Sunday, April 10, 2016

Toll Bros. unveils plan for WMAL site; residents want data on traffic, schools (Photos)

Representatives of Toll Brothers promised to deliver a "rich and varied neighborhood" filled with winding trails, forests and a clubhouse with pool and fitness center on the WMAL transmitter site in Bethesda yesterday morning, at a community meeting held in the North Bethesda Middle School cafeteria.

328 units will be split between single-family homes and townhomes, with 42 affordable units. It will be a "neighborhood designed around the pedestrian," they said. Residents who packed the room were more concerned about the other way of getting around - cars - and how they would impact already-congested roads nearby. The site is located at 7115 Greentree Road.

What will be done about the "traffic that's gonna get dumped onto Greentree, Newbold [Drive], Michaels [Drive] and other neighborhood streets" like Fernwood Road, one resident asked. Nancy Randall, principal associate with Wells & Associates, said the traffic study has not been completed yet. "How many automobiles?" asked another resident. Randall said the estimates show 209 additional peak A.M. trips, and 271 peak P.M. trips, would be generated by the new development. "Oh, come on!" shouted an incredulous resident from the back of the room.

One resident noted that the existing neighborhood is not within easy walking distance of any retail or restaurants, which will encourage heavy use of automobiles. Another resident of Greentree said the light at Michaels and Fernwood is already bad. Now, "you're adding another 300 homes." Randall said many options are on the table, including shuttle buses and traffic calming on nearby streets like Greyswood.

A resident of Burdette Road asked if the study would take into account further-away intersections that would be impacted by the additional traffic. He said drivers would likely be seeking to access the Beltway via Burdette Road to River Road, or via Old Georgetown Road. Randall said the study wouldn't extend that far, but would examine intersections like Bradley Boulevard and Burdette, and Democracy Boulevard and Fernwood Road. She said the "layer cake" study Toll is perfoming will not only take into account the traffic impact of its project, but also existing developments, and developments that have been approved but not necessarily built yet.

Resident Brian Thompson said he wanted to second an earlier humorous suggestion to rename Fernwood "Fernlock" for its notorious traffic. "I plan my day around the gridlock on Fernwood," Thompson said.

"I must officially object to you not reporting to us on the traffic plan," another resident said during the question portion of the meeting. With the traffic study being submitted at the same time as the site plan, he said, "we won't have time to look at it." He added that with the proposal to open access via Renita Lane to fire and rescue traffic, and possibly general traffic, "you will have fatalities on that winding road." That proposal actually came from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, not from Toll Brothers.

"Will you have a [traffic] meeting?" he asked. "I can't commit to Toll Brothers having a meeting," said Adeyinka Ogunlegan, VP of public policy and outreach for Chesapeake Public Strategies, a government and public affairs firm retained by Toll. A hissing sound came from the back of the room.

"Where's the boss?!" someone shouted. "If he's here, why don't you let him come up and talk about it?" he challenged. On cue, Toll Brothers VP John Harris rose from his seat. "I'm the boss, and we will be glad to have another meeting with you," Harris said to applause. Several Toll representatives also promised to provide an email link to residents who signed up for the mailing list (you can get on the list at the project website).

Schools were also a concern, with existing overcrowding in the Walter Johnson cluster. Wendy Calhoun, who will become coordinator for that cluster next year, said the Montgomery County Board of Education had recognized a "deficit of soccer fields since 1978," and requested two fields be built. "I don't see that on this site," she said.

The applicant's attorney, Erica Leatham of Ballard Spahr, LLP, said if a County agency wishes to use 5 acres Toll will make available to the County for purchase for soccer, they have that option. That area is denoted on the map at top in red, at the bottom left corner.

A resident of Brixton Lane termed his children's schools "ridiculously-overcrowded already. How many kids" will the Toll Brothers project generate, he asked.
Leatham said Montgomery County Public Schools calculates those projections, and they have concluded 152 students will be generated. That number was met with laughter in the room. "Can we get realistic numbers?" someone asked. "Isn't this the same MCPS that allowed overcrowding" in the past with lowball projections, another asked. "I can't argue with you," Leatham replied. "These are numbers that have been vetted. These are the numbers we have to use." 

Future residents will "pay a million dollars for a home, and their kids will go to school in a trailer," one resident said.

Some attendees felt the number of homes planned was excessive, with one terming it a "sardine style" development plan. Resident Martha Lewis observed that when she looks at the plan, "it looks like massively-packed houses, as high as you can possibly pack them in."

Construction will be phased due to stormwater management regulations, and will begin at the northern part of the site first. Toll Brothers hopes construction will begin in Fall 2018, and last until 2022. During that time, residents will be able to contact a construction representative with concerns. Greyswood and Fernwood will be bonded for any construction damage from large trucks or heavy equipment during the construction process. A sound barrier will protect homes at the north end from noise generated by the I-270 spur. The existing Beltway sound barrier will be extended west along the south end of the property.

Several residents asked about the environmental impact of developing such a large green space. Toll Brothers assured them that stormwater management after the completion of the project will be "better than it is now, better for the Cheasapeake Bay." Resident Nancy Neff was skeptical. "I am offended by you patting yourselves on the back" for the bioswale plan to manage stormwater. "The best natural drainage is there
right now," she said. She cited the "appalling" drainage systems in King Farm in Rockville, which cause some homes in that community to flood regularly.

"I can assure you, Toll Brothers communities do not have flooded basements." said Tom Mateya, Toll Brothers' Director of Land Development.

Green space includes connected
trails, forested areas, and "The Green," 

 in the center of
the development
 
Bioswales will capture
stormwater throughout
the site
Green lines indicate the trails,
which will be open to the public;
4 sitting/picnic areas, a tot lot, an
"open play area," a clubhouse with pool
and fitness room and a community space
round out the recreation amenities
Packed house at 10:00 AM on a
Saturday, reflecting the depth of
community concerns about the project
 

Timeline of the project
Resident Rachel Berdansky listens
as Toll Brothers representatives
try to answer her question

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Traffic" always refers to other people's cars, never one's own.

Anonymous said...

Complain about high density. Complain about low density. Complain about by-right construction. Complain about master plans. Complain about other people's cars and other people's kids. There's a reason no one cares what NIMBYs say - they're inherently selfish and delusional.

Anonymous said...

"Future residents will "'pay a million dollars for a home, and their kids will go to school in a trailer,' one resident said."

The idea that the quality of our children's public education should be determined by how much their parents paid for their house, is truly poisonous.

Robert Dyer said...

8:40: I don't see parents sacrificing and working hard to make sure their kids are better off than they were as "truly poisonous." I don't think spending on living in a good neighborhood with top schools, rather than on a Ferrari for yourself, as "poisonous."

You know what's poisonous? A Montgomery County political cartel that thinks it is acceptable to have poor schools on one side of the County, and good ones on the other side. They should be booted out of office for failing to provide a great school in every neighborhood.

#MoCoTermLimits #ThrowTheBumsOut

Anonymous said...

And, the pro-developers are off to a feverish start with their blanket NIMBY insult on this issue.

What do we think they'll go to next? The ageist jab? Racism? Nativism? Oh my, the anticipation...

Anonymous said...

NIMBY = People who can do math and care about children.

MCPS Schools are already overcrowded and have been using classroom trailers for over 3 decades. Trailers are temporary structures. The ones used for classrooms are only designed to be used for no more than 10 years. MCPS uses them for decades. MCPS actually glues and staples the old ones back together as they rot and mold.

How dare parents care about the school environment of their children? If they did not care they would be labeled as child abusers.

Anonymous said...

I count 30 protesters in the first picture, 36 in the second. Less than that in every other picture.

Anonymous said...

Dyer does not seem to realize that the inequality in our schools is due to unequal funding - more funds for schools in rich neighborhoods, less funds for schools in poor neighborhoods, directly related to how much the neighborhood pays in property taxes.

To eliminate this inequality, it would be necessary to cut funds from the schools in the rich neighborhoods and transfer them to schools in poor neighborhoods. Or significantly raise taxes.

Robert Dyer said...

9:05: Funds are not distributed based on wealth of the neighborhood. What do you mean, "cut funds"? The inequality comes from incompetence on the school board, the Council and the MCPS leadership itself. Kids can't even pass the Algebra exams. It's your guys who have failed. How do you stay motivated to support them, and then criticize people like me who are trying to help and fix problems in the County? Join my effort.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:57 AM here, that comment was cross-posted. Obviously there are more than 36 in that classroom, and more importantly, they are not "protesters".

Anonymous said...

Dyer @ 9:12 AM - So what is your plan to improve education, once you've seized control of the County Council, the school board and the public school system? Screaming "MoCo Machine" 10,000 times is not "a plan".

Anonymous said...

@9:05 said "Dyer does not seem to realize that the inequality in our schools is due to unequal funding - more funds for schools in rich neighborhoods, less funds for schools in poor neighborhoods, directly related to how much the neighborhood pays in property taxes."

@9:05 does not seem to realize that that statement is completely false. There are no local budgets, there is no direct funding by neighborhood. If 9:05 thinks such a budget exists, please link to it. It will be news to everyone in the county.

The Board of Education actually provides extra funding for schools in low-income parts of the county through reduced class sizes, health benefits, after school programs, and breakfast programs.

Where the Board of Education is not equal is in the policies that are applied to schools based on neighborhood income. Bethesda's Whitman HS has always enjoyed special treatment from their members Pat O'Neill and Shirley Brandman. Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro ran to Potomac for fundraising events for their campaigns and thanked those communities with school benefits. Bethesda's Carderock Springs Elementary School ignored Board policy and renovated their own bathrooms, using their own money, without any Board approval. Eyes closed and amazing things happen.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the county policies in place will allow this development to be approved. Increased traffic from the development will adversely affect anyone who travels on Fernwood during the extended rush hour whether they are "NIMBYs" or not. That said, folks need to fight the failed policies, not necessarily developers who stay between the lines. That said, the developers probably lobby hard to draw these lines as well.

Anonymous said...

Expanding Fernwood Road to six lanes, divided, between Bradley and Democracy would take care of the traffic.

Anonymous said...

I find these trip numbers incredulous also but without any study or data of my own to say otherwise we're kinda stuck.

Anonymous said...

Sadly the trip generation numbers are formulaic and set by the super duper growth policy. The rates for single fam detached and townhouses can be found in the appendix of the guidelines:http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/transportation/latr_guidelines/documents/LATR-TPARGuidelinesFINAL.pdf

Anonymous said...

I have followed the Westbard development (I live nearby) and have worked in commercial real estate and green real estate. Here's my take on the Toll Brothers project:

1. I applaud the trails, bioswales and other green features. The site design is very high quality. Kudos to Toll Brothers. Looks like. A beautiful project.

2. The County's estimate on school population impact is ludicrously low. Residents are correct to challenge it. I strongly urge residents to contact Councilmember Berliner to ensure that accurate school population estimates are developed in conjunction with Montgomery County Public Schools (as he has done with Westbard). The failure to coordinate school and land use development is a key weakness of the MCPS process.

3. Traffic impact is a reasonable concern, albeit a very likely manageable one. The development should add something in the neighborhood of 800 cars to the roads (2 per household.) Toll Brothers should be required to make appropriate road/traffic light improvements. Keep the pressure on MoCo, Councilmember Berliner, Toll Brothers and its traffic consultants. And make sure that MoCo's traffic study uses reasonable assumptions. An overarching issue is that MoCo's standard for assessing traffic adequacy is very low: the County will approve anything that does not cause "intersection failure". This standard needs to be changed. (Traffic issues have yet to be fully addressed at Westbard.)

4. Sunshine and publicity are outstanding clarifiers. MoCo should release all communications it receives on the project, including from representatives of the developers. Publicize any controversies and keep the pressure on the County to address community concerns. Elections are coming up in 2012, and citizens can vote for their geographic representative, for 4 at-large candidates, and for the County executive. From what I've seen at Westbard, the County's land use approval process is broken and must be changed. SaveWestbard is on Facebook and has done a great job in advocating for transparency and shining sunlight on the Westbard process. (Community associations have done a good job in advocating on development concerns, but have shied away from pressing for transparency.)

5. I think that the Toll Brothers project looks beautiful, and suspect that any school and transportation impact issues can be readily addressed. The issue is with Montgomery County, not Toll Brothers. Will the County revise its land use approval process to ensure that residents' concerns about school capacity and traffic are adequately addressed? And do residents have the fortitude and political will to ensure that the County, including the Council, acts as an honest broker in addressing development issues, not as a partisan for developers?

Anonymous said...

Oops, 2.54 pm writing back to clarify and correct a bad typo:
1)The schools planning process is under the purview of MCPS (Montgomery County Public Schools, a state-designated entity), but is conducted independently of the land use planning process, which is managed by the County. This is a jurisdictional issue, no one's fault, but the two processes must obviously be dovetailed. Councilmember Berliner has advocated for this in the case of Westbard.
2)County elections are coming up in 2018, obviously (not 2012). Sorry about the typo.

Anonymous said...

This sounds strikingly similar to the Westbard overdevelopment fiasco but on a smaller scale. Very little thought given to the overcrowded local schools and roads, diminishing quality of life, and increasing taxes on the middle-class inevitably. Crowded meeting rooms with outraged citizens with more questions than answers always being the last ones in the loop. Get ready to be lectured by the Berliner's and Leventhal's about how you need to start to accept change and once the project is completed everything will be wonderful and you will all sit in a circle hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good opportunity to get Fernwood redone. The intersection at Democracy backs up for miles at rush hour. They need to add a lane so the left-turn and right-turn lanes are separate going way back.

As for the development, the population of the county is growing, just like almost everywhere in the US. Where do people propose they live? Should we do low density and use up a lot more land, or do high density to use less land?

Anonymous said...

@ 6:46 PM: "sing Kumbaya"

Put your dentures back in, Grandpa.

Anonymous said...

"diminishing quality of life, and increasing taxes on the middle-class inevitably. "

You think another 400+ millionaires living in the county will diminish our quality of life and result in a net tax drain? Huh?

Anonymous said...

You'd think we were talking about putting 40-floor high rise housing projects on the site w/the way NIMBYs overreact.

Anonymous said...

Enquiring Bethesdans want to know - is Dyer a net contributor, or a net consumer, of MoCo taxes?

Anonymous said...

Ummmm, you already tried this on the Westbard protest 2 story. It didn't work there and it doesn't work here, either.

Anonymous said...

9:21 AM: more snark and ageism from the trolls. Hint: you're just showing your intellectual bankruptcy.

Anonymous said...

The mere fact that Dyer is the sole source of reporting on local development issues makes him a net contributor. Dyer deserves our thanks.

Anonymous said...

4:45 PM - You do realize that use of the word "Kumbaya" in that context is a dead giveaway that one is an old coot?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you might be a troll who's getting a tad sloppy. Cutting and pasting comments is never a good idea. But thanks for the apology.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:52 AM - "Robert Dyer is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Chairlady: "You will notice that I have told them they may smoke. I've allowed my people to have a little fun in the selection of bizarre tobacco substitutes... Are you enjoying your cigarette, Ed?"

Ed Movole: "Yes ma'am."

Dr. Yen Lo: "Yak dung!... hope tastes good - like a cigarette should!"

Poppy said...

I think the latest comments bring up a very good point. No matter our opinions on the issues, we all owe Robert a thank-you for giving us a hyper local news site and a venue for community interaction.

Thank you Robert, you are part of the solution.

Robert said...

Well, Robert certainly says a lot of what he likes and doesn't like. But a solution requires a lot more than opinion. It would be nice to get some more follow through and data.

Anonymous said...

Why can't Dyer trolls contribute anything meaningful or relevant to any of Robert's excellent pieces of work? Can't they do any better? Are they really that worthless and pathetic?

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with the existing neighborhood, like most suburbs in America, is that all the streets funnel onto a single "collector" road - in this case, Fernwood. If the connections in the existing street grid could be improved, that would lessen the need for everyone to use Fernwood.

Anonymous said...

Why can't Dyer-relative contribute anything meaningful or relevant to any of the excellent questions raised by skeptical readers? Can't he do any better? Is he really that worthless and pathetic?

Robert Dyer said...

6:14: So the only people who buy the Washington Post are "Bezos relatives"? Sorry, punk, this is a popular website and many readers comment. Get over it. The fact that you see these comments here, and not on "the other website" speaks for itself.

#ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm

Anonymous said...

I do question how naive people must be to swallow the line about pedestrian-centric development when the only place to walk is within the housing development and any trip to shopping, school, business requires a car. At least the Toll brothers are including green space and trails for the residents, unlike the Equity One/EYA tyrants who think one half-acre park will accomodate 3000+ new Westbard residents, and who have essentially dropped their support for developing the Willard Branch culvert into a naturalized stream with a green walking trail. This stream rehabilitation was a prominent selling point for their Westbard development, but it has conveniently (for them) become non-essential. These guys are just evil and greedy and will promise so many things that they will never deliver. Thanks to Robert for documenting this.

Anonymous said...

My how democrats hate the elderly. Is this a national party position?
Many of the comments here reflect a disdain for anyone that has had a birthday.
Your day will come. Good luck crossing the street when it does. By then Montgomery County will have a mandatory age out rule that anyone over 35 must vacate the county.

Anonymous said...

@6:53 I don't think it's anti-elderly. It's against people who oppose any change -- and they happen to be elderly.

The world is changing. Glen Echo Park is no longer segregated, and gays now have the same rights as everyone else. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

@7:06 try again
comments are clearly hateful to anyone older than 35
see above

anyone who is opposed to overcrowding, traffic congestion, and poor planning is opposed to change?

Let's see. By your flawed logic all change is automatically good. Anyone who opposes change is bad!

Shall we give some examples of changes that have not been good from history?

By your logic you will love when Trump is president because he will bring forth much change!

Anonymous said...

Trump is not about "change". He is about keeping things exactly the same for scared old white folks.

Anonymous said...

How much will this plan increase our ZIKA risk?

Robert Dyer said...

7:06: Actually, Glen Echo Park is de facto segregated because it is narrowly programmed to a white demographic. That's part of why the amusement park was not kept going, as it was a regional draw across all demographics. Watch contemporary videos of events at Glen Echo Park. Tell me how many people of color you count.

Anonymous said...

@8:10 AM Trump is not about change? Is that right. So he would run the country the same as Obama. Who knew?

Again with the "scared old white folks" comment. Democrats really hate old people. Also good to know.

Anonymous said...

Dyer's claims about the history of Glen Echo Park have no relation to reality.

Anonymous said...

Great turn out by the neighbors there on a Saturday morning!

The County is forcing the connection on Renata, and if past is prologue, it will not be reserved for emergency access only. The planners do not want the developments "cut off from the surrounding neighborhood." Just ask the residents of Fleming Avenue who had worked out a deal with EYA in the Grosvenor Heights Project to provide emergency egress only - only to be told by the county planners not only would emergency only egress insufficient, that they would have to widen Fleming Avenue in order to accommodate the hundreds of additional cars - at great danger to kids, pedestrians and bikers who travel to the park and use the Bethesda Trolley Trail. In typical form, the Planning Board did not even appear listen to the neighbors during the hearing in which they complained about the safety issue.

Anonymous said...

Trump:
A nativist, sexist, arguably fascist and racist demagogue may become president.

And you're worried that Democrats hate old people?

Anonymous said...

Neighborhood street grids which are completely isolated from one another, and which dump traffic onto a handful of arterial roads, is a key reason for the congestion in our area.

Anonymous said...

10:07AM. Indeed.
Back when these houses were built, developers purposely set neighborhoods up that way to give a stronger feeling of what they were trying to promote: quiet, safe streets, welcoming suburbs to come home to after work. That's what they determined that people were going to want in the future.
Now, developers have determined people will want too little parking, higher density, public transportation, walkable communities in the heart of activity.
In a few years, those pushing for urbanization will be the old white-haired folks not wanting the next developer bunch to build their new vision of life in America and ruin what they've accomplished.

Anonymous said...

@9:40 AM We have been told (above) that Trump is not a change. All your descriptors must apply to current president too, right?

Democrats hate old people, once again stated by 9:40.

Anonymous said...

The Toll Brothers proposal would make a lot more sense if it were more Kentlands-esque with a town center to meet some of the residents' retail and office needs. This is a residential island. It will create a lot of traffic because all work and errands will be projected out of the community by car.

Anonymous said...

So like the Westbard proposal then?

Anonymous said...

The quality of a soacialized government controlled school is based on students, not money. This is why we have so many successful asians coming from poverty-stricken backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

12:45 Westbard at least has retail! These folks can't get a gallon of milk without traveling out to Fernwood and going over to the Giant on Old Georgetown.

Anonymous said...

OMG, can you imagine how much worse that Giant will be.

Anonymous said...

"The quality of a soacialized [sic] government controlled school is based on students, not money."

Whatever that means.

Anonymous said...

The shape of that plat looks kinda like "moose-knuckle".