I delivered the following testimony at Worksession #9. Full audio and video recordings, plus supporting documents for Worksession #9 can be accessed from various Montgomery County websites, or here. -Mary Flynn
Chairman Anderson and members of the Board, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Mary Flynn and I recently founded the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents (CBAR). I am here today to:
- Support our communities as we advocate for neighborhood parks and green buffers along the edges.
- Support and expand upon Staff environmental recommendations for a sustainable and attractive downtown.
Like business and County leaders, we know that Montgomery County competes with regional business districts in DC and Virginia. For this reason I strongly urge you to give careful consideration to the data presented today that demonstrates that ecologically sound planning policies result in economically strong cities.
With two modifications, we enthusiastically support the High Performance Area recommendations in the Staff draft, specifically that buildings in downtown Bethesda exceed the minimum County standards. We have heard many property owners promise that they will build “something special.” All new buildings must far exceed minimum County standards for sustainability. These prize buildings must be built for our future.
The first modification is that all buildings over 4 stories should exceed the ASHRAE 90.1 standard by 15%. Requiring this only of properties built to their maximum allowable zoning height provides an incentive for property owners to request excessive heights that they don’t intend to use, simply to avoid the environmental requirements. All new high-rise buildings in the High Performance Area should should share the load equally.
The second modification relates to the 35% green cover proposal and an enormous omission in the Staff Draft. While I am not going to go on record supporting or opposing the Purple Line, the Plan must make very clear to the public that the construction of the Purple Line will necessarily and permanently de-forest the eastern section of the Capital Crescent Trail that leads into Bethesda. The green cover proposal comes no where close to compensating for the loss of these mature trees. You must go well beyond the Staff plan recommendations to increase the green cover throughout the sector.
In addition, we urge you to adopt and expand on the Parks and Open Space recommendations.
- First, the 12 acres of new public space proposed in the Plan must be obtainable. Each potential park property needs its own strategy for becoming a park. The Open Space Priority Sending program and dedication and amenity fund contributions may work for some sites, but they will not with others. You must also incorporate CIP funding and Legacy Open Space into the Plan.
- Second, please respect that the 12 acres of proposed public space is not adequate for Bethesda’s growing population, it is not all parkland, and doesn’t come anywhere close to compensating for the loss of existing parkland leading into Bethesda along the Capital Crescent Trail. Downtown Bethesda area residents need more than 12 acres in the Plan, and more of it needs to be tall and green.
- And third, we strongly urge you to work with what you’ve got. This means the County should not sell its open space, specifically the six surface parking lots in the CBD: lots 25, 28, 43 and 44 north of the Capital Crescent Trail and lots 10 and 24 to the south. The County may not just want, but need that open space for parks in the future. Keeping these well-located lots in the public domain is a more reliable investment in Bethesda’s future than attempting to assemble small private parcels, or relying on tradeoffs with property owners.
We love downtown Bethesda and want to see it emerge from this Plan as an even more desirable place to live, work, shop, and play. By supporting excellence in urban planning, you have the power to further develop Bethesda in three important ways, as an:
- Economically vibrant business district with low vacancy rates
- Regional destination for shoppers and recreational visitors
- Wonderfully desirable place to live for families and individuals of all ages.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify and your thoughtful consideration.