Montgomery County proceeds with Bethesda police station deal
Second District police headquarters to be built by JBG Companies by 2016
Despite protests from two members, the Montgomery County Council decided Tuesday to move forward with a deal to trade land and spend $9.25 million for a new police station in downtown Bethesda.
The deal, more than two years in the making, will give the property that now houses the 2nd District police station on Wisconsin Avenue to developer JBG Companies, who will build a station valued at $21.8 million on Cordell Avenue within five years, said Diane Schwartz Jones, the county's assistant chief administrative officer.
In 2008, Montgomery County solicited bids for a new station in downtown Bethesda, and chose JBG's land-trade deal in May 2009. Representatives of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) have been negotiating the deal, according to a Tuesday staff report.
The station is more than 50 years old.
The trade will require the passage of a zoning text amendment, introduced May 10. The legislation allows the creation of public facilities, like a police station, to count as special amenities in building projects, so developers can qualify for an allowance to build larger than permitted.
Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said Tuesday he had reservations about how the deal was struck and called the zoning amendment a "red-eyed Eskimo;" a bill enacted to benefit a single purpose or person.
Elrich said he thinks the legislation offered JBG an advantage over the bidders on the new station.
"This is really hard, I agree this is not a bad deal...but I guess I have a fundamental problem with how this goes down," he said.
Jones said the zoning amendment would be used in future public-private partnerships to help fund public facilities construction.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said she questioned leaving construction of the station to a private company.
"What we lose out of this is control," she said.
David Dise, director of the county's Department of General Services, who oversees such public projects, said the developer would face fines if construction were delayed beyond the five years.
Montgomery County will pay $7.25 million to JBG and spend $2 million on design, planning, and furniture and equipment for the station, Jones said.
The Wisconsin Avenue property where the current station stands is valued at $8.7 million.
JBG has agreed to pay for the rest of the $21.8 million expected cost. The developer will be responsible for any cost-overruns, Jones said.
JBG pledged to build a 400-unit apartment building next to the new station, Jones said. An office complex will replace the current station on Wisconsin.
All development plans must be approved by the county Planning Board.
The 2nd District serves Potomac, Bethesda, North Bethesda, Kensington, Chevy Chase, and southern unincorporated Rockville.