White Flint residents want info before testifying
Some White Flint area residents are concerned they don't have all the information they want going into a public hearing that will help decide the future of the neighborhood.
The hearing on the revamped White Flint Sector Plan will take place at 7 p.m., Monday, at Park and Planning Headquarters, 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. The hearing will be a chance for residents to comment on the new vision for the area surrounding the White Flint Metro Station. Members of the public who wish to comment must sign up for a three-minute slot beforehand.
County planners will use comments made at the hearing at work sessions throughout the winter to consider changes to the draft plan, before ultimately presenting a revised version to the Planning Board for approval sometime this summer. Once the Planning Board approves the draft, additional opportunities for public comment will arise.
Some members of a steering committee formed in December to give feedback to County Planners about the new vision for the area surrounding the White Flint Metro Station have expressed concern they do not have all the information they want going into the public hearing. Paula Bienenfeld, a member of that committee and the president of the Luxmanor Civic Association, said she is "concerned" that data from traffic models and specific design guidelines for the sector plan will not be available until after the Jan. 12 public hearing.
"It's difficult to comment on the plan when the underpinnings and assumptions behind it are not available to the public," Bienenfeld said. "There's no do-over I don't think."
The hearing is on the sector plan draft, an update to the White Flint section of the 1992 North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan that includes updated street networks, a greater density of housing and improved bicycle and pedestrian areas. County planners are focusing on the plan as a transit-oriented mixed-use development, encouraging the use of public transportation and cohesion of neighborhoods to encourage walking.
County planner Nkosi Yearwood said the items Bienenfeld wants will be provided to the public when they are complete, but a combination of staff turnover and the sheer volume of data to compile will mean it won't be available Monday. However, Yearwood said, the information such as street network relationships, boundaries, and traffic volume has already been included in "glimpses" throughout the two-year process.
"We provided a lot of the information over the past few years…but we haven't necessarily distilled it in one document," Nkosi said. "Traditionally, typically, you'll have an appendix come after the public hearing."
Planning staff has been working on a draft of the traffic data to show to the steering committee soon, and it will be posted publicly on the department Web site when it is completed. Yearwood said the timeline is similar for the design guidelines, but they are being prepared in a "companion document" and not part of the White Flint Sector Plan draft to be presented.
Other members of the steering committee say they too are anxious to see the information, but they believe the planning department is working as fast as it can.
"I have no indication that they're withholding anything, in fact I think to contrary they're trying to get us what they can when they can," said Barnaby Zall. He said he's "not a data digger" personally but sees the value in getting it to people that are.
"I think we can comment on what they're telling us without having the data itself, but clearly having the data allows for more informed and better comment."
Members of the public wishing to speak at the hearing may sign up for a three-minute time slot by clicking the White Flint link on the department Web site, www.mcparkandplanning.org. The draft plan to be presented is also available there.