White Flint plan poised to pass
Council member calls changes significant remake'
The County Council is expected to vote next week on the White Flint Sector Plan, which will govern growth around the White Flint Metro station in North Bethesda.
The plan, scheduled for a full council vote Tuesday, will determine the development of 9,800 new apartments and condominiums and nearly 6 million square feet of commercial space over the next 30 years. The plan is an update to the 1992 North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan, and is intended to create a more diverse mix of land uses that creates dense pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly development around the Metro station and Rockville Pike, as well as new open spaces and affordable public housing.
A straw poll of the County Council on March 2 showed unanimous approval for the plan. That vote was preceded by unanimous approval of a mixed-use Commercial-Residential Zone for White Flint. That action will allow for developers to reach their desired densities in exchange for providing community amenities such as green space and playgrounds.
The project has broad community support in part because the county will maintain current traffic standards and require public amenities and facilities, such as an elementary school site and green space, said Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park.
"I think that the biggest issues with it got resolved," Elrich said.
Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist.1) of Potomac expects the plan to pass unanimously Tuesday.
"You have an area now that has far too much asphalt, a pike that is unattractive and impossible to cross, and the opportunity to create a grand boulevard with more mass transit and a livable, walkable, vibrant community, and doing all that while protecting surrounding neighborhoods," Berliner said, referring to Rockville Pike.
Barnaby Zall, founder of the nonprofit Friends of White Flint organization, which supports transit-oriented urban communities, said the plan showed creative thinking and a willingness to rely on new development ideas.
"What I think will come out of this is a demonstration that Montgomery County knows where it's going in the future," Zall said. "We're going to move away from a reliance on cars and we're going to move into a greener, more pedestrian-safe form of urban planning."
One of the next steps is for the council to decide how to finance more than $1 billion in public infrastructure improvements, including a new elementary school, a recreation center and a MARC station. One possibility is through a special taxing district that would collect fees from new residents and developers. Berliner said there is an understanding that developers have agreed to provide two-thirds of the funds for any required infrastructure improvements.
Over the next 30 years, according to Berliner, the White Flint area is expected to generate between $6 billion and $7 billion in additional gross revenue for Montgomery County compared to current revenue figures through the infrastructure fees and additional taxes generated from the development.
"I think arguably it's the most significant remake of our county, a portion of our county, in many, many years," he said.