Saturday, October 31, 2009

WF Sector Plan testimony

Continuing from last post...

Diverse groups testified in support of the plan, with modifications:
  • Sierra Club - the plan "has the basics right" but there need to be tightened environmental standards.
  • Coalition for Smarter Growth - plan needs jobs-housing balance with more housing, more aggressive TDM (transportation demand management) techniques to encourage people not to use cars, east-west BRT (bus rapid transit) service, and transit service on Rockville Pike
  • Action Committee for Transi- reduce lane width to 10-11' to promote proper driving patterns on a 25 mph design for Rockville Pike using Glatting Jackson design, and build smaller city blocks
  • Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA)
  • AARP - interested in walkable communities convenient for seniors

With regard to environmental issues, the sector plan calls for very strict storm water management, all new building will be green certified (no definition of this, that is why the Sierra Club wants some clarification of standards). The presenters stated that the final buildout could even have more impervious surface than the current condition, due to the replacement of vast paved parking lots with smaller blocks that include park and landscaped areas, some buildings with green roofs, and the upgraded storm water management.

Community groups that testified on Tuesday (I was unable to get to the Thursday hearing) were:
  • Timberlawn HOA - wanted buildings no higher than the NRC, at 275 feet, larger civic greens, a dedicated library site for full-service, a community center, and the creation of the sector as a destination space with dedicated theater and arts spaces
  • Randolph Civic Assoc. - in favor of Glatting Jackson "complete street" design for the Pike, and lobbying for 2 school sites, reopening Rocking Horse ES and a new site within the sector plan. See the discussion on schools in the previous post about cluster districting issues, etc.
  • Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park - want a school site in the sector, are working with Lerner & Tower Companies (owners of White Flint Mall) to design proper buffer areas between White Flint Mall buildout and their detached home neighborhoods, want the plan "to be better" and concerned about how the proposals will be financed
  • Luxmanor Citizens Association - want building heights limited, designate the area as an arts center, including a senior center with dining area, auditorium and classorrms, publicly owned series of pocket parks with resident-tended gardens, and a full-service library site
  • Forum Condominium - wants rezoning of NE 2 acres of their property, adjacent to the new Maple/Chapman Rd corridor, to be able to add a companion building with new "street edge" with 304 FAR (floor area ratio), with maximum 150-250 foot building heights
  • Fallstone HOA - support Glatting Jackson design for Rockville Pike and support the White Flint Partnership tax plan for infrastructure financing. Strong message to phase in the infrastructure improvements first
  • Crest of Wickford Condominium - concerns about permitted height of buildings south of Edson Lane, within yards of condominium property. Sector plan, at this time, allows 150', they want no more than 50'. Also concerned about difficulty of getting in and out of their community on Rockville Pike, which is already problematic.
  • Mayor of Garrett Park - want attention given to impacts of community at edges of the development, adverse traffic effects, and ecological sustainability
  • White Flint Community Coalition - want to reduce the density from sector plan proposal, expressing concerns about creating an "urban canyon" effect from taller buildings and pushing for a residential cap of 9800 residential units, the opposite of the testimony from the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The WFCC speaker mentioned "dense urban sprawl," which is an oxymoron. A major concern is about the possibility of future overcrowding at Walter Johnson HS and other cluster schools. The coalition wants the plan to require centers for the arts, seniors, and a full library, with a reserved site for a future elementary school.
  • Other community representatives speaking from were Coalition of Kensington Communities, WJ cluster PTAs, Montgomery County Civic Federation, Wisconsin Condominium, and numerous individual speakers from North Bethesda and surrounding neighborhoods
  • The final testimony from a community organization was from the Gaithersburg/North Potomac/Rockville Coalition, which recently had hearings for the West Gaithersburg Plan - this was the only group to try to deep-six the sector plan, comprised of members who are not stakeholders in North Bethesda. They have a website,, and are interested in stopping development.
Business organizations that testified are:
  • Bethesda/Chevy Chase and Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce
  • Developers & landowners in the sector: Combine Properties, Vika, LCOR, Gables, Lerner, Tower, Mayhood, 11610-11620 Rockville Pike Partnership, Federal Realty Investment Trust, JBG
  • Fitzgerald - wants to remain in the sector, but will not maintain a dealership on Rockville Pike; can move it to one of the other two properties owned by Fitzgerald
  • White Flint Partnership, a coalition of 55% of the developer/landowners in the sector
Overall, there was concensus in nearly all of the testimony that Rockville Pike and surrounding road infrastructure should be among the first projects undertaken, with the Glatting Jackson design for Rockville Pike nearly unanimously hailed as superior to the sector plan design and desired by practically everyone. A public-private venture to finance the infrastructure improvements, instituting a special tax district with dedicated funding for this sector is desired. Rockville Pike should have a design speed of 25 mph. A school site, library, and multi-generational community center is critical, with arts as a focus for the sector. The council should set environmental guidelines that are more specific to make all new construction conform with quantifiable "green" standards, making sure that connectivity of bikeways is enhanced, with parks as large as practicable. Wall Park and the Gables VOB property to be a main recreational site, with community consultation at all stages and maintaining a forested buffer to Old Georgetown Road.

I would like to add that, just outside the sector plan boundaries to the north, DOT has insisted on building a Park-and-Ride lot at the corner of Montrose and Rockville Pike, a site so unsuited as a vehicle gathering-place (imagine having people drive to the park-and-ride lot in the middle of a new urban center to pick up transit to another urban center- madness!) that there was a 20-minute tirade from the planning board directed at DOT, with the demand that the lot be moved "as soon as possible." DOT has no such plans. This area, proposed as a pedestrian promenade to link the sector to Montrose Crossing, Mid-Pike Plaza, and the nearby apartment at The Monterey, may become a new fire/police center. Either way, the park-and-ride lot has to go, and this message needs to go directly to County Executive Ike Leggett, who has some influence on DOT (we hope).

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