Through 2014 and 2015, the Montgomery County Planning Department hosted working sessions to gather community input for the Bethesda Downtown Plan. Resident feedback was incorporated into the “Staff Draft,” which was published in May 2015.
While laudable, the initial outreach had limited impact.
The appointed members of the Planning Board have routinely approved requests for additional heights and densities from developers that far exceed infrastructure capacity. If we want a vibrant downtown supported by livable communities, we need to participate in the ongoing conversation.
It can not be overstated: we must reinforce public sentiment throughout the entire planning process.
One of the best ways to communicate is to write thoughtful emails or letters to our public officials. Your correspondence goes into the public record. It cannot be ignored. Here are some tips and samples to get you started.
Use email. It’s faster and easier than postal mail. The Who’s Who page on this web site includes email addresses for many County officials.
Identify yourself. Explain who you are, where you live, and what you support or oppose. Keep it brief.
Be clear about the action you want the recipient to take.
- “I urge you to reconcile the total density numbers with the carrying capacity of our schools and transit infrastructure. This must be done prior to considering the Plan for approval.”
- “Do not substitute private plazas or green roofs for public parks. The growing population in downtown Bethesda will require additional recreational green space.”
- “We ask that you retain existing transition zones in the current plan. Residential neighborhood streets cannot support large developments.”
Be courteous. We all appreciate courtesy.
EXAMPLE (fictitious): To members of the Planning Board
VIA EMAIL: MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org
SUBJECT: Bethesda Downtown – I oppose requests from property owners “x” and “y”
Dear Chair Anderson, Vice-Chair Wells-Harley and Commissioners Dreyfuss, Fani-Gonzalez and Presley:
I live in the “abc” neighborhood and am writing to oppose the requests from property owners “x” and “y” that are scheduled for review at Worksession #0. I understand that nearby property owner “z” requested and received a density increase from 6 to 8. It’s understandable that the nearby property owners argue that they deserve the same.
However, I am not aware of expansion or improvement plans that demonstrate that the region’s schools and transportation infrastructure can support the increased density. Our neighborhood school is at capacity today. We do not want our kids going to school in a converted office building with no interior gym or outdoor play area. I take a crowded Metro train to work every day and my spouse deals with Wisconsin Avenue traffic. We are not opposed to development, but do want assurances that the Planning Board is doing the hard work of planning for smart growth.
Please do not approve the requests from property owners “x” and “y.” Resist narrow “it’s only fair” arguments and instead consider the impact on area residents — current and future — who make Bethesda our home because of its excellent schools and proximity to meaningful jobs.
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