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Fight Looms Over White Flint School Site

by BethesdaNow.com — October 30, 2012 at 10:30 am 1,237 0

The company that wants to redevelop White Flint Mall doesn’t think it should have to donate land for an elementary school to quell overcrowding concerns, but some on the Montgomery County Planning Board do.

The topic came up during last week’s Planning Board review of developer Lerner Enterprises’ White Flint Sketch Plan. The Lerner group has owned the White Flint Mall since developing it in the 70′s and wishes to transform it into 5.22 million of mixed-use development as part of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

Part of the development includes space for an elementary school to service the projected influx of 400 elementary-aged students from the White Flint Mall redevelopment and other nearby projects that are estimated to create 14,000 housing units and 13 million square feet of development around the White Flint Metro station.

Robert Brewer, the attorney who represents Lerner Enterprises on land and zoning issues, said the company would be willing to sell the land to MCPS or perhaps work a deal to do a partial dedication. But he was adamant that it would be unfair to require Lerner Enterprises to give away the land, based on the open space and Rockville Pike restructuring the group has already agreed to.

“There is a fairness issue here,” Brewer said. “We’ve spent millions of dollars getting here today in good faith with reliance on your design guidelines and your sector plan and based on how you’ve treated other applicants. For you to require dedication, I don’t think so.”

The discussion came after MCPS Real Estate Management official Janice Turpin told the Board the Walter Johnson High School cluster is already nearing capacity. In an unrelated presentation at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School last week, MCPS Division of long-range planning chief Bruce Crispell said elementary school enrollment was swelling throughout the county.

Since 2007, enrollment has grown by 10,000 students, a fact many parents and activists have attributed to unchecked development.

Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier said she was aware that perception would persist despite the open space, road and other concessions Lerner Enterprises made in the process.

“For many people, none of that will matter if they don’t get the school,” Carrier said.

The group spent much of Thursday’s hearing discussing the procedures and legal means that would be associated with requiring Lerner Enterprises to give away the elementary school land. Carrier said a final decision would be made in the preliminary plan step of the process.

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