The Montgomery County Planning Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, along with Montgomery Village’s representative to the county council, Craig Rice (District 2), held a work session on the Master Plan on January 11, using the county council staff reports of Glenn Orlin and Marlene Michaelson as the basis of their discussions. The committee made a number of suggested changes to the planning board’s Draft Master Plan, which was the subject of the council’s hearing on December 1, 2015. The full council will take up the Master Plan by the end of January or early February. The committee asked the council staff to review a number of issues that were discussed at the hearing and provide their analysis of the issues as soon as possible.
County Council Staff Member Marlene Michaelson noted that in 2011, the Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) had conducted an extensive visioning process that resulted in the Vision 2030 Plan: Moving Montgomery Village Forward. She noted that the Master Plan benefited from the ideas and concepts developed through the Village's 2030 Plan.
County Council Staff Member Glenn Orlin drafted a council report on transportation issues and responded to questions by council members. Several of his recommendations represented changes to the planning board’s Draft Master Plan.
For instance, council staff endorsed his recommendation to allow for two lanes on Wightman Road between Brink and Goshen roads, rather than the six lanes in the draft approved by the planning board. However, Orlin was in sync with the planning board on reserving the 80-foot right-of-way to allow for an improved hiker/biker trail and storm water management. The PHED Committee endorsed Orlin’s recommendation. Residents should be pleased with this recommendation.
Goshen Road has been in the Capital Improvements Program for many years and was previously masterplanned as a six lane roadway in a minimum right-of-way of 120 feet. Orlin recommended a four lane road in a 105-foot minimum right-of-way. He noted that the additional 2 feet of right-of-way would allow the planned shared use path to have a more standard 10-foot width, should that be feasible. The PHED Committee agreed with his recommendation.
There was considerable discussion about the proposed extension of Stewartown Road as a 2-lane road running east-west between Goshen Road and Montgomery Village Avenue. The planning board recommends classifying it as a minor arterial with a 70-foot right-of-way. Monument Realty had requested that the roadway be classified as a residential street with a lesser right-of-way of 56 feet, with a roadway design that would complement the proposed new houses that would be built along the street and decrease the speed limit for any vehicles travelling from east to west. County council staff recommended keeping the minor arterial classification, but decreasing the right-of-way to 56 feet as long as there was adequate off-street parking.
MVF EVP Dave Humpton argued that the road should be reclassified as a secondary residential street so that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would not be confused by the language in the Master Plan, given that they must give final approval to the roadway design. In fact, DOT was concerned that there is currently no cross-section in the Road Code regulations that would allow for less than a minimum 70-foot right-of-way for a minor arterial. DOT was also concerned that 56 feet would be too tight, and that many details normally addressed in a site plan, such as stormwater management, have not yet been studied.
In the end, the PHED Committee appeared to support the county council staff recommendation, but agreed that additional language should be put in the Master Plan to better reflect what the road is going to look like, as well as how it will function, including turn lanes, etc.
The staff report noted that 233 acres—less than 10% of total land area—is proposed for a zone that would encourage redevelopment with a potential change in land use and/or density. It was noted that more than 90% of the land area is proposed for a zone that is consistent with what is on the ground today. The county council staff reported that if all master plan recommendations for redevelopment occur on every property (which is highly unlikely), there could be an increase of over 2,000 residential units. They also projected that redevelopment of the former golf course is projected to result in 300 to 500 new units.
The county council staff supported the new mixed-use zoning for the Village Center, Professional Center and properties along Lost Knife Road across from Lakeforest Mall, as proposed by the planning board. They also agreed with the proposed zoning for the former golf course property (CRN), which would allow for townhouses or multi-family units to be built near the former club house location, and low density townhouse zone (TLD) for the balance of developable areas which were formerly golf course fairways.
The staff noted that the redevelopment of the golf course property would open up more beneficial park and open space areas—70 acres—especially with the dedication of approximately 40 acres to Park and Planning to connect Lois Green Park with the Great Seneca Stream Valley. A number of the committee members mentioned how golf courses are impactful to the environment and that there is an opportunity here to address better stormwater management practices on the property as well.
Covenants on the former golf course property
The committee asked their legal counsel to explain whether there are any covenants on the former golf course that would restrict development and require that it remain open space. The planning board had already concluded that there are no restrictive covenants. County Council Attorney Jeff Zyontz also concludes that there is no such legal requirement, outlining six reasons in his committee report.
The PHED Committee shared concerns and empathized with those who live adjacent to the golf course property, but several members argued that language in the Master Plan and site plan review would help protect view sheds for existing homes.
The PHED Committee agreed with the planning board’s recommendation to allow redevelopment of the golf course property, while preserving 70 acres, noting that it will provide greater public benefits than maintaining the existing private open space that is not currently accessible to the public, and offers none of the environmental benefits of the planning board recommendation.
New Zoning for existing properties
Residential: All properties in Montgomery Village are currently zoned Town Sector (TS), one of the county's oldest and most complex mixed-use zones. During the rewrite of the county master plan, it was determined that a number of outdated zones would not be considered for use in the future, including the TS Zone. The Montgomery Village Master Plan recommends 15 different zones for the planning area. Existing residential communities are rezoned to the residential zones that reflect the existing pattern of development. The R-10 (Multi-Unit High Density), R-20 (Multi-Unit Medium Density), R-30 (Multi-Unit Low Density), THD (Townhouse High Density), TMD (Townhouse Medium Density), R-60 (Residential-60), R-90 (Residential-90) and R-200 (Residential-200) are recommended at different locations.
In addition, the Draft Master Plan recommends the low-density RE-l (Residential Estate, 1 Acre) zone for all of MVF's community amenities, including parks, trails and recreation centers. The proposed Overlay Zone significantly restricts what can occur on these properties, to ensure the preservation of open space. The PHED Committee agreed with all the zoning recommendations from the staff with the exception of the rear portion of the Cider Mill Apartments, which they changed from R-20 to CRN, a designation that would not allow for any commercial development, but would allow eventually for the replacement of the 40- plus-year-old apartments.
The Professional Center at the corner of Montgomery Village Avenue and Centerway Road is proposed to be rezoned to CRT. Council staff noted that the zone requires the property owner to decrease density or increase setbacks closest to adjacent Whetstone homes. The PHED Committee agreed that this was the best zone to encourage redevelopment of the site, while protecting the adjacent neighborhood.
Schools and another fire station to serve Montgomery Village area: The committee discussed the recommendation that a new elementary school might be needed, depending on how much actual development occurs. There was some concern about the suggestion of using Centerway Park for a shared school/park site. Staff noted that there is an agreement between the Parks department and MCPS that if this site were ever to be needed, the property, or a portion of it, could be used for a school. There was also a mention of reserving property on the golf course site for this use, but the committee members and planning board chair noted their concern about requiring the owner of the golf course property to dedicate too much land for public benefit, given the amount of land that the owner controls for development. A recent Supreme Court case was referenced during the discussion.
The committee asked that the designation (star) for a future fire station be removed from a map in the Draft Master Plan, as it made it look like the new facility had been sited on North Village Homes Corporation property. The committee noted that this was a general note, and no property had actually been identified for another fire station. However, they wondered if a location might be found on the new, currently under construction Public Safety Academy, which is not far from the preferred area for a new fire station.