Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Equity One requests delay for Westbard sketch plan

If you read my report on the Development Review Committee meeting with Equity One last month, you will not be surprised to learn that the Westbard developer is seeking an extension for Montgomery County Planning Board review of its sketch plan. Several major issues with the 22-acre plan emerged (or re-emerged) during that review on August 22.

Among the points of contention? The realignment of Westbard Avenue to connect directly with River Road was downplayed in Equity One's application, which showed a workaround option should the road shift not happen; planners said it should happen. Whether or not to relocate utility poles on Westbard Avenue was another sticking point, as was the location of traffic signals, and the massing of a high-rise on the Bowlmor Lanes site.

No details were included on Equity One's contributions to the naturalization of Willett Branch Stream, which is directly adjacent to some of the development firm's property. The Maryland State Highway Administration said a traffic study needs to be done on River Road, a busy commuter route. And no provisions were made regarding finding an African-American graveyard that is known from land records to have been on the site of Westwood Tower. Graves are believed to have been disturbed during construction of that building, and could be again under plans for several new structures on the property.

If granted, the extension will push review of the sketch plan back to December 8, 2016. Planners are recommending approval of the extension. Equity One's Bill Brown and their attorney, Barbara Sears, had expressed optimism that the issues could be worked out at "breakout worksessions" with Parks and Planning staff.

12 comments:

Westbard Concerned Citizens said...

They'll need to "work-out" the issues set-forth in the lawsuit, too.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Thanks to Robert Dyer for reporting this. The Westbard community is fortunate that Dyer is following this matter closely.

Interesting change in proposed timing for sketch plan completion. Equity One had been pushing for rapid approval up until this point.

In addition to the items mentioned in this article: As pointed out by the Little Falls Watershed Alliance (with which I am not affiliated), Equity One has proposed a sizable structured parking facility (that is, an above-grade parking garage) to be built adjacent to the Willett Branch greenbelt. Not only is this proposal inappropriate for a greenbelt area, but the building was not included on Equity One's sketch plan. The proposed parking structure is inconsistent with the sector plan's green vision.

I recommend that County residents read the sketch plan comments of the Little Falls Watershed Alliance (available online, search on LFWA Westbard sketch plan) and send any comments of your own to John Marcolin at Montgomery County Planning (John.Marcolin@montgomeryplanning.org).

I strongly support redevelopment of Westbard, but there's too much density/height and Equity One's sketch plan does not deliver the green space advocated in the approved sector plan.

In addition, there are the procedural problems raised in the lawsuit opposing adoption of the sector plan.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. It will be interesting to see what the Montgomery County Circuit Court decides on the lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!
WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!
WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!
WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!
WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!
WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!
WEST WHAT??? WEST BARD!!!

Margie Eulner Ott said...

I'm glad to see MNPPC staff sticking to their guns forcing EO to revisit sketch plan. While shocked that the sector plan they delivered to the county council in December gave so much density to the developers, it is clear they expected the developers to make good on the sector plan priorities of naturalized stream, green space and intersection improvement at Ridgefield/River. When EO presented sketch plan to community meeting in May, they were very cavalier about comments that asked where the green space, intersection improvement and stream daylighting was in the plan, pushing those concerns off on MHC and MNCPPC.

Anonymous said...

Equity One's proposed parking garage is not simply adjacent to the Willet Branch Greenway, it would jut out well into the centerpiece of the proposed park area. The current Equity One sketch plan does show the parking garage. It also shows the garage and four other proposed new buildings jutting out well into the Willet Branch stream buffer area, against state and county environmental guidelines.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:16 AM - Are you talking about the same Willets Branch that is currently buried beneath a parking lot?

Anonymous said...

Whiny West Bard NIMBYs

Anonymous said...

Bitchy Westbard bullies

Anonymous said...

@ 11.58: You must be a former prep school or college cheerleader like our 43rd president, George W. Bush.

@2.20: You haven't been following this: the daylighting of the Willett Branch stream and the development of a public greenbelt is a central objective of the Westbard Sector plan.

@1.16 pm is correct that Equity One has proposed a building (on the Bowlmor site) and an above-ground parking garage (behind the HOC building) that would intrude on the Willett Branch stream buffer. The parking garage is a late addition by Equity One: it was not included in the materials issued to the public in June and July. Perhaps it is now available on the MoCo Planning Dept's site.