County planners start designing White Flint
New development to come in stages
Now that the county has approved the overall plan for building the new White Flint, Montgomery Planning Board staffers say they must find a way to make it work.
The White Flint Sector Plan developed by the planning board over three years and passed by the county council in March calls for massive commercial and residential growth in the area around the White Flint metro station over the next 40 years.
On Nov. 30, the Montgomery County Council approved a $826.8 million financing plan to help pay for the roads and other infrastructure projects to support the 9,800 new residences and nearly 6 million square feet of commercial space outlined in the development plan.
On Thursday, the planning board began discussing implementing its staging allocation policy, which separates this growth into three phases to ensure that the development does not exceed the county's road or public service capacity, said Jacob Seskar, a planner coordinator with the planning department's community-based planning division.
"Try to envision turning on the tap but keeping your hand on the tap," he said. "You have to make sure you have some kind of check in place to make sure you don't get too much."
The plan is broken into three stages which each allow 3,000 residential units and 2 million square feet of commercial space, Seskar said. Any project proposed for White Flint will be tallied against this amount, with projects exceeding it forced to wait until infrastructure projects are completed, he said.
Developers at the Thursday hearing said they do not oppose the policy, but worry that some projects that are stalled or delayed could fill the stages.
Under the proposal, this capacity would be counted when a developer applies for a building permit through the county's Department of Permitting Services.
Evan Goldman, a director of development for Federal Realty Investment Trust one of the largest commercial property owners in White Flint said his group would like the planning board to monitor proposed developments to keep track of available space.
He said this is important for the multi-stage projects designed for White Flint, which include a mix of residential, office and retail space built in the same area but not at the same time.
Federal Realty is proposing such a project, the Mid-Pike Plaza: a 22-acre office, retail, office complex, hotel, and shopping center currently being built just north of Old Georgetown Road.
Françoise Carrier, chair of the planning board, said that proposal might not be practical.
"I am reluctant to have our staff track every single project," she said.
Before the first stage can commence, Seskar said, White Flint must be established as a State of Maryland Bicycle Pedestrian Area awarded by the State Highway Administration for prioritizing grants and road projects and the county must develop a plan for through-traffic access restrictions to keep vehicles moving during construction.
The remaining stages are initiated by road projects, outlined in the master plan.
Four projects will not be counted against the staging process as they were approved before the approval of the White Flint Sector Plan:
-North Bethesda Center by LCOR of Washington, D.C. a $850 million apartment building, office space, and shopping center next to the White Flint Metro station. Expected to encompass 32 acres and include 1.14 million square feet of office space, 202,037 feet of retail, and 1,350 residential units.
-North Bethesda Market by JBG Cos of Chevy Chase already started with the construction of a 200,000-square foot apartment building along Rockville Pike across from the White Flint Mall, includes 440 apartments near 223,000 feet of commercial space.
-White Flint View by Quantum/Noland Plumbing of Maryland a condominium and retail outlet project set near Montrose Road and Rockville Pike includes 183 new units and close to 30,000 square-feet of commercial space.
-Metro Pike by Holladay of Washington, D.C. a 201,822-square foot retail center underneath an apartment and condominium complex that will total 247 units.
All are either under construction or scheduled to be permitted for construction in 2011.
Source: The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning