Fight or fold, fold or fight. Decision time.
Let’s begin with a review of "where we are," and then discuss "where we are headed." There is no easy way to cover this material, so bear with me.
We begin with a perusal of the EquityOne Massing Diagram (below). You may view the entire slideshow (and a video of the event) from the June 1, 2016 pre-submission meeting at this link:
EquityOne Pre-Submission Slide Show
For reference: Yellow buildings are residential; and pink buildings are commercial. As you can see, EquityOne fully intends to maximize density and also intends to exercise its option to increase building heights on two buildings due to the inclusion of extra MPDUs. The building next to Park Bethesda (Bowlmor site) will increase to 122’; the building next to HOC will increase to 85’. Take special note, also, of the residential townhouses (do they have yards?) placed awkwardly, barrack style, in front of Kenwood Place condos. That’s a lot of new residents; but wait, there's more!
Now, please note what is missing. Park Bethesda, the grayish building at the far, left-side, end point in the diagram above, houses 258 residential units. Capital Properties, the owner of Park Bethesda, finagled a deal for up to 500 more residential units on that property; they intend to place a similarly sized building right behind the existing Park Bethesda, and also, to add townhomes on the edges near the Mews Residences. So, when you carefully examine this massing diagram, imagine, if you will, the yellow “canyon” wall extending and increasing as we approach the Mass. Ave. end of Westbard Avenue.
What else is missing? Well, let’s talk about the River Road corridor and the fabled “Berliner Proposal”. How, exactly, did Councilmember Berliner cut density “in half,” as he was so fond of telling us? The “halving of density” was a ruse, a numbers game, designed to anesthetize residents against the out-sized up-zoning of the Westbard Avenue portion of the sector plan. What you received was not a sector plan; you received a Semi-Sector Plan©, because half of the sector -- the River Road corridor -- was left essentially untouched (for now). In turn, EquityOne (and Capital Properties) garnered virtually everything they wanted for density purposes along Westbard Avenue. Dear residents, dear friends, you’ve been hood-winked. Is it possible that a different developer will materialize in 10 years, or so, and sniff around for a mini-master plan amendment which would allow that developer to build apartment buildings along River Road? Yes, it is manifestly possible; in fact, I wager it’s more than possible, it's virtually assured. (Remember here, friends, that I’ve also previously alluded to the River Road WES-site developer who’s likely attempting to change its 165 unit “senior living” project into a non-age restricted use so that we may all enjoy even more school over-crowding in Whitman cluster schools).
With respect to overall density, we are set to receive approximately 1400 NEW residential units; that is MORE than the equivalent of adding TWO full neighborhoods of residents to the Westbard Sector. Compare Springfield at 650 units; and Sumner at 550 units (equaling a total of 1200 units; and you're getting more than that, thanks to the Council and EquityOne).
Lest we forget … did you notice the Civic Green? Oh, you don’t see it? Well, it’s there, hidden in the shadows cast by the middle pink building. It appears to be the only "amenity" which truly survived the sector plan process. EquityOne is giving us, all 20,000 of us (approx.), 1/3 of an acre for greenery and fun. I don’t think we’ll all fit there; do you? But wait ... a pleasant walk along the naturalized Willett sounds delightful ... except for the fact that EquityOne has declared that expensive project a Parks and Planning undertaking which falls outside their purview. Do you recall, fondly, when the naturalization of the Willett was trumpeted as the major amenity for this development? It’s amazing how quickly it was dropped once the dollar signs and difficulties were uncovered. (**There is also a very small neighborhood green in the foreground which serves as a buffer for the single family homes**).
Finally, (and we’re only covering the highlights here), the realignment of Westbard Avenue/Ridgefield is not a firm commitment, even though it’s shown on the Massing Diagram above. Mr. Berfield served-up some squishy language about that realignment on June 1st; so if you thought it was a done deal, it’s not.
That, in a nutshell, is “where we are.” Now, where are we going?
Should we drop all opposition now; or are we made of stronger stuff? For the record, the Westbard Legal Fund is nearly at the tipping point where we may begin the research and work necessary to formulate our claims and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the claims. We are not offering guarantees here, as you can imagine. Michele Rosenfeld is a professional who will help us, if we let her. There is no easy or free way to pursue this angle, unfortunately. Nor will legal theories be floated in the public eye; the sensitivity and confidentiality of the information is paramount. In any event, will you help tip the balance toward litigation? Many of your fellow residents feel strongly that something must be done and have contributed generously toward that end. Naturally, residents may always continue to file comments during the appropriate time frame of the Sketch Plan process (coming up soon). Note, however, that the 25,000+ comments filed by you, our tenacious and dedicated residents, fell on deaf ears; how do you feel now about filing more comments with the Planning Board?
If the overview above does not please you, then I have done my job and revealed the unvarnished truth about the Westbard development. Traffic congestion will skyrocket; and the schools will be overcrowded. This is where we are headed as a community. Please do make an informed decision about whether or not it’s time for you to contribute to the legal fund.
Here is our Westbard Legal Fund information:
TWO WAYS TO DONATE:
1. Donate to the legal fund electronically at this link (pre-set amounts):
Westbard Legal Fund
2. Donate the EXACT amount that you prefer by mailing a check to:
The Law Office of Michele Rosenfeld LLC
1 Research Court
Rockville MD 20850