Only Councilmember Marc Elrich, who is not a member of the PHED Committee, challenged the staff report and the dismissal of points raised by residents at the September public hearing by staff. Much of the staff presentation and memorandum strangely attempted to litigate the active court case filed by Westbard-area residents against the Council. The Council should hope their attorneys can argue their defense more effectively than their staff.
Most astonishing among the false statements in the staff memorandum, was its designation of "Westbard" as a "center of economic activity and transit," where "more intense mixed-use development" should occur. It does so even while admitting Westbard is nearly two miles from the Friendship Heights Metro station, and over two miles from the Bethesda station. The assertion explodes the concept of smart growth, which defines transit-oriented development as being located within one-quarter to one-half mile from a rail station, and Elrich said the statement "just gave me heartburn."
"Something two miles away being 'near...transit,' it's just an odd statement," Elrich said. Staff member Marlene Michaelson insisted the two miles-distant Westbard was, by her apparent measurement system, "near both the Bethesda Metro Center and...Friendship Heights [Metro station]." Floreen was working in an alternate universe, as well, claiming higher density approved in the Langley Park area was somehow a precedent for Westbard. "That was for the Purple Line," Elrich reminded Floreen. He said there was plenty of land closer to the Metro stations where transit-oriented development could be built, that would be preferable to placing high density at Westbard.
False statements were made to defend the Council against the citizen lawsuit, which asks for an injunction to stop this map amendment, among other relief. On the very specific lawsuit charge that the Montgomery County Planning Board ignored a 2008 County law requiring it to measure whether a sector plan will reduce carbon/greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, Michaelson made up a fictional rationale in defense. Dodging the Board's ignorance of the specific law, she said the plan's statement that an "overall goal is to move Westbard closer to environmental sustainability" somehow magically absolves the Board from performing the required environmental impact calculations.
The assertion by staff that an archaeological search for a historic African-American cemetery believed to have been located on the Westwood Tower property is more appropriately handled when a single property is redeveloped, not in the map amendment, makes no sense. Given the apparent desecration of the cemetery by Westwood Tower construction workers, the location of remains may no longer be centered on the Westwood Tower property alone.
On most other concerns raised, Michaelson said they are simply not issues that can be addressed at the map amendment stage. In a response to Michaelson's memo stating that no further arguments against heights and density in the plan had been made, the SaveWestbard organization opposing the sector plan noted that the Council has received the results of two resident polls opposing the heights and density allowed by the plan. Both showed overwhelming opposition to the plan, and both were ignored by the Council. SaveWestbard also pointed out that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments does not classify Westbard as a "Regional Activity Center" appropriate for growth; MWCOG designates White Flint and downtown Bethesda as such growth areas.
|Borders of the Westbard|
sector plan mysteriously
expand to include
(TMD and TLD)
At the conclusion of the discussion, Floreen indicated the committee accepted the staff recommendation for approval of the amendment, in direct defiance of their constituents. This happened eight days before those constituents vote on whether or not to end Floreen's Council career via term limits. Not smart.