Monday, June 12, 2017

Residents furious as WMAL tower site preliminary plan reaches Planning Board Thusday

Developer Toll Brothers hasn't lived up to its promises, and the Montgomery County Council and Planning Board aren't holding them accountable, neighbors of the WMAL tower site in Bethesda say. The preliminary plan to redevelop that property at 7115 Greentree Road with 310 homes will go before the Planning Board this Thursday, June 15, and planners are recommending its approval.

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.

"Am I upset?
YES!"

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."

"People will die"

"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."

"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:

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the WMAL antenna farm is historic? Did you also know that the Montgomery County Planning Department never evaluated the property for designation in the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation. Why not? Because it doesn't have a pretty art moderne transmitter building like the WTOP site in Wheaton.

Anonymous said...

So what would you want Levanthal and the county council to do about this property? What would be an appropriate course of action in your opinion?

Anonymous said...

Bro, gotta update them protest signs.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the County will widen Fernwood Road to 6 lanes with a median, and eliminate the turn restrictions at Democracy Boulevard.

Anonymous said...

Sooooo, the residents were using someone else's property as their own and now they're angry because they won't be able to use it anymore? Sounds reasonable...if you're a progressive Bethesdan that always thinks they can tell other people what they can and cannot do on their own property.

Anonymous said...

That protest sign is way outdated. Use one from one of the more recent protests.

Anonymous said...

We should be making developers add amenities to their projects, if we did not enforce that, they just go ahead and build as many homes as they can, bunch them tightly together and you get an island. Montgomery County is becoming one bit Potterville....and I'm waiting for the neon lights, and strip joints....

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The additional traffic will have a ripple effect on all routes from the beltway to Downtown Bethesda/NIH: Bradley Blvd; Greetree Road; Fernwood; Old Georgetown and 355. A decade from now Marriott will greatly regret building its HQ in a location that is accessible ONLY by public transit.

Anonymous said...

That is why we need a thru traffic highway like Robert suggested that goes straight through downtown DC. Robert Dyer for County Council 2018!!!

Anonymous said...

Bradley Boulevard was supposed to become a multi-lane divided highway. In several places you can see the wider right-of-way between the curb and the fences an hedgerows of the homes along it.

Yet you never hear Dyer kvetching about this unbuilt highway which would have relieved congestion on other nearby roads. Hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Stop saying AMENITIES and be specific. The word amenities does not work and it's not clear enough. I do agree with the need for this to be addressed in the plan, which seems crazy.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dyer - looks like Gymboree is closing at Montgomery Mall. (And Wheaton Plaza, too.)

Anonymous said...

10:31 AM just scooped a local blogger

Anonymous said...

Great...so the Marriott employees will still use Democracy exit and they'll now also add to the Fernwood/Bradley mess to get to their new offices.
Sure...bring on more houses
What could go wrong?

Anonymous said...

We could all elect Dyer to clean up this mess, then blame Dyer when it isn't fixed.

Anonymous said...

The difference between booming "Edge Cities" like Reston and Tysons and struggling edge cities like Silver Spring and Bethesda is access to highways. The absence of an easy link to interstate caliber roads will always limit the desirability of edge cities as business centers.

One might reasonably question whether downtown Bethesda SHOULD aspire to be a large scale commercial center, but, to the extent that Montgomery County tries to fit that square peg into the round hole they will always be swimming against the tide. The logical place for Montgomery County to push as a commercial/corporate HQ is the 270 corridor from Rock Spring North - but to pull that off, the County must connect that corridor to the Metro System just as Virginia did wither their Silver Line.

Anonymous said...

"...tries to fit that square peg into the round hole they will always be swimming against the tide."

What an awful mixed metaphor.

Anonymous said...

Will connecting I270 corridor with BRT be sufficient?

It was short sighted to not build the corridor cities rail that was on the boards.

Anonymous said...

He'll have excuses I imagine.

Roald said...

This is why Robert has my vote! Bringing light to issues the council won't touch.

Skippy said...

Right on Roald!

Anonymous said...

The area as it stands + 300 more houses needs more park and sports field space.

Anonymous said...

I hope Skippy and Roald make a baby and call him Skoald!

Anonymous said...

Yet another plan with inadequate public amenities. Next step: the Planning Board meeting with the pre-agreed outcome over residents' objections.

If I sound cynical, it's because I am.

As for George Leventhal's impotent hand-wringing: exactly why the MoCo planning process needs an overhaul. Communities and residents are ignored with impunity.

Anonymous said...

Is this satire? Bethesda's northern border is an interstate highway. Silver Spring has an interstate that runs literally straight through the middle of it. These two cities are not lacking in highway access.

Do you want to know what's brought the "boom" to Reston and Tysons? I'll tell you: METRO! The region's commitment to connecting those areas to transit has led to new investment as the lines are built.

Anonymous said...

The county has a lot of needs. Parks is a privilege.

Anonymous said...

Bringing light is one thing, having an agreeable plan of action is another. Dyer takes any counter opinion and insults and rejects it with prejudice.

Anonymous said...

Just curious what it is Levanthal can or should do?

Anonymous said...

The council should be requiring more amenities. Yes, it cuts into developers' profitability. But the county is not a marginal asset. The council is too quick to concede. Developers will still build here even if they're not permitted their desired density. Even with amenities, the margins in this area still outperform other development opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Apart from Montgomery Mall/Rock Spring and Tower Oaks, a heavy rail line along I-270 would essentially duplicate the western Red Line. And this would be done solely for the sake of propping up poorly located and obsolete suburban office parks.

Robert Dyer said...

3:48: The Beltway doesn't provide direct access to Dulles Airport, and most certainly doesn't run "straight through" downtown Silver Spring. Dulles-bound/originating traffic accounts for 25% of the congestion on the American Legion Bridge, according to the MWCOG study.

Montgomery County needs direct highway and rail access to Dulles to compete with Tysons. We can have both with a new highway and bridge across the Potomac north of the Legion bridge.

4:25: Actually, your inept County Council (and the City of Rockville, I might add) are already transforming those office parks into residential communities. So there may well be sufficient density for heavy rail at some point in that corridor.

11:28: You are absolutely correct that the I-270 corridor is one of the places for corporate growth. But we can achieve that much more cheaply with a new Potomac River bridge to Dulles Airport. With a private toll facility, the cost to taxpayers could be close to nothing, and we would reap all of the revenue benefits from finally getting a major employer to relocate here (which hasn't happened in two decades, thanks to our impotent County Council).

Anonymous said...

"The Beltway doesn't provide direct access to Dulles Airport"

It does for me, here in Bethesda, and for everyone else in the densely populated areas of Montgomery County. And it does for you in Westbard, too.

"and most certainly doesn't run "straight through" downtown Silver Spring."

Try reading more carefully, Dyer. 3:48 didn't say "downtown Silver Spring. Silver Spring stretches all the way from the District line to Leisure World.

"Dulles-bound/originating traffic accounts for 25% of the congestion on the American Legion Bridge, according to the MWCOG study."

Bullshit.

Robert Dyer said...

5:12: A foul-mouthed response doesn't change the facts. Are you now challenging the MWCOG official study results? Not a solid position to take, my friend. Robert Dyer using official MWCOG numbers, and "Anonymous" using....? Hysterical.

If you think Beltway to Dulles Toll Road is "direct," whether from downtown Bethesda or the I-270 corridor (the latter being where we would want to locate these large corporate headquarters and research/development facilities), you simply have another definition of "direct" than the rest of us. The Beltway is a long drive north from downtown during rush hour. That's why we were supposed to have an interstate connection to the downtown.

Anonymous said...

"Are you now challenging the MWCOG official study results?"

No, just your blatant lying about what they actually said.

Anonymous said...

"The Beltway is a long drive north from downtown during rush hour. That's why we were supposed to have an interstate connection to the downtown."

Huh? What does this have to do with Dulles and the Second Crossing? The Second Crossing would be even farther north from "downtown".

Anonymous said...

Four days late, Dyer!

#Scooped

#Plagiarism

#Snoribund

#ReheatedNews

#BeepBeepBeep

Anonymous said...

I don't think a new heavy rail line is needed in the 270 corridor. But if there was one, you'd see those suburban office parks redeveloped pretty quickly into mixed-use communities like Pike & Rose or Reston Town Center.

The Purple Line, on the other hand, will be a game changer.

Anonymous said...

"That's why we were supposed to have an interstate connection to the downtown."

An interstate downtown would do nothing for downtown but destroy it. Cities like Boston and San Francisco are *removing* their freeways for good reason:

Highways are dead.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this site zoned at the same time as all the other houses around it? Wouldn't they all have the same rights then? So any existing house complaining about infrastructure and school crowding is equally to blame?

Anonymous said...

I would not vote for him on lack of quality character in my humble opinion.

Robert Dyer said...

5:39: You've obviously lost your wits - the numbers are right from the damn study report. 24% in one direction and 25% in the other direction between Dulles and Maryland.

5:41: It has nothing to do with a second crossing. It has to do with your false claim of easy access to the Beltway. Try telling people stuck on the roads around NIH/Walter Reed about that during rush hour, and duck!

6:08: You're really claiming a short info blurb on the fact that the plan will be taken up has anything remotely to do with this in-depth report on resident complaints about the WMAL plan? Laughable!

6:28: The Purple Line is only a game changer if you own property along the route to redevelop. That's the whole reason the thing was extended to New Carrollton. No corporate executive has ever said he or she would relocate here based on the Purple Line. Nobody cares.

6:35: Highways are the biggest bang for the buck - they move the most people for the least money. The Rockville Freeway would carry more commuters per day than the entire BRT system combined.

6:59: You may have missed in the article that the WMAL site was rezoned to a higher density than the SFH neighborhood around it. So, no, the current residents aren't to blame.

7:00: Helpless Hans Riemer is disappointed you would say that about him!

Anonymous said...

I think it was zoned to a higher density. So only a percentage point or two higher to blame. Lol. But that's the only percentage that matters, right?

Anonymous said...

WMAL was zoned for residential ~1989, decades after the existing SFH are there. There is plenty of highway access nearby...in fact auto is the only viable means for getting around except for a few outlier situations. The problem is that the local roads are congested. Unless I missed something, the zoning is the same as the existing good (R90). Thing is, R90 ain't what it used to be. Now there is the optional methods which allows townhouses....which is fine, but the philosophy is that you have less personal property and more communal property (i.e. "open space"). The open space requirement for the optional method used to be 30%, but the developer mafia got that down to 15%. The vast majority of open space in the WMAL plan is the forest conservation areas, which can't be used by the public, minus the walking path. Oh, and the WJ cluster is way overcrowding and the plans to keep building more and more keep coming.

Anonymous said...

Perspective. A friend visiting from Oklahoma kept mentioning that everywhere she drove there were highway exits. "Guess in DC you need lots of escape routes." ;)

Anonymous said...

3:41 thanks for your comment, that was really informative and rational.

Not defending the development, but it sounds like the capacity for usage of schools would thus be the same as the houses around it?

Robert Dyer said...

Wouldn't the existing neighborhood have been developed as R-60? What's around the site is way less dense than the Toll Brothers project will be, so the relative burden on schools will be greater on the WMAL site.

Anonymous said...

I have been to Oklahoma once. When I was there, there is very long stretches of highway where nobody lives. Sounds like your friend wanted to escape the loneliness ;)

G. Money said...

10:08: How many corporate executives have said they would relocate here if there was a second river crossing?

Anonymous said...

"finally getting a major employer to relocate here (which hasn't happened in two decades, thanks to our impotent County Council)."

In your idiotic fixation on Fortune 500 corporate headquarters jobs, you keep ignoring the fact that such jobs comprise less than 1% of the total jobs in such companies. And as we've seen many times, they are the first to be made redundant during corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Anonymous said...

6:57 AM City of Rockville & MoCo paid an fortune to keep Choice Hotels HQ in the county and lure them to Rockville's Town Center.
They understand the importance and economic benefits of having a Fortune 500 headquarters.

Anonymous said...

Tysons is the Corporate Center of the DMV with spokes to Dulles, Down I-66 and across 495 to Rock Spring

- most significant PRIVATE industry is centered there

The Government is centered in DC/Arlington

Downtown Bethesda has NIH and not much else.

This distribution of business ensures that Fairfax County will continue to be the economic engine of the DMV - there isn't anything Montgomer County can do except try to coax government agencies into the county - not likely.

Barwood Sucks said...

7:54 AM, I disagree with you solely because I am a Robert shill account.

Anonymous said...

So are you saying paying to incentivize Fortune 500 companies is a good thing or bad thing?

Bethesdaguy said...

It's interesting to me... WJ did not want children from the area behind White Flint Mall attending their school because of overcrowding concerns. I wonder how this is going to work out.

Robert Dyer said...

6:57: Aerospace, defense, and biotech corporations also bring research and development, and manufacturing facilities. Your fantasy that Lockheed or Northrop or SpaceX are merely offices with pencil pushers is just that, a fantasy.

Wrol said...

That's actually really helpful followup on your Fortune 500 insistence. I actually really appreciate learning more about your position than just resorting to insults. Is there any published data to back that up? I don't doubt it anecdotally that sounds like a really good point.