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Bethesda Downtown Plan

Testimony to Planning Board, June 24, 2015

The Action Committee for Transit strongly supports the goal of the draft plan: a downtown Bethesda that continues to grow and thrive as it becomes more walkable and more transit-oriented with the arrival of the Purple Line. We endorse the proposed increase in the overall density of residential and commercial density to help meet the region’s growing demand for housing and jobs. We have the following comments on specific aspects of the plan:

1) We support conversion of one-way to two-way streets, especially Woodmont Avenue.

2) We support mixed-use development at the firehouse at Wisconsin & Bradley, but only if revenue generated by the development helps to enhance fire and rescue services.

3) County-owned parking lots east of Wisconsin Avenue should be used for medium-density residential development with a strong emphasis on affordable housing. Single-family neighborhoods should not be walled off from their surroundings by “buffers”; they should be connected through gradual transitions.

4) Developers should be allowed to meet affordable housing requirements off-site by preserving existing affordable housing within downtown Bethesda, but only if amount preserved is at least 2.5 times amount of new housing they would be required to provide on site. It is essential, however, that the affordable housing remain in proximity to the new building within downtown Bethesda.

5) The Sacks neighborhood should be rezoned for urban development as requested by many current homeowners. Single-family housing currently in that area is incompatible with its mixed-use and apartment surroundings. Urban areas should not be treated as second-class; they and their residents are entitled to the protection from incompatible land uses that the county frequently grants to single-family detached houses.

6) We support a cycle track on Arlington Road.

7) We support construction of a new building above the Metro station bus area and oppose creation of a new park above the bus area. Whether or not a new building goes in, the plaza above the bus area should be partially removed to bring more air and light to the bus waiting area.