable wood (companies that harvest trees in a sustainable manner earn the FSC certification). Bamboo can be problematic if it has to be shipped here from across the Pacific Ocean, so bamboo (and cork) should be checked for where they were harvested. Maple grows like a weed around here, so it is reasonably OK to use. Another factor is whether or not the manufacturing process includes VOC (volatile organic compounds) and/or formaldehyde. Most particle board contains both, which can be respiratory irritants or worse. Greenway Cabinetry, Inc. has a product line called Breathe Easy, using non-toxic water-based glues, formaldehyde-free plywood, and FSC woods or bamboo. I found a company in Baltimore and another south of here that will order these cabinets. However, due to design and space needs, I ended up ordering a different cabinet that is made from the remains of used-up rubber trees. Tile: Ceramic tile is available that is made with a high content of recycled glass and the remains of other ceramic processes. I found wall and floor tile in many colors and sizes at Amicus Green Building Center, 4080A Howard Avenue, Kensington. This store features all kinds of building materials, and the staff is very knowledgable regarding the sources and processes for the materials they sell. I will be using floor and wall tiles (matte and gloss) from Terra Green Ceramics, Inc., which I will order from Amicus. Glass tile made from recycled glass is trickier (also gorgeous and more expensive, but great for accents); the most common manufacturer is Oceanside, sold both at Amicus and at Home Depot's Expo. However, Oceanside moved its manufacturing plant to Mexico and uses a lower % of recycled materials with a production process that is higher in energy use that two other tile sources. Online, I found Sandhill Industries (www.sandhillind.com) and Stardust Glass (www.stardustglasstile.com). Both use up to 100% recycled glass (post-consumer and bits from windows, etc.) and a less energy-intensive process. These are stunning tiles. Sandhill is based in Idaho, and Stardust Glass is in Washington State. I will be ordering from Sandhill; they are sending me some samples. Neither of these companies has a local dealer, so I have told the owners of Amicus about them. Hopefully, they will expand their product lines. Other architectural-quality recycled glass tile manufacturers are Blazestone from Bedrock Industries and Aurora Glass Architectural Accents. I have not researched these thoroughly, so I can't comment on their product lines. Vanity countertop: We will probably be using a recycled plastic product called 3form (www.3-form.com). It comes in sheet of every possible color, texture, and thickness. The website includes instructions for cutting and modifying the material. I was looking for a thick material that is translucent, and find that I can even find scraps large enough for our purposes on the website. Lighting: We are installing an 18" suntube, which is an energy-efficient version of a skylight. We saw one installed in a friend's bath, and it delivers a lovely diffused light all day long (and will glow gently on moon-lit nights). As we move further along in this endeavor, I will report on our progress.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Parkway closed between E. Jefferson St. and old Old Georgetown Rd.

The forested property to the east of the Getty gas station on Montrose Road is owned by Wilgus Associates. Wilgus Assoc. received permits years ago to build two office buildings between the Getty station and old Old Georgetown Road. This year, Wilgus held an informational meeting about its new plans for the site. Guess where they put the public notice??? This sign is facing the CLOSED SECTION of Montrose Parkway...no traffic, no one passes by. As you can see, the meeting was last month. Traveling east toward East Jefferson Street on the closed parkway, there is a sign pointing to Stonehenge Place, as street that parallels the parkway, but doesn't intersect with it. This will be the entrance to Stonehenge Place. Even though the parkway was not supposed to be a local road and was to have smooth-flowing traffic through North Bethesda, the Wilgus property owners were able to get this curb cut approved with their development. It will lead to the back of the Cherington townhouses, the back of the Getty station, and branch to feed the new Wilgus buildings. Another view of the future Stonehenge Place access point from the Montrose "Parkway." Note that the median accomodates turns across the future traffic. Of course, this section of the parkway is not open. The contractor told me that, although it is completed, it will not be opened until Phase II (the intersection tunnel under Rockville Pike) is built.
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Monday, September 8, 2008

Digging under Rockville Pike

The Montrose Parkway Phase II is underway, with construction set up in the old commuter lot at the corner of Montrose Road & Rockville Pike. The first three photos show the construction, as of today, from the corner of old Old Georgetown Road and the closed section of Montrose Parkway. You can see the earth movers have dug right up to the Pike, preparing to tunnel the Montrose Parkway under Rockville Pike. You may have noticed that the trees on the east side of the Pike have been removed. This is to divert the Pike to the east during construction; we will be routed around the intersection on a temporary road that is being built right now. This is a view south on old Old Georgetown Road, looking toward the cul-de-sac behind the Garden Center and Toys-R-Us. The street is being widened to accomodate Montrose Parkway traffic. Eventually, the cul-de-sac will be opened so that this tiny road spur, in its widened form, will intersect with Old Georgetown Road at Executive Boulevard.
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