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Posted on: August 24, 2021

Farm Women’s Market Parks Development Project

Following is information related to the Farm Women's Market parks development project.

November 2022:
On November 29, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved an $11.75 million contribution to build two new urban parks on the parking lots next to the Farm Women’s Market. A definitive financial plan for this $27.7 million project is now in place. The other financing components include $4.5 million from the Town, $8 million from the developers, and $3.5 million from the State. The project also includes a new underground garage that will replace most of the existing surface parking spaces and undergrounding the utility wires around the new parks.  

At the November 29 County Council meeting, Councilmember Friedson thanked the Town for its support and stated the importance of our financial commitment to the successful realization of the financial plan. Councilmember Friedson had also noted, at a committee meeting held on November 28, that the County Council had received letters or testimony supporting this project from 12 municipalities and neighborhood associations in the Bethesda area.

The four-way partnership comprised of the Parks Department, the County, the Town, and the developers will now work together to prepare the legal documents. The Parks Department also will host a public charette process early in the new year to hear from area residents about possible amenities for the new parks. We look forward to the engagement of our residents in this process. 

The developers hope to submit their site plan to the Planning Board by next summer or fall and break ground a year later in 2024. The redevelopment and expansion of the Farm Women’s Market and construction of the new park behind the Market should be completed in late 2026 or early 2027, and the park on the adjacent lot between Leland and Walsh should be finished later in 2027. 

A great deal of work lies ahead of us, but this vote marks a crucial milestone for this transformative project.    

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On November 15, Mayor Rush testified before the County Council in support of funding for two new parks adjacent to the Farm Women's Market.  A final vote by the County Council is scheduled for November 29.  The Planning Board approved funding for the parks on November 3.

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On November 3, the newly installed Montgomery County Planning Board unanimously approved a total of $5 million to support the creation of the new urban parks to replace the surface parking lots behind the Farm Women’s Market and between Leland and Walsh streets. Of this amount, $2.5 million will come from the Parks Department and another $2.5 million is funding from the State being channeled through the Parks Department. Mayor Rush testified on behalf of the Town (forward to 2:01:55). This is a significant milestone for this project.  

The next step is seeking approval from the County Council, which must vote both on the appropriation just approved by the Planning Board, and a companion request for $9.225 million from the County Executive to help build the new underground garage which will largely replace the surface parking spaces. A public hearing for both appropriations is scheduled for November 15; committee review for November 28; and final Council action for November 29.

These funds, combined with approximately $8 million from the developers and $5.5 million from the Town ($4.5 million from our funds, and an additional $1 million from the State that will be channeled through the Town), complete the financial plan for the $27.7 million project. Of the money from the Town, $4.4 million will be used to complete funding of the parks, and the remaining $1.1 million will be used for construction of the garage and associated infrastructure. 

Following County Council action, if supportive, the parties will negotiate and ratify the necessary legal documents. The Parks Department will then host a public charette process to hear from area residents about possible amenities for the new parks. The developers hope to submit their site plan to the Planning Board by next summer or fall, and break ground a year later, in 2024. The redevelopment and expansion of the Farm Women’s Market and construction of the new park behind the Market should be completed in late 2026 or early 2027, and the park on the adjacent lot between Leland and Walsh should be finished later in 2027. 

While there is a long way to go, the vote yesterday was an important milestone and will be noted by the County Council when they deliberate on the appropriations later this month. It is our sincere hope that on November 29, a definitive financial plan for these parks will be in place, and that the four-way partnership comprised of the Parks Department, the County, the Town, and the developers can get to work on this transformative project.

October 2022:
At the October 12 Council meeting, Mayor Rush reported that, due to the resignation of the entire County Planning Board on October 12, the Board’s October 13 public hearing on the Parks Department’s appropriation of $2.5 million is delayed.  As a result, the project partners are seeking a path to bring this appropriation directly to the County Council.

Mayor Rush also reported on his discussions with County officials regarding the separate $9.25 million appropriation request being prepared by the County Executive’s office. All involved with the project are working to provide information on both appropriations to the County Council soon, so that the County Council can review and vote on them prior to the completion of the County Council’s term at the end of November. Councilmember Rubin recommended reaching out to state officials to request assistance in this effort.  

The Council discussed the use of a portion of the Town’s ARPA allocation for the project and the timing of Town funding.  

The Council discussed sources and uses of funds for the project and how the Town’s contributions should be allocated among the various project components, with the overall goal of maximizing the Town’s financing specifically for the development of the parks. Council also recognized that due to restrictions on allocations from the other parties, some of the Town’s contribution will be needed for the garage and undergrounding utilities. 

The Council discussed the potential for cost overruns, due to the current levels of inflation, and agreed that the percent of Town funding for a particular park component must not be construed as representing a commitment to meet that percentage for any potential cost overrun on that component.  

August 2022:
We expect that this fall will be a crucial time to finalize arrangements for the development of the new parks associated with the redevelopment of the Farm Women’s Market. The four parties involved -- the Town, the Parks Department, the developers, and the County, through the Department of Transportation -- are exchanging drafts of a Letter of Intent (“LOI”) that will set out the general responsibilities of the parties, including the Town’s commitment, revised by the Town Council in July, to contribute $4.5 million. Upon completion of this LOI, the County Executive will send a request to the County Council to amend the County budget to include the $9.25 million that represents the County’s portion of the funding.

Following the execution of the LOI, the parties will begin work on the definitive documents. We also expect that a design review, or charette, process will be conducted this fall. During this process, the Town and other surrounding communities will have the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed design for the parks and the amenities that they will contain. We will provide regular updates to residents on this project. 

July 2022:
On July 21, the Council discussed the Farm Women’s Market parks development project, including a revised draft Letter of Intent (LOI) from the County. The Council noted many improvements in this latest version that address concerns the Town had previously raised. Among other points, the new version provides for an increase in County funding from $7.75 million to $9.25 million, thereby eliminating a funding gap in the initial version of the LOI. Specific mention is now included of a public engagement process that will involve the Town and others in the planning of the parks and amenities. The Council also discussed remaining issues, including the need in the final documents to address the prospect of cost overruns. Mayor Rush noted that the County Executive will send the request for a budget amendment to the County Council upon execution of the LOI. The Council agreed on the importance of completing the LOI during August so that the amendment can be submitted in September and considered by the current County Council. 

The Council also discussed a County request for the Town to consider increasing its financial commitment to the Farm Women’s Market parks development project from $4 million to $4.5 million. (In November 2021, the Council voted unanimously to appropriate up to $4 million to this project, with conditions.). The Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to authorize, with conditions, an appropriation of $4.5 million for the project.

June 2022:
On June 28, the Town Council held a work session to discuss a response to a draft Letter of Intent (LOI) related to the Farm Women's Market parks development project, including a County request for the Town to consider increasing its financial commitment to the project from $4 million to $4.5 million. In November 2021, the Council voted unanimously to appropriate up to $4 million to this project, with conditions.

At the June meeting, the Council voted unanimously to appropriate an additional $500,000 to the project, with certain conditions as outlined below, and subject to a public hearing at its July 21 meeting. 

  • The state funds provided to the Town for the project will be spent on both parks, per the requirements of the state legislation.
  • The Town will earmark an amount of its contribution to the cost of building the Lot 10 park such that the Town’s contribution, combined with the funds from other parties, fulfills 100% of the funding for the Lot 10 park.  
  • The County will assume ultimate responsibility for sourcing the $1,475,000 identified as “Other Contributions." Under no circumstances will the Town be asked to contribute to fill this gap.
  • Regarding the requirement for the Bethesda Parking Lot District to be paid fair market value for Lot 10, if there is any prospect that this requirement will have to be satisfied with cash, then a source of payment of this amount needs to be identified. 
  • All parties will contribute their funds in a timely way during construction, such that a construction loan is not required, and the project thereby avoids costs of interest during construction and related fees and taxes. The Town will need assurance that all parties understand this and will make their pro-rata payments upon calls for funding from the developers. 

The Council also agreed to substantive revisions to the LOI, which will be the subject of negotiations among the involved parties. A clean version of the LOI with the Town's revisions is available for review here.

We encourage residents to provide comments on the proposed further appropriation and the draft LOI to the Town Council by email to townoffice@townofchevychase.org or at the July 21 hearing. Thank you.    

April 2022:
The Maryland General Assembly passed the capital budget for Fiscal Year 2023. The budget includes a total of $3.5 million earmarked to support the creation of new parks associated with the redevelopment of the Farm Women’s Market. $3 million is included in this upcoming fiscal year, and another $500,000 is pre-authorized to be included in the budget for FY24. In an April 7 letter, the Town Council extended its appreciation for State support for this vital project.

February 2022:
On February 9, Mayor Rush provided testimony to the County Council  regarding lack of funding for this project in the County Executive’s proposed Capital Improvement Program budget and Town efforts to encourage the County Executive to amend the proposed budget to include this project. He also reported on meetings Vice Mayor Lane and he have held with six County Councilmembers, all of whom have expressed strong support for the creation of these parks.

November 2021
The Town Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing the appropriation of up to $4 million, subject to certain conditions, for a parks creation project as part of the redevelopment of the Farm Women’s Market site. Town officials have been participating in discussions with the developers and the County’s Transportation and Parks departments, regarding a financing plan for the building of the underground garage and constructing parks on the land currently used for the two surface parking lots.

September 2021:
On September 20, Town residents received an update on the project from EYA, Bernstein Management Corporation, and the County's Department of Transportation.  Links to materials from the September meeting are below.

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