Thursday, January 17, 2008

Woodmont East II Meeting Hits the Papers

The Gazette and the Washington Post (with a broken link) both printed articles on public forum on Woodmont East II hosted by Councilman Roger Berliner. See the bottom of the post for the news on the latest action by the developer which didn't make either paper.

Bradford Pearson of the Gazette quoted Roger Berliner as stating the project is improved but may need a little more work:

Berliner, who has been campaigning for a public park on part of the site, said progress has been made, but more can be done.

‘‘The developers did hear our concerns, and have substantially revised their proposal,” he said. ‘‘But this will represent the heart and soul of Bethesda, and we need to make sure it’s done properly.”
Pearson further quoted residents who agreed with this assessment:
‘‘I think this plan is better, but I would suggest you go further,” said Bob Smythe, president of the Sacks Neighborhood Association, the closest neighborhood to Woodmont East. ‘‘We don’t want this to be D.C., with all its hardscapes. I live here because I like it better.”

Other residents agreed.

‘‘I would like to see more green space, maybe with a butterfly garden or a place where children can explore,” said Susan Milner, of Chevy Chase.
In the Washington Post, Miranda Spivack caught the one major reduction in the public space in the new plan:
While many in the audience at last week's meeting praised the proposal as a big improvement over previous plans, there were still many skeptics.

Some voiced concerns about a proposal to combine the hiker-biker trail with a 50-foot wide mews, reduced from 75 feet in the previous plan, where pedestrians and shoppers would mingle with hikers and bikers."
It's even more problematic. The schematic presented by the developers includes cafe tables on both side of the mews/alley as one can see in the blurry photos from my original take here on the meeting. This shrinking of the width of the alley remains my major objection to the plan.

The developer never released copies of the plan to the public and Pat Harris, the attorney for the developer, didn't respond positively to my offer to post a copy here. It still is not posted to the Planning Board website even though the developers hope to have a hearing in February, so it is all we've got. Perhaps there ought to be a requirement that plans be posted on the Planning Board website at least six weeks before the hearing date for approval.

Interestingly, the Planning Board website now contains written testimony from people who spoke the public hearing but does not include submitted written testimony, thus one again showing the importance of being present at the Planning Board meetings even though they occur during the workday.

One final bit of news: Apparently, the developer intends to ask the Planning Board to rule favorably on the abandonment of Reed Street even as it approves the basic outline of the plan--a fact not mentioned at the public forum. One assumes that they didn't bother to inform Councilman Berliner either. The letter making the request is also not yet posted to the Planning Board website.