Saturday, April 9, 2016

WMAL field housing development community meeting

Toll Brothers held a community meeting today about a revised concept plan they are working on for the WMAL radio transmitter field in Bethesda, MD.

The original concept plan was submitted last November and the planning board as well as the fire department had extensive comments on it.  Toll Brothers went back and updated the plan based on those comments, and this meeting was the first chance the community got to see the plan.

The meeting was held at North Bethesda Middle school and was packed with almost every seat taken and many people standing along the sides of the room.

The new plan hasn't changed very much from the old plan (the top link in the story discusses the old plan, I won't repeat it here).  There is still 328 houses, some single family and some townhouses.  There is also still a 5 acre site reserved for 3 years for the county to purchase at fair market value if they desire it.  That reserved area includes some of the mature woodland that they can't build on anyway (and that the county probably couldn't use either).  If the county exercises the option to buy the total number of houses built would be reduced from 238 to 306 units.

Removed from the plan are any mention of a dog park, as well as the wide boulevard running north/south in the middle of the site.  Based on comments from the county, the Greyswood to Greentree interconnection has been straightened out and an access to the neighborhood via Renita lane has also been added (Toll Bros. was clear they would like this to be for fire department access only, possibly by having it gated, but the county has to agree to that).  I understand the county also didn't like the alleys behind many of the houses and how close the houses were to the road, but those concerns don't appear to have been acted on.

In addition to the road access points (three on Greentree, one on Greyswood, and the possible Renita lane access) there would be a pedestrian only access onto Derbyshire, and, if the Renita Lane access were fire department only that would be a pedestrian access as well.

The plan they showed us was just the pretty overview drawing, it didn't have lot sizes or road widths on it, so it isn't clear if any of that has changed.

School enrollment projections for the WJ cluster based on development of the WMAL radio transmitter site.
This property is zoned for the Walter Johnson cluster.  They used the county guidelines for how many students would be added to the cluster.  These projections (which during the questions, several residents suggested were too low) call for an additional 153.2 students.  That rounds out to be 78 new elementary students in Ashburton ES, 38 new middle school students at North Bethesda MS, and 38 new high school students at Walter Johnson HS.

They talked about the scope of the traffic study but said it was not complete.  One of the Toll Brothers representatives promised there would be another community meeting at a yet-to-be-determined date to focus on traffic.  One small piece of useful information they gave was that they estimate in the peak hour, this development will generate an additional 209 trips on local roads.

The site plan makes extensive use of bioswales for stormwater management.  Toll brothers claims that the impact of the development on the Chesapeake bay after the houses are built will be lower than it is today, however I find that claim dubious since it is currently undeveloped forest and grassland.  The bioswales will mostly be on neighborhood association owned land, but some (on the east side) will be on private property easements.  All the bioswales will be maintained by the association.

A line of people waiting to ask questions at one of the two microphones.
After the presentation, the community was given time to ask questions.  People lined up for access to the microphone.  Questions focused on the roads/traffic, the schools, and the size of lots and prices.  People also asked about the environmental impact of the project, such as wildlife, energy efficiency and carbon footprint.

There will be four types of housing on the site, Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) The pricing formula is set by the county and wasn't discussed, but they will all be townhouses.  The townhouses (not all will be MPDUs) will have two car garages with rear (alleyway) access.  They will start above $900,000.  Some of the detached houses will also be rear-load (alley access to two car garages), these will start around 1.1 million dollars.  There will also be houses with front driveways (and two car garages) on slightly larger lots starting around 1.3 million dollars.

One person asked about the 15 foot buffer between the houses on the east side and existing houses on Corkran Lane.  That will be planted as a water swale, but will be owned by, and be part of the backyard of, the new houses backing it.  Another person asked about the current wildlife in the area, including the sizeable deer herd on the property.  The response was that nothing special was planned, and they expected the deer to move out on their own as development progressed (undoubtedly onto the interstate and into the backyards of existing houses).

One interesting thing I noticed from the questions, is the people who live on the Greentree side of the field think all the traffic from the development will end up on Greentree road, and all the people on the Fernwood side of the field think all the traffic will end up on Greyswood Road.

Updated 4/9 6pm:  changed the number of access points on Greetree from 2 to 3.  A closer look at the plan reveals they plan roads that connect at Barnett Rd, Grubby Thicket Way, and at the current end of Greentree Rd.

Updated 4/14 9:45 am: Toll Brothers has posted  the presentation from the meeting here:

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