Clarifications requested regarding Option #3

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The Planning Board made several decisions at Worksession #12 regarding a density cap, density allocation, heights, and building design guidelines. There was a long discussion regarding density allocations. The Board agreed to an allocation system they referred to as “Option 3,” which in its most simplistic form I understand as “first come, first served” with a “use it or lose it” clause.

To help downtown Bethesda area residents better understand the Board’s decisions, I submitted the following letter on Tuesday, May 17 to Mr. Casey Anderson, Chairman of the Planning Board, and Ms. Gwen Wright, Director of the Planning Board Staff.

Worksession recordings, public documents, and agenda items are all accessible from the CBAR website at

Dear Chairman Anderson and Director Wright:

I met downtown Bethesda area residents this weekend to discuss the proceedings from Worksession #12, and have several questions regarding the Board’s decisions. Please note that while I am the only signatory on this letter, I am copying local community leaders as a courtesy, and request that responses be directed to all.


1. With regard to the Board’s proposed density cap of 32.4 million, can you please clarify whether this number represents a “hard” upper limit? Specifically, please confirm or correct my impression that all buildings within the Bethesda Downtown Plan draw from one density pool, regardless of how density is acquired (purchased or granted outright), and includes:

  1. Properties approved in the Purple Line Station Minor Master Plan (e.g., the Apex and Artery buildings)
  2. Densities granted to priority sending sites
  3. Any bonus density awards


2. With regard to the building design guidelines:

  1. Is the Bethesda Overlay Zone coextensive with the high performance area, or does it cover the entire area of the Sector Plan?
  2. Will there be distinct building design guidelines for areas inside and outside the high performance area? To fulfill the objective of protecting edge communities, areas currently outside the high performance area need to have more stringent guidelines in terms of:
    1. Density transfer restrictions (i.e., density can be exported from these areas but not imported)
    2. Lower density and height caps than those permitted in the higher performance area
    3. Mandatory offsets/buffers on properties that confront single-family residences greater than those provided in the zoning code.
    4. Even within the high performance district, there should be more stringent design guidelines for properties that back onto or confront single family homes in terms of height and density caps and mandatory buffers.


3. There are a number of residential “edge” properties that are zoned R-60, R-30, R-10 or CRN under the 1994 Plan and subsequent amendments and overlays. In the May 2015 Staff Draft, many of these properties:

  • Retained their residential designation or were given CRT zoning
  • Were given zero or minimal densities

In several cases, the Board’s straw votes eliminated “split zoning,” upzoned properties to a CRT or CR zone, and/or increased the heights and densities. For purposes of Option 3, will the zoning decisions for these properties revert to their currently allowed zoning (the 1994 Plan and its subsequent amendments and overlays), the May 2015 Staff draft, or something else? How will this decision be made?


I appreciate your careful consideration of these questions and look forward to your guidance. It is in everyone’s best interest for area residents to enter Worksession #13 on May 19 with a clear understanding of the Board’s decisions.


Mary M. Flynn
Founder, Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents
4114 Blackthorn St, Chevy Chase


  • East Bethesda Citizens Association: Lisa Volpe McCabe, president
  • Town of Chevy Chase: Scott Fosler, mayor
  • Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association: Naomi Spinrad, vice president
  • Sacks Neighborhood Association: Cristina Echavarren, president
  • Edgemoor Citizens Association: Judy Gilbert Levey, president

Mary Flynn is a resident of the Town of Chevy Chase and the founder of CBAR.

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