|The original building design;|
compare to new design at top
Monday, September 26, 2016
SHA says no traffic signal warranted for WES senior housing at Landy Lane & River Road in Bethesda
Yes, senior housing. It appears that Sheridan Development is going forward with its original age-restricted housing plan, likely because River Road was not urbanized in the Westbard sector plan passed earlier this year by the County Council. Therefore, the Washington Episcopal School site did not receive the urban densities that Equity One and Capital Properties enjoy under the plan.
My analysis: The signal studies were delayed just long enough to find out if the sector plan would allow a higher-profit, denser, non-age-restricted tower on the site. It did not in May, and - boom - here we have the signal study, and the project is speeding forward as senior housing after all.
If successful, the proposal will split the WES site into two lots, one remaining with the school, and the other becoming the Sheridan project site.
The Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, representing communities around the WES site, has pressed for both the traffic signal, and keeping vehicle access open from both River Road and Little Falls Parkway. WES, in contrast, wants to gate its access points to secure the school campus. That scenario would likely lead to cut-through traffic in Kenwood and Somerset, neighbors have warned.
Planning staff is recommending that the Landy Lane access to the campus be open during morning and evening "peak periods" for student drop-off and pick-up. They acknowledge that SHA is the only entity that can greenlight (pun intended) a traffic signal on River Road. But they are suggesting the Board make a Phase 2 traffic study a requirement for WES, and that they force the school to "contribute to its installation."
A forest conservation study shows that 3 specimen trees will be removed for construction of the senior housing building, which will have 121 residential units. Originally 97' despite towering over adjacent Kenwood homes, the cruisin'-for-a-term-limits-bruisin' County Council thumbed their noses at Kenwood, and gave the project yet another tiny bonus boost in height through the sector plan. It will be interesting to see what the results on the term limits ballot question will be in the Kenwood voting precinct in November.
Note also that the design of the building has radically changed from the original rendering, losing the nifty Watergate-esque curves on the right side of the facade, and taking on a much boxier form. Boo. But perhaps appropriate, being located near a self storage building that screams "WE SELL BOXES," part of the County Council's sad legacy of neglect in the 20816 zip code.
Planning staff is recommending approval of the project.
Renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department