The already-jammed roads and schools that serve the area have been concerns from the beginning, but much like the Westbard sector plan, there are virtually no amenities or infrastructure projects provided for in this plan. WMAL's property has served as a de facto park for residents for decades. Yet, much of the green space provided in the new development will simply be required stormwater management facilities, or other environmental/conservation features not necessarily usable by residents.
Residents are also concerned about the "island" nature of the tower site, and its minimal roadway connections to major routes - and how those factors will impact their neighborhood streets. They've reached out to the County Council, but were told to buzz off by Councilmember George Leventhal, who is currently seeking to be their next County Executive. "The County Council has no role in the approval of Toll Brothers' application," Leventhal replied to one email from residents, arguing that he has "no mechanism" to take action on the proposal. In reality, Leventhal and the Council have the ultimate mechanisms - they appoint the Planning Board, and provide a vast quantity of taxpayer funds they could threaten to cut off at any time.
"Am I upset? Yes," resident Eleni Martin wrote to planner Patrick Butler, in regard to the Planning Board having rezoned the WMAL site with minimal resident input in that decision. "It infuriates me that there wasn't any targeted outreach effort to raise awareness about what was being done...But seeking real honest input ahead of actions doesn't seem to be how Montgomery County works."
"It is a strong desire of the communities to improve the ratio of parkland to the proposed and very dense preliminary plan," George Wolfand, President of the West Fernwood Citizens Association wrote to the Planning Board in March.
Resident Karin Krchnak suggested Planning Director Gwen Wright and the County Council live with her for a day, "to see what we have to handle on Fernwood Road," which many Bethesda residents know is a disaster during rush hour as it is. Krchnak called the traffic study done for the project "a complete joke."
But in addition to the impact on the main thoroughfares, there is equal concern about what the poor traffic circulation to the site will do to neighborhood streets. Dan Spiro, who has lived in Stratton Woods since 1962, warned the Planning Board in a letter last week that "people will die if Renita [Lane] is opened to through traffic, as the plan suggests," because of the narrow road, street parking, and blind curves.
To sign up to testify on Thursday, click here.
One resident, Brian Krantz, delivered some visual testimony on traffic issues in the neighborhood: