Today’s post includes:
- Community Meeting: Tuesday, July 12
- Worksession #13 — The Good and the What?!
- Want More?
- What to do Now
Community Meeting: Tuesday, July 12
Mark your calendars! Gwen Wright, Planning Director at the Montgomery County Planning Department, accepted my invitation to present “The Board Vote and What’s Next” to the CBAR community on Tuesday, July 12.
The Planning Board is expected to vote on the Bethesda Downtown Plan on Thursday, July 21. The July 12 information session will help us understand what that vote means, and what happens next.
Director Wright and her staff will describe the public hearing process and explain how the County Executive, County Council staff, and the County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) committee can influence and modify the master plan prior to it being considered by the full Council.
Please spread the word! Residents deserve to know how the process works, and the more we know, the more effective we can be.
- Date: Tuesday, July 12
- Time: 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
- Location: B-CC Regional Services Center, rooms A & B
4805 Edgemoor Ln, Bethesda, MD 20814
- RSVP: not necessary
- Also posted to: the Facebook events page and Meetup
Worksession #13 — The Good and the What?!
We’ve been heard. Yes! Some of the issues that have vexed our community have been acknowledged, and some were even partially resolved at Worksession #13 on May 19. Sort of. I think.
I would be pretty pleased had it not been for Commissioner Presley’s remark to Chairman Casey Anderson that was captured on mic at the end of the meeting: “We should encourage the developers to complain about us. Right?”
So what exactly did I find encouraging, until I was crushed to realize that at least one Planning Board member would actively encourage developers to tear it all apart?
- The Board rescinded free density allocations in the Bethesda Downtown Plan. Not just the massive 2.9 million they granted during last year’s many worksessions, but even the recommended density allocations in the May 2015 Staff Draft. (It’s not clear what priority sending sites get, though.) Properties won’t get free density allocations with this new plan.
- The Board proposed a “density pool” for re-developments and capped it at 4.6 million.
- Property owners can acquire additional density from the pool:
- On a first-come, first-served basis until all 4.6 million is allocated
- On a use-it-or-lose-it basis (the density must be built or it goes back to the pool so another builder can use it)
- In exchange for park amenity fees and/or additional MPDUs (moderately priced dwelling units)
- With the understanding that design guidelines would be enforced to provide access to air and light throughout the Plan area, and to protect edge communities
The Board’s discussions either directly or indirectly addressed the four issues that CBAR advocates for: Parks, Transportation, Schools and Edge Communities. So while I’m not acquiescing or conceding anything (32.4 million is still a lot of density, and heights in many locations are unacceptably high near some residential homes), I was pleased that we’ve been heard.
But after Commissioner Presley’s comment, it’s a whole different ballgame. Is this really how it’s played? The Board gives lip service to the community in public, only then to encourage developers behind closed doors to undermine it all?
It’s imperative that we understand that there is still a ways to go before the Bethesda Downtown Plan is adopted. It can be influenced for better or for worse by anyone. Developers know how to play the game and they hire lawyers. We need to learn as much as we can, decide what we want, work with (not against) our neighboring communities, and show up ready to play.
If you want to extend your activism beyond the Bethesda Downtown Plan, take a look at the new Montgomery County Communities for Planning Reform (pronounced “MC … CPR”). This group came out of Save Westbard and its mission is to “bring back to life meaningful and substantive community participation in the planning process and reforming it to insure that the Westbard Sector Plan is the last Sector Plan in which County officials enable special interests to trump the interests of the community.” They are just starting up and are looking for ideas from all communities. Learn more at the MC-CPR website.
What to Do Now
May I suggest:
- Plan to attend the July 12 community meeting: “The Board Vote and What’s Next“. You don’t need to RSVP.
- Watch or listen to Worksessions 12 and 13. For a perspective on how the Worksession process was derailed by developer interests at the very beginning, watch Worksession #1 (July 20, 2015).
- Write a letter.
Until next time,