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Takoma Problems Persist

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takoma park logoTAKOMA PARK — Tensions between residents and the Takoma Park City Council remain high as the project to redevelop a city-owned parking lot adjacent to the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op enters its fifth year.

“Our county and the world is already affected enough by our cars and our carbon footprint, without trucks adding to it all,” said 13-year-old Ward 2 resident Elizabeth Comfort-Cohen during the City Council's weekly meeting Wednesday. Comfort-Cohen, who goes by the Co-op on her commute to school, expressed concern the proposed Takoma Junction Redevelopment project could have on pedestrians and cyclists. “All I’m asking, council members, is that you think long and hard about the effect this project can make on the community and not just the government.”

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Activists still contest fate of historic African-American burial site

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While Westbard residents won their fight to stop a new development along Westbard Avenue in Bethesda, the fight for many continues, as the future of a historic burial ground on the property remains in limbo.

For months, residents from Westbard and members of the Macedonia Baptist Church, located on River Road in Bethesda, have lobbied the Housing Opportunities Commission – now owners of the property – not to develop on the site of the historic African-American burial ground.

While officials from the HOC have promised to not develop on the site of the burial ground some members of the Macedonia Baptist Church and Westbard residents said they do not trust HOC’s promise not to do so.

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Rockville continues with proposal for new Twinbrook development

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ROCKVILLE — Representatives from a company that plans to build a new neighborhood in Twinbrook said their new mixed-use development will be like Rockville’s very own French Quarter.

On Monday night the Rockville City Council unanimously voted to continue with proposed development in Twinbrook along Rockville Pike under the City’s champion project status designation, one of many steps needed before the project is finally approved. The City’s champion project status designation will allow the developers to build without providing an access road.

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"A Good Deal"

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County and governor push to get Amazon headquarters in MoCo

Amazon.com logo1With an estimated 50,000 potential jobs hanging in the balance, Montgomery County is among the 20 communities vying to be the location of Amazon’s second headquarters, the company announced last week.

Local officials were pleased to see that the County made the cut in a competitive field composed mainly of major cities, each of which is bending over backwards to woo the retailer with a seemingly endless arsenal of tax subsidies and other incentives. 

“As the only county in the country on the short list, having the ability to move forward for further consideration is a real honor,” said County Executive Ike Leggett (D). “I believe our initial proposal made an extremely strong case for Montgomery County as a great place to do business, and I look forward to working with Amazon to bring jobs and investment to the County.”

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Gaithersburg residents express concerns about development

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gaithersburg buildingGAITHERSBURG — Several Gaithersburg residents came to a work session at City Hall Monday night to voice concerns about the effects of a proposed property development.  At work sessions held on March 27 and July 10 last year, Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council were briefed on a proposal from Maser Consulting to construct two six-story apartment buildings and a parking garage on the site of the Kentlands Apartments. 

At those sessions, officials and area residents expressed concern that the developments could have adverse effects on traffic, particularly in regards to a proposed ingress/egress entrance on Great Seneca Highway, school capacity, snow and trash removal and public green spaces. Residents of the Colonnade, a condominium association which would be abutted by the proposed development, have expressed concerns about the impact of the development on their quality of life. 

Jodi Kline, an attorney with Miller, Miller and Canby, who represents the applicants, said that Maser Consulting had negotiated with Colonnade residents and incorporated their concerns into the revised proposal that was presented Monday night.

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Takoma Park approves junction traffic study

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TAKOMA PARK — The Takoma Park City Council on Wednesday approved a traffic study which will further advance the Takoma Junction redevelopment process.

“The city’s study is to identify options to address safety concerns and mitigate traffic congestion at Takoma Junction and evaluate the extent of cut-through traffic in adjacent neighborhoods,” City Manager Suzanne Ludlow said during the Council’s Wednesday evening meeting. “The findings will be used to advocate for roadway and intersection improvements.”

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Council works toward Grosvenor-Strathmore Master Plan

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1200px Grosvenor strathmoreGrosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.  COURTESY PHOTOThe Montgomery County Council discussed height increases to the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Area Minor Master Plan in a work session Tuesday.

Grosvenor-Strathmore Master Plan would allow for increased development around the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro stop in North Bethesda. The council made no final decision on Tuesday during their work session, instead focusing on proposed height changes that planner increased to allow for more development.

“It’s always challenging when we try to maximize the potential at a Metro station because those who have lived there for some time worry that there may be disruption in their lifestyle or their view-shed or the landscape they’ve become accustomed to,” said Council member George Leventhal (D-at large). “But it’s also very important that we do look ahead to a future where we maximize the number of people who live at mass-transit in the hope that we do not foster sprawl or develop our Ag-reserve.”

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County approves new Bethesda sector plan

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After months of meticulously combing through each block of the County’s economic hub, the Montgomery County Council passed the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan May 25 to allow for more growth in Bethesda.

The new plan, which is meant to serve as a blueprint for development in Downtown Bethesda for the next few decades, will allow for more density and taller buildings. The Council voted 8-1 to pass the sector plan, with Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large) as the lone vote against it.

“I would say this is one of our more ambitious plans in terms of its creative approach to community problem solving: lots of balancing going on and I think we reached a great resolution on this,” said Council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large).

The new approved plan caps development in Bethesda at 32.4 million square feet of gross floor area. Along with an increase in building heights, density in Downtown Bethesda is set to dramatically grow. Some buildings will have their allowable height increased to up to 300 feet. However, not all buildings will be able to build to their maximum height as the County could limit density and development in Downtown Bethesda.

Additionally the plan will require new developments to provide more affordable housing than they previously allowed, now requiring new residential properties to make 15 percent of their units into Moderately Priced Dwelling Units, with the County providing tax incentives to developers who make 25 percent of their units into MPDUs.

For months, the County Council weighed criticisms from Bethesda residents who believed County infrastructure could not support an increase in population over the next few decades. In response the Council proposed a “flashing yellow,” to monitor development and make sure Bethesda can handle increased density.

Some Bethesda residents said they did not want increased development and believed the County had no answer to increased traffic congestion and school overcrowding that come with a project increase in population. Other residents pushed the Council for more density and stricter regulations on affordable housing to give residents more options in the wealthy suburb.

Elrich, the only council member to vote against the plan, said the Council failed to tie increased density to increased spending and development on infrastructure.

“Separating decisions about infrastructure from decisions about handing out density I think are just bad policy,” Elrich said.

Hoping to increase development with making the County’s traffic congestion problem any worse, County planners tried to steer development around Metro stops in hopes people will opt to take the train rather than drive.

The plan will allow for up to 165 percent increase in multiunit rental units and a 142 percent increase in income-restricted housing in Downtown Bethesda.

Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who represents Downtown Bethesda, said the Council struck the right balance between the desire of developers to build in Bethesda and residents’ caution on urbanizing the downtown area.

“No one gets everything they want in any plan. There are developers that who are disappointed. There are community members that are disappointed. That, in my world, often means we did strike the right balance,” Berliner said.

@neal_earley

 

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Takoma Park examines plans for New Hampshire Ave.

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Takoma Park Govt logo

The City Council discussed potential plans for the New Hampshire Avenue Corridor to improve its aesthetic and the business potential.

March 7 was also one of the first public appearances of the new city planner, Daniel Sonenklar.

Various ideas, all in the brainstorming stage at this point, were put forward, such as housing, differing architectural styles, green buildings and more.

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Council debates B-CC expansion plan

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ROCKVILLE – While the proposed Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan would expand density in Bethesda, one thing it could also expand is Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

On Monday the County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee discussed buying or leasing property next to B-CC as way to find more space for the school’s increasing demands.

The council discussed several options from buying the office building located on 4401-4421 East West Highway next to B-CC in order to expand the school’s athletic fields and to leasing room from nearby office buildings to compensate for overcrowding.

“B-CC High School is the single hardest issue to for us to tackle in this,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1), who represents Bethesda. “Everything else seems to have a plausible answer, we don’t know what precisely what the answer is but B-CC High School – it’s a problem.”

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