Friday, October 21, 2016

Equity One intervenes in Westbard lawsuit; new poll shows opposition to sector plan remains strong

Equity One, the development firm planning to redevelop 22 acres along Westbard Avenue and Ridgefield Road in Bethesda, has filed a motion to intervene and respond in the citizen lawsuit against the Montgomery County Council, regarding its passage of the Westbard sector plan. According to the filing by Equity One's attorneys Barbara Sears, Gerard Heller and Erin Girard, the court should grant the intervention because the firm's interests "are not adequately represented" by the Council.

The attorneys write that, were the injunctive relief sought by the plaintiffs be granted, Equity One would suffer monetary losses. They base their argument on the precedent set in an earlier, similar court case involving the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights in 1975. A Court of Appeals decision in that case affirmed that the interests of the Montgomery County Government are not the same as the interests of the property owners impacted by legal action.

Equity One was not named as a defendant in the current Westbard court case, but is seeking that status to protect its interests, according to the filing.

Meanwhile, SaveWestbard, a volunteer organization representing residents in and around the Westbard sector plan area, has released the results of a new poll. The results show community opposition to the sector plan passed this May remains overwhelming.

93.37% responding to the poll said the massing of buildings permitted by the Council was too dense and too tall.

94.75% said the plan contains too little public space.

93.65% called for a new traffic study, due to increased traffic and the redesign of roads.

90.88% want utility lines to be buried.

84.81% asked for an archaeological study to locate or rule out the existence of a historically-known African-American cemetery, which some witnesses have said was desecrated during the construction of Westwood Tower in the 1960s.

And 91.44% of residents said there should be no new construction of buildings within the buffer of the Willett Branch stream.

The poll was sent to 2400 residents, and the contact information to compile the list was taken from community association listervs and email lists, the SaveWestbard mailing list, and an open survey weblink. All participants in the poll were confirmed by name, address and email address. 362 residents responded, for a response rate of 15.1%.


Anonymous said...

"A response rate of 15%"

That's quite a bit lower than the turnout in MoCo elections, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

So 93% of the email list of people on Save Westbard oppose the redevelopment? No surprise there.

In other news, a survey sent a list of Trump supporters found 93% were against voting for Clinton.

Anonymous said...

How much has Equity One donated to Council members?

Anonymous said...

The only poll that will matter is on election day: for term limits now and new councilmembers who align better with Bethesda residents.

Anonymous said...

We surveyed our people in our advocacy group and they all agree with us! This is not a poll. It is an unscientific online clicker. Just like when Trump says he won all the polls after his followers brigade them. Hard to take these people seriously if this is the content they put out.

Anonymous said...

It's evident residents are against the plan (overwhelmingly against). Just look at feedback at public meetings.

The question for me is whether Bethesda residents can stick together and vote as a block for new councilmembers that are more responsive to their needs.

Voting for term limits is a good start.

Skippy said...

Are the impacted Bethesda residents organizing to vote for term limits?
That would make sense.

Anonymous said...

Actually the poll was sent to;

-- Listservs and email lists of numerous civic associations, including Sumner, Wood Acres, Springfield and others, as well as the Save Westbard list.
--The poll was also made available via a public web link.

The 15% response rate is pretty typical for surveys conducted by community groups.

It would be nice if CCCFH (the umbrella entity for 19 neighborhood civic organization) or Montgomery County would commission a professional survey, but no luck so far.

The distribution of this survey was pretty broad and its results can't be explained away so readily.

Anonymous said...

@7 am; Your stereotype is wrong.

I am a liberal Democrat who has worked to support affordable housing for many years. I welcome the 15% affordable units required for Westbard, and agree that the shopping center should be redeveloped. AND/BUT:

I agree with Save Westbard that this development is much too big for the area, and am grateful that this group is raising objections. I also participated in the survey-- its results reflect my views.

Robert Dyer said...

6:11: It's actually 1% higher than voter turnout in the 2014 election.

7:00 #1: You obviously misread where I wrote who received the survey.

7:00 #2: Not outright. Their partner EYA has made donations, and it can be hard to trace donations made by family members and shell corporations.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 7 AM:

The survey was available at a public link and sent to vatioua neighborhood group lists. The distribution was a lot broader than Save Westbard.

The results are similar to the ones from a 2008 CCCFH survey, which found that big majorities of residents opposed high rise/high density development at Westbard.

The results also reflect what people said at public meetings, and what neighborhood groups testified at public hearings,

Anonymous said...

Maybe not during an off year like 2018.

Anonymous said...

As others on this thread have mentioned, the survey went out to neighborhood association members and a public link, as well as Save Westbard supporters.

Incorrect and unfair to paint this as a survey that was sent only to SW members.

Robert Dyer said...

8:57: Actually, as I mentioned, the participation rate in this poll was HIGHER than the voter turnout in Montgomery County in 2014 (an off year as 2018 will be).


Anonymous said...

At a community meeting that I attended, Councilmember Berliner was asked if the County should do a survey to get a better handle on public opinion about Westbard.

Councilmember Berliner said no.

Now I can see why. People really don't want this project, at least not at this scale.

Robert Dyer said...

9:16: The Council knows best - they said they need to educate us simpletons about why this is such a great plan. You know, the folks who pay their 6-figure salaries.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

So, the survey went to actual Bethesda residents. That's the way it should be.

I recall the Planning Department had a survey for what downtown Bethesda should look like (during the Downtown planning process). It was just posted to their website, so we saw urban planners in DC and Arlington taking the survey and sharing it with their DC and NoVA colleagues on Twitter. These non residents weighed in on how someone else's neighborhood should look.

Anonymous said...

The Planning Department was not an honest broker on Westbard and certainly never did or suggested a survey.

I participated in the Westbard planning charrettes and was very upset at how the Planning Department ignored residents and distorted residents' opinions in its public reporting.

Had I not been present at the charrettes (almost all participants supported low/moderate density development), I wouldn't have believed that planners would ignore and misstate community opinion.

Save Westbard has done a better job than the planners in examining and reporting community views.

Anonymous said...

12:54 PM Sadly, the Council doesn't care much about Westbard residents either.

They unanimously voted for this insane plan, over the concerns of residents.
Councilman Reamer even gave a speech before the vote and either lied or was misinformed by his staff when he claimed you could walk to two Metro stations from Westbard Avenue. With careless data like that being thrown around, you know they didn't exactly study the details on the terrible plan.

Remember to vote for term limits and new council representatives if you want to be heard.

Anonymous said...

That the 2008 survey taken by CCCFH generated similar opinions, supporting moderate density redevelopment, supports the credibility of the later surveys by SW. There is a strong neighborhood current against extreme densification, that is self-evident to anyone who's noticed several hundred folks marching in the rain at Westwood, and police being called to disperse them.
That the formal ground for Equity One's intervention in the lawsuit is that the county
doesn't adequately represent their interests is beyond surreal. Didn't the county give you everything you wanted, even exposing themselves to ridicule by ignoring their own rules? Didn't they extend the same generous spirit to the owners of the school bus depot property? If EO would have preferred the county conduct a professional opinion survey, or assess traffic impact, because they'd prefer a less dense but less controversial approach to expedite completion -- are they saying they suggested this to the county and it was unresponsive? The mind reels.

Anonymous said...

Not only does the proposed development include high density, it proposed that much of that density would be placed within the Willett Branch Stream Buffer AND even its Flood Plain! This would violate federal, state and county laws and guidelines. All while stating that the Willett Branch restoration would be the centerpiece public amenity provided by the redevelopment!

Term limits are not the answer. Limiting campaign contributions and/or addressing conflict of interest problems would be better means of fixing the system. In fact, term limits would likely exacerbate the campaign contribution problems.