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Town of Chevy Chase Letter

Thank you to the Town of Chevy Chase for providing the following summary of their February 26th public forum:

"Forty residents from the Town of Chevy Chase attended a public forum on the evening of February 26 to learn more about plans for the future of downtown Bethesda.  Elza Hisel-McCoy and Marc DeOcampo, lead planners from the County Planning Department, explained the process underway for developing the sector plan and fielded questions from residents about how it could impact their community and quality of life.  The following summary of issues raised during the meeting was prepared by the Town’s Long-Range Planning Committee which organized the meeting.

Key issues raised by residents included the following:

1) How much more residential development is being planned for the downtown area: With over 3,000 dwelling units already approved and in the development pipeline, how much more residential growth would be allowed by the plan? Is there any way to encourage greater diversity in thee types of units that get built (e.g., more than studios and one bedroom units)? 

2) What future role will office and commercial space play? Given the significant vacancy rate currently for offices in Bethesda, how much new office space is likely to occur?  What is the most desirable mix of new offices, commercial and residential development, and how can the plan encourage achievement of that mix?

3) Maintaining buffer zones around residential neighborhoods:  The existing buffer zones perform a critical role in shielding neighborhoods from the urbanizing downtown.  How can these buffers be maintained and even enhanced? Would it be possible to convert street level parking behind Wisconsin Avenue to underground parking (if necessary) while expanding Elm Street Park to provide critically needed additional park and recreational space?

4) Increased building height: While recognizing the advantages of channeling new development in areas where public transit is available, recent proposals for heights as high as 250 feet raise major concerns and the specter of other developments of similar heights bordering the Town.  Bethesda Row, the most vibrant part of Bethesda, has heights of less than 60 feet, while the least vibrant area downtown is Metro Center which has the area’s tallest buildings.  

5) Traffic congestion from future development:  Residents are concerned about increased traffic on already congested streets, how this will be modeled as part of the analysis supporting the planning process, and what will be the boundaries included in the analysis.

6) Overcrowding of schools: With the large number of new residential units coming to Bethesda, what additional burden will these place on already overcrowded schools.  Current plans to expand BCC High School appear to be at best a short-term fix to what demands a long-term solution.

7) Increased demands on parks, playgrounds and athletic fields: Parks and recreational facilities are already in short supply in and around Bethesda.  How will the sector plan analyze the future need for more of these facilities and what recommendations will it make to overcome the high costs and lack of available open space to meet these growing needs? How can we make better use of underutilized existing public spaces (e.g., metro center, Discovery Trail, BCC resources center)?

8) Minimize disruption/maintain quality of life: With the rapid development of downtown, a growing number of streets and sidewalks are disrupted during construction. Longer-term, increased development will make already dangerous street-crossings and inadequate bicycle lanes a growing safety concern.  Future increases in development must also be closely linked to infrastructure and environmental requirements (streets, parks, bike lanes, storm water management, etc.)."

Thank you again, to the Town of Chevy Chase for providing this summary.

 

 

Contact

Project email: bethesdadowntownplan@montgomeryplanning.org
Twitter: @bethesdaplanner 
Phone: 301-495-2115, Elza Hisel-McCoy, Project Manager/Lead Planner

Last updated: March 27, 2014