Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Action Group requests new Bethesda plan

Below is the text of the January 15, 2013 letter from the Woodmont Triangle Action Group to the Montgomery County Planning Board concerning the status of the Bethesda Central Business District Sector Plan.

The Honorable Françoise M. Carrier, Chair

Montgomery County Planning Board

Re: Request for Bethesda Sector Plan Update

Dear Ms. Carrier:

The Woodmont Triangle Action Group (WTAG) is writing to request acceleration of the timing for the Bethesda Central Business District (CBD) Sector Plan update. As you know, the 1994 Sector Plan is now 19 years old and during these years development in and close to the CBD has been tremendous. While the 2006 Woodmont Triangle Amendment to the Sector Plan provided the community an opportunity to articulate a vision of future development in Woodmont Triangle, the update was limited to only one part of the CBD.

Due to recent improvement in the economy, there are now a large number of projects in the CBD in various stages of the development process. Those outside Woodmont Triangle are being reviewed and approved based on conditions and assumptions that are almost two decades old. This must create difficulties for the Planning Board and staff to review of development plans in light of current and future conditions and needs.

The past two decades have also seen dramatic changes in areas adjacent to the CBD. Changes to our neighbors at the National Institutes of Health, Naval Surface Activity-Bethesda, and Suburban Hospital profoundly impact the Bethesda CBD. Now is the time to recalibrate the balance of jobs, housing and public amenities that will allow the Bethesda area to continue to function as the economic engine for Montgomery County.

Some members of the WTAG believe the cumulative impact of development in the Bethesda CBD on public services, such as schools, libraries, and recreation should be a consideration when updating the Sector Plan. Timely planning for public facilities and services is critically important as thousands of new residents are added over the next five years and beyond. The new plan could serve as a model for linking anticipated development projects in the CBDwith their impact on shared resources and facilities -- including water and sewer infrastructure, roads, transit and school capacity, recreation facilities, among others. Furthermore, these considerations would be best viewed from the perspective of changing demographics, reflecting both increased density and an aging population.

For the reasons stated above, we encourage you to accelerate the sector plan update. The WTAG stands ready to assist in any way possible.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this request and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions.


Sue Knapp, Chair

About the Woodmont Triangle Action Group:

The Action Group coordinates and monitors the progress of development, retail revitalization, and the provision of amenities and facilities in the Woodmont Triangle district of downtown Bethesda. Creation of the Action Group was a recommendation of the 2006 Woodmont Triangle Amendment to the Sector Plan for the Bethesda CBD.

Appointed by the Planning Board, membership includes representatives from the M-NCPPC, the Bethesda Urban Partnership, Civic Associations, Bethesda Transportation Solutions, the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, and other appropriate groups.