The controversial plan for a 80-foot tall, approximately 120-unit apartment building at 4831 West Lane in Bethesda is set to start the county’s typical development review process with a required community meeting next week.
Representatives from D.C.-based developer SJG Properties will be on hand Wednesday, Jan. 22 to present the preliminary and site plans for the building, which some neighbors have argued is too tall and will bring too much congestion to the surrounding neighborhood of townhomes and condos.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).
Though SJG hasn’t formally submitted its plans, much of what the developer wants is well known because it went through a separate and lengthy zoning change process to get more density.
The Planning Board approved a development application for the project in December 2012 and added some binding elements. SJG came back to the Planning Board in March 2013 with setback and architectural changes. The Planning Board again gave its support.
In September 2013, the County Council upheld a hearing examiner’s decision to approve the new zoning by an 8-1 vote.
Residents from the City Homes of Edgemoor and the Edgemoor Condominium Residences argued for more than a year that the building (five feet higher than the 1994 Bethesda CBD Master Plan recommended zoning) will be too dense for the neighborhood and will hurt traffic flow and pedestrian safety on West Lane and Montgomery Lane.
But the developer, and some on the County Planning Board, said the stretch of single family homes less than 1,000 feet from the Bethesda Metro is an ideal spot for density.
At the Council hearing, the attorney for SJG Properties argued the seven-story building with a 73-foot setback from West Lane will actually be more compatible with the Sector Plan than the very properties some opponents live in.
Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department
Creating balance in Caroline Freeland Park — between its use as a buffer to downtown Bethesda and its potential for more lively uses — is in large part the job of Lucas Bonney, the Montgomery Parks project manager and landscape architect in charge of the park’s renovation process.
We spoke to Bonney about the potential for the one-acre park (7200 Arlington Rd.), what residents told him they like about it now and what changes could be on the horizon for one of downtown Bethesda’s rare park uses.
BethesdaNow.com: What sorts of things did you hear from people at the public meeting [Ed. note: It happened Nov. 6] and were there any general themes?
Bonney: We heard that definitely the playground is a very big element to the park. Mothers and fathers go their with their kids, sometimes late into the day in the summer. It’s a very popular element and the community was part of that renovation in 2010. That’s near and dear to many of the community members.
The trees and the green space is very important to maintain. That was a very important element to the community members — that we maintain a green buffer in a heavily urbanizing area.
BethesdaNow.com: The park as a buffer zone between downtown Bethesda and the single family neighborhood to the west is a big topic, especially with Parks talking more about urban parks and many in Bethesda wanting more lively and active civic spaces. How do you bridge that gap, manage that dilemma?
Bonney: As a landscape architect, I enjoy designing urban parks and integrating green space with urban activities. That’s especially a challenge at this park because of its size. It’s only one acre and it is in such close proximity to the downtown area and the residential properties. I’m definitely interested in integrating small-scale urban activities in a park that looks green and has tree canopy elements.
We need a mix of those uses, because inevitably that’s the desire for the park — to have a multi-use park for many different people, not just for the immediate land owners or the residential homeowners, but for all people in Bethesda.
We’ve been in talks with the Bethesda Urban Partnership’s [Deputy Executive Director] Jeff Burton and trying to understand where the activity areas are and which urban spaces are being used for musical events or activities that the Urban Partnership holds and how the park would fit within the matrix of services there. We want to integrate, but we also have to be careful, because it is very close to residential properties, to strike the correct balance of uses.
It also should be maintained as a quiet park during different times of the month and in the summer. So that’s an important balance.
Caroline Freeland Urban Park is a buffer between downtown Bethesda and single-family home neighborhoods to the west. It is also in a prime location for lunchtime business meetings and weekend events.
Next week, Montgomery Parks will continue planning for the renovation of the park (7200 Arlington Rd.) with a community meeting. Parks admits a need to better connect the park to bustling Bethesda, but says it hopes to maintain the one-acre site’s meaning to the local community.
In 1983, Parks bought the land and designed the park to protect the Edgemoor neighborhood from the commercial development going on east of Arlington Road.
But now the space, between Bethesda Library and the Arlington Road Giant, seems like it offers potential for more. It’s a rare example of a large park space in downtown Bethesda:
The goal of this project is to develop an innovative, attractive, and environmentally sensitive design for the long-term renovation of the park. The design process will focus on identifying opportunities to improve the park as an amenity for the local community, while balancing the need to improve connections to the Bethesda Central Business District (CBD). The park’s downtown location offers great potential to create a memorable and unique open space that provides a cohesive and flexible framework to support passive recreational needs and cultural activities.
The community meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Library (7400 Arlington Rd.) The timeline has another community meeting scheduled for March 2014, development of a Preferred Plan over the rest of 2014 and then a presentation of the plan and cost estimates to the Planning Board in winter 2015.
In August, Parks officials spoke about using urban parks as drivers of the nighttime economy, or simply as more innovative civic spaces. That could require keeping parks open after dark. It’s unknown if those around the “buffer” Freeland Park would approve.
Now, the park includes a wooden pavilion, open-air wooden trellis, some retaining walls, planters, sloped lawn, playground and “Bethesda Walk Around” art sculpture. As the Arts and Humanities Council explains, the sculpture includes 14 painted steel figures at the top of a round structure meant to represent people in Bethesda in the 80′s. There are moms with strollers, a businessman-type and even what appears to be a homeless man.
The sculpture was installed in 1989. The playground area was renovated in 2010.
For more information, visit Montgomery Parks’ project website for the park.
Photos via Montgomery Parks
A five-floor condo set for Montgomery Lane will go before the Montgomery County Planning board on July for approval.
The house at 4825 Montgomery Lane is set to be demolished and redeveloped into a building with four residential units and four individual garage doors on the West Lane side of the property.
In December, the County Council approved a zoning change for the site. It has one of the last remaining single family-detached houses in the neighborhood bordered by Arlington Road, Edgemoor Lane, Woodmont Avenue and Hampden Lane. The area, within walking distance of the Bethesda Metro station, is predominantly townhomes and condos.
The Chase and 10-story Edgemoor apartment buildings are directly to the east of the site. A controversial seven-story, 120-unit apartment complex (4831 West Lane) is planned for across the street.
Photos via Montgomery County Planning Department
Bradley Party & Variety will open at 6922 Arlington Rd., in the Bradley Shopping Center, at 11 a.m. with a petting zoo, balloons for kids and giveaways.
The store is also offering a $5 coupon for all purchases of at least $10 through its Facebook page.
The move has created plenty of intrigue. The owners of Bruce Variety claim Stronsiders, their next-door neighbor in the shopping center for almost 60 years, orchestrated their ouster from Arlington Road in order to grab the space to start its own similar business.
Bruce Variety owner Richard Dimock is the ex-husband of Robin Strosnider, who his wife and Bruce Variety co-owner Linda Ridenour claimed paid a retired Bruce Variety worker for inside knowledge of the store’s vendors.
Bruce Variety has since re-opened. But in May, workers stood on the sidewalk near the Bradley Shopping Center with signs declaring Bruce’s new location in Woodmont Triangle.
The store moved out of 7263 Woodmont Ave. earlier this year. A Max Brenner Chocolate shop will take its place with an expected mid-June opening.
On May 9, 10 and 11, moms will receive a flower with a coupon for a free 8×10 enlargement of any photo. The store is also holding a Mother’s Day raffle for two Polaroid digital cameras. Customers who bring their child’s artwork can have it scanned and printed into a leather-bound album for a reduced price.
The store includes an expanded inventory and sales on cameras, SD cards and tripods. Eric Moseson, executive vice president of Ritz, said the new space is larger and the store will offer photography classes.
Last year, New Jersey-based C&A Marketing bought Ritz Camera after it failed to emerge from its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in four years. C&A Marketing decided to keep its Bethesda store after a going-out-of-business sale, just in a new location about half-a-mile away.
Parents of students at Bethesda Elementary School today started an online petition for pedestrian improvements in the area around the school, after a February incident in which a three-month old child in a stroller was hit and dragged from a crosswalk on Arlington Road.
Wendy Leibowitz said the parents started the petition because of that incident and a number of others along Arlington Road. The child in the stroller collision on Feb. 27 was not hurt after a car turning on to Arlington from Edgemoor Lane failed to yield.
It was one of three reported pedestrian-car collisions in Bethesda since February.
“As you know, there have been a series of accidents and near-accidents in downtown Bethesda along Arlington Road and some of us are concerned that the pedestrian crossings and speed limits are poorly marked,” Leibowitz said. “There are no speed cameras or enforcement of traffic rules and people drive very aggressively near Bethesda Elementary School.”
The petition has 27 supporters so far and asks the Montgomery County Council, Police Department and Department of Transportation for more “No Turn On Red” restrictions, more visible crosswalk markings, speed cameras on Arlington Road and police patrols when children are going to and leaving school.
Read the full petition after the jump.
UPDATE 2:50 p.m. MCFRS crews are on the scene of a brush fire in the wooded residential area of the intersection of Burning Tree Road and Beech Tree Road. Crews reportedly have the roughly quarter-acre fire under control.
ORIGINAL With weather conditions ideal for the rapid spread of brush fires, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is advising residents not to throw cigarettes on the ground and to be careful with any flammable materials.
A fire in a small section of mulch in the Giant grocery store parking lot on Arlington Road was easily extinguished before reaching any trees just after 11 a.m. And MCFRS will be on alert for similar incidents because of dry, windy conditions.
From the National Weather Service:
…RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING FOR EASTERN WEST VIRGINIA…NORTHERN AND CENTRAL MARYLAND… NORTHERN VIRGINIA AND WASHINGTON DC…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG WARNING FOR THE POTENTIAL OF RAPID WILDFIRE GROWTH…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING. THE FIRE WEATHER WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* RELATIVE HUMIDITY…20 TO 25 PERCENT.
* WINDS…NORTHWEST 15 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH.
* FUEL MOISTURE…5 TO 8 PERCENT.
* IMPACTS…THE COMBINATION OF GUSTY WINDS AND DRY FUELS WILL PROMOTE RAPID SPREAD OF ANY UNCONTROLLED FIRES. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…
A FIRE WEATHER WATCH MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS MAY OCCUR. LISTEN FOR LATER FORECASTS AND POSSIBLE RED FLAG WARNINGS.
A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW…OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS…LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY…AND DRY FUELS WILL CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.
The old U.S. Post Office building at 7001 Arlington Rd. is no more after crews tore down the brick building in the last few days to make way for a five-story, 140-unit apartment with ground floor retail.
The Post Office closed last year as Philadelphia-based developer Keating fenced off the site and prepared it for demolition and construction.
The new apartment will include a parking garage with 211 spaces, which will accommodate 44 fewer peak-hour trips during weekday mornings and 19 fewer peak-hour trips during the evening rush hour than the Post Office generated, according to County Planning Staff.
Also in the plans: A new traffic signal that would go at the intersection of Arlington Road and the north entrance to the Bradley Boulevard shopping center.
Kae Robin & Company (6910 Arlington Rd.) is closing as owner Jo Ann Horn prepares to retire, an employee confirmed today.
The gift shop and stationery store has been opened in Bradley Shopping Center since 1959. In December, longtime crafts store Bruce Variety announced it was closing just a few doors down from Kae Robin. Owners said the rent in the shopping center had got too high and many bemoaned the loss of the independently owned small business in a changing Bethesda area.
A representative from the Shopping Center did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the time and it is unclear if Kae Robin is facing a similar situation.
We left a phone message with Horn this morning.
Just in time for yesterday’s rush on snow shovels, salt and other winter supplies, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot stopped in at the Strosniders Hardware Store (6930 Arlington Rd.) in Bradley Shopping Center to honor store employees for 60 years of business.
Franchot, who stopped at a press event earlier in the day at Hoover Middle School in Potomac, presented Strosniders store manager Jim Beckett and general manager Bill Hart with a Certificate of Recognition for the store’s 60th anniversary:
Early today Strosniders Hardware was presented a Certificate of Recognition from the Comptroller of Maryland, Peter Franchot, for 60 years of exceptional customer service to our patrons. We could not have done it without your support! Thank you for shopping with us and we look forward to serving all of our patrons for years to come!
Image from Strosniders Hardware via Facebook
(UPDATE: 3:10 p.m.) The Gazette reports the gas leak has been sealed and Arlington Road has been reopened.
(ORIGINAL STORY: 12:10 p.m.) A punctured gas line in front of the old Bethesda Post Office on Arlington Road had closed the busy street in both directions and forced Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services to evacuate all businesses in the area.
A construction worker doing advance work before the planned teardown of the Post Office reportedly punctured a two-inch gas line in front of the property at 7001 Arlington Road.
Arlington Road is closed from Bethesda Avenue to Bradley Boulevard and MCFRS personnel have also closed westbound Bethesda Avenue at Arlington Road.
A Washington Gas crew arrived at the scene around 12:30 p.m. Avoid the area, as repair work is expected to take at least the next few hours.
Polls opened today at 7 a.m. in 32 Bethesda and Chevy Chase voting precincts, many with lines extending onto sidewalks or parking lots outside.
Those who had just finished voting at the Bethesda Library and Bethesda Elementary School on Arlington Road reported wait times ranging from 30 minutes to a little more than an hour, which they said was an agreeable amount considering the length on the ballot.
Almost 78,000 people cast ballots in early voting, about 12.6 percent of Montgomery County’s voting population, according to The Gazette. Polls close at 8 p.m. The list of ballot box locations and links to where you can find your precinct is here.
The Montgomery County Planning Board today will assess plans for a five-story, 140-apartment mixed-use development at the old Arlington Road Post Office site.
In its recommendations for the project’s Preliminary and Site Plans to be reviewed this morning, planning staff discusses a required new traffic signal and walkway to the Capital Crescent Trail that borders the property to the east side.
Both those elements were required by the County Council when it approved zoning changes for Philadelphia-based Keating Development in January.
An attorney for the developer expressed some resistance to the idea of a pedestrian or bike access point to the Trail because of maintenance and liability issues.
But in the Preliminary and Site Plans, Keating has provided for a walkway from the building to the Trail and a 60-inch high metal picket fence that will allow residents to see the Trail and Trail-goers to see the apartment.
Also part of the staff recommendations is more information on a new traffic signal that would go at the intersection of Arlington Road, the south entrance to the development and the north entrance to the Bradley Boulevard shopping center.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has approved the signalization concept for the intersection, which will now include 7,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor of the Keating development.
The signal must be up and operational before the new apartments or retail stores can open.
Planning staff says the development will actually represent a stark decrease in traffic compared to the Post Office that occupied the site until it closed for consolidation purposes in May.
Developers want to provide a parking garage with 211 spaces, which will accommodate 44 fewer peak-hour trips during weekday mornings and 19 fewer peak-hour trips during the evening rush hour than the Post Office generated.
Image via Montgomery County Planning Department
This coming Sunday, the market is scheduled to hold a Dog Costume contest at 11 a.m., in addition to a more traditional Costume Parade, trick-or-treating at vendor stands, pumpkin painting and make-your-own apple cider from an antique cider press.
The Bethesda Central Farm Market happens every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Bethesda Elementary School (7600 Arlington Rd.)
The 4th Annual Halloween Extravaganza will begin at 10 a.m this Sunday, Oct. 28.
For more info, visit the event page.
Photo via Central Farm Markets.