The county planning department is scheduled to present preliminary recommendations for a new Bethesda sector plan by mid-November. From all indications, developers are seeking a fast-track plan to expand development in downtown Bethesda and in areas adjacent to the Town than is permitted under the current plan.
The county’s policy to locate growth and development near major transit stops makes sense, but the impact of this growth on infrastructure has not been adequately addressed. Excellent schools, parks, public transportation, pedestrian safety, and roadways have long been the foundation of Montgomery County’s high quality of life.
It is important that county planning officials and our elected representatives hear your views on what should and should not be included in the Bethesda sector plan.
At risk in the new plan is the fate of one critical asset to the Town -- the buffer zone created by the parking lots separating our neighborhood from development along Wisconsin Avenue. County plans call for substantially diminishing these parking lots and replacing them with large “transitional” buildings. Only a narrow “Eastern Greenway” would remain.
A sense of how building development affects the adjacent neighborhood can be seen in the two large buildings nearing completion across from Barnes and Noble. Formerly, parking lots buffered the adjacent single-family homes of the Sacks community from this commercial area.
To increase county awareness of these concerns, the Town has joined a coalition of 18 residential communities surrounding Bethesda. That group has written to and met with county planning officials (see letter to Planning Board chair on the Town’s website) and has asked, for example, that the new plan take into account the impact on schools, traffic and parks of the increased residential density proposed both in the plan and in nearby communities. Separately, the Town has retained legal counsel to work with us to help protect our buffer areas and is following, through the Long Range Planning Committee, developments related to the downtown plan.
Our elected representatives need to hear from you. Every voice counts as the sector plan takes shape.
County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson
County Council President Craig Rice
County Council Representative Roger Berliner