Compatibility with residential neighborhoods

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  1. Concentrate heights near transportation hubs
  2. Limit heights and uses for properties confronting existing homes

CR zoning is not appropriate for residential roads


County planners recognize that area residents want smart growth and good urban design for downtown Bethesda. To contribute to downtown Bethesda’s overall success, the Bethesda Downtown Plan Staff Draft recommends:

  • Step-downs (height decreases) into residential neighborhoods from centers of activity.
  • Wider setbacks (the space between the street curb and the building) for larger buildings.
  • Small parks and greenways.

The Plan recognizes that buffers and transitions are needed between the urban cores and the surrounding neighborhoods.


However, the Staff Draft also recommended that many edge properties be up-zoned from Residential to Commercial/Residential (CR). CR zoning is not compatible with residential neighborhoods.

Consider that edge properties share narrow roads with single family homes across the street. Residential neighborhood roads cannot support apartment buildings, hotels, office complexes, schools, restaurants, parking garages, clinics, and other uses allowable in Commercial/Residential zones.

Unlike Residential zoning, CR-zoned properties can also be developed beyond their density allocation through density averaging. Density averaging (also referred to as density transfer) allows the owner of one CR property to sell its unused density to another owner. This practice encourages optimal build-out of Plan capacity, and the receiving owner can build a larger structure than what they were originally allocated. While density averaging is generally a good urban planning tool, intensive development is not appropriate along residential roads.

Since the time the Plan was published in May 2015, many owners of edge properties have requested and received CR up-zoning from the Planning Board.