Friday, September 25, 2015
The developers speak: Westbard Public Hearing Part III
Michael Berfield, Executive Vice-President of Development for Equity One, released the following statement following the two public hearings on Thursday evening:
“Equity One appreciates the opportunity to participate in these public hearings. We have been very pleased with the support that our plan has received from the community and believe that it is a reflection of the time and effort we put into finding out what the surrounding neighborhoods wanted to see on these properties. We look forward to continuing the public review process and are hopeful that the final result will allow us to deliver the vibrant mixed-use development envisioned.
“Our plan is the result of significant outreach to the community and also reflects Equity One’s own experience in developing first class shopping environments. We are gratified with the response we have seen at our community meetings to this plan and believe it will provide tremendous benefits to the surrounding neighborhoods. While we understand there are still concerns about other elements of the sector plan, we are confident that the redevelopment proposed for our sites addresses the concerns of the majority of the surrounding communities, and we look forward to being neighbors for a very long time.”
Earlier in the day, Aakash Thakkar, a Senior VP of Development with EYA, testified at the afternoon hearing. "This site is not downtown Bethesda," he acknowledged. "We recognize this is a location more neighborhood in nature." Thakkar said EYA is targeting its townhomes and other proposed residential buildings on the Equity One properties toward empty nesters, which would prevent "a significant impact on schools."
He said the company's Park Potomac and Little Falls Place projects in Montgomery County reflected that demographic, although neither of those developments were in the coveted Walt Whitman school cluster, which has been shown to generate students at a higher rate in multifamily housing.
Meanwhile, Capital Properties took a less diplomatic approach. The firm indicated that it plans to seek high-rises right next to the Westbard Mews and Westwood Mews townhomes, arguing that their non-conforming high-rise, Park Bethesda, somehow justifies it. But Park Bethesda could not be built today under current zoning. Mews residents who testified during the hearings said townhomes would be more appropriate adjacent to their own.
CP also made pretty clear that it intends to use the spectre of a connector road linking Crown Street to River Road to blackmail the Mews communities into accepting their plans. Otherwise, it was intimated, they will not allow that road to be shifted onto their private property further up Westbard Avenue.