A return to the old stomping grounds. Westland MS, where I was not a student but did take karate lessons held there by my gym teacher, Mr. Looney, in first grade. For the record, I have a blue belt in karate. Did you know that 99% of chopping a board in half with your bare hand is mental? And I used to play soccer on the Westland field during summer camp at Little Flower School, which is right next door. Westland was called Western back then, as George Leventhal can tell you. Yes, he just mentioned tonight that he lived in this area until 1976, and attended Western.
Well, I still live in the neighborhood, so it was a short trip to Westland, which was the location of a County Council Candidates' Forum hosted by a coalition of civic associations. The topic was the Westbard Sector plan, and having lived a few blocks from Westbard all my life (on one side or the other), the future plans for this area are obviously of great concern to me.
I got there just before 8:00 and encountered Roger Berliner in front of the school. Mr. Berliner was cordial as usual and this was a big night for him and Howard Denis who both want to be our next Councilman in District 1.
Inside the All-Purpose room, I ran into two of my Democratic opponents. It was interesting to me, and should be interesting to anyone who lives in the neighborhoods surrounding Westbard, that our current Delegates left before the end of the meeting. Unlike my opponents, I stayed until the end. Remember who is serious about the Westbard Sector plan on Election Day. I've lived in the area my whole life, and I'm not about to let some outside developers come in and destroy the neighborhood. I think it's imperative that we elect a candidate from the neighborhood to represent us at the local and State level during this redevelopment, and I'm the only Delegate candidate from the neighborhood.
Much like last week's low-income housing debate, the evening was mostly a superficial affair. It's not the Council candidates' fault; they don't live here and don't even know what the "Westbard Sector" is. Except for Mr. Leventhal, and Bill Jacobs, who scored mega points for mentioning Farrell's Restaurant. Banana split. Arcade machines. Player piano. Farrell's, not Westland. So how can they really tell us what they're going to do when they have no idea what they are discussing? The result was generalized talk about zoning-text amendments, development, etc. The candidates didn't address the results of the neighborhood survey, in terms of what specific development we do or do not want.
There was a great turnout, and it's good to know that so many people are also concerned about this. In talking to many of my neighbors at the meeting, I think they are in agreement that we want redevelopment that will preserve, and better serve, our neighborhood. I also met Andy Russo, President of our Springfield Civic Association. He's not only working on this, but also the planned expansion by the Fourth Presbyterian Church.
So what should be done in the Westbard Sector? Nobody told us tonight, but here are a few items from my own Westbard plan. The Westwood Shopping Center should be redone and include at least one family restaurant, like we used to have when Farrell's was open. Strike Bethesda is not a family restaurant. Second, we need a full-service, 2006-era grocery store. Whether that is a new type of Super Giant, or Wegman's or Harris-Teeter, isn't something I can answer. People want large product selection, in-store restaurants and more carry-out options. Rite-Aid should stay, although a 24-hour drugstore would be nice. Personally, I want to keep the large, open surface parking. I've heard some rumors about underground parking, which is unsafe and undesirable.
In terms of housing, single-family homes and some townhouses would be acceptable for Westbard, if they retain green space and what tree canopy there is down there. But over my dead body are there going be high-rise commercial and residential buildings on Westbard. Just the fact that it's been proposed is, frankly, outrageous. Are you as concerned about this as I am? Keep in mind on Election Day that our current Delegates get large checks from a Who's Who of developers and developers' attorneys. In the future, I will write in more detail my proposal for Westbard and River Road, which will promote our goal of preserving and better serving our neighborhood.