Monday, August 24, 2015

Washington Episcopal School senior housing project seeks extension in Bethesda (Photos)

The developer of a controversial, 97' tall senior housing project on the property of the Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda is seeking an extension of the project review period for its project plan, and a site plan amendment. It is asking for a new deadline of December 31 from the Montgomery County Planning Board. The board will take up the matter at its September 3 meeting.

Jody Kline, the applicant's attorney, says the developer needs more time to complete a traffic signal study at the intersection of River Road and Landy Lane. That proposed traffic signal has been part of the project plan since it was approved by a previous Planning Board in 2008. Kline says the study cannot begin until mid-September. They also need to prepare a Warrant Study, which then must be reviewed and approved by the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Proposed location of a
new traffic signal at
River Road and Landy Lane
The traffic signal itself is controversial, because it would be the fourth light in that single 5200 block of River Road. And three of those four lights would all be clumped between Ridgefield Road and the Capital Crescent Trail bridge. The upside of allowing a more direct pedestrian and bicycle crossing alternative (to walking all the way around and over the trail bridge) has to be weighed against further slowing already-congested rush hour traffic on River Road.
Traffic signal overkill?
In this photo illustration I created,
the gold stars show how close
the 3 traffic signals would be;
a fourth is less than half-a-block
east of Landy Lane at
Little Falls Parkway
New development being planned through the Westbard Sector Plan rewrite places even more pressure on making a wise decision about this traffic light.

More controversial is the height of the building, which will be 8 stories in close proximity to single-family homes in Kenwood. While the developer, Sheridan Development Company, has the benefit of an existing approval for the project, 8 stories conforms to neither the new zoning code, nor to the heights proposed in the draft Westbard Sector Plan.

The WES project will contain 121 senior housing units, for residents 55-and-older. While it will not burden crowded local schools, it will produce an estimated 236 vehicles under the latest FHWA and Census numbers of 1.95 vehicles per household. That number could jump to 276 under the February 2015 study by Experian Automotive, which collects and analyzes automotive data.

Transit is poor in the River Road/Westbard area, with no direct access to downtown Bethesda.

Planning staff is recommending approval of the extension.

There are several other Bethesda items on the agenda for September 3:

The Lauren ultra-luxury condo project is seeking a Site Plan Amendment to relocate a bench, alter landscaping plans, and relocate a transformer on the site. That bench was determined to be a "pedestrian hazard" in its original location by the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services.

Staff is recommending approval of this request, as well.

Finally, the extension Douglas Development is seeking for its 8008 Wisconsin project is on the agenda. According to Douglas' attorney, Emily Vaias, the applicant needs more time to complete a noise study, and would like to simultaneously file the site plan and preliminary project plan findings.

Once again, staff is recommending approval of this request.

Top rendering via Sheridan Development Company
/Montgomery County Planning Department

Photo: Robert Dyer


Anonymous said...

Could they put a service road running parallel to River Road, and then have only one traffic light? This is how they do it on Rockville Pike near Best Buy. You turn into the service road, then drive along that to turn into your destination.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the trail use bridge - I have always wondered since the first day they built it whether or not they would put concrete stairs on the lower sections on each side of the bridge.

This way pedestrians along the sidewalk of River Road could quickly get to the bridge without having to go all the way down to where it begins. It would have to be on the lower sections and of course it would also create the issue of someone potentially walking up the steps and into the path of a cyclist/runners/etc..

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they actually timed the sequential traffic lights for smooth traffic flow?

Anonymous said...

The entire project is a scam. It's only purpose is to provide more money to a private school. We do NOT need a traffic signal at the intersection - unless - the road continues to Little Falls. Washington Episcopal School has closed off the cut through that was extremely useful and now wants to have their cake and eat it too by slowing down River Road. There are many reasons that this development should not happen. Please do not allow this project to go forward.

Anonymous said...

Why does Dyer hate old people?

Robert Dyer said...

1:28: Says the guy who calls residents who oppose the Westbard sector plan "gray heads".