Tuesday, March 09, 2010

City of Gaithersburg Urges Council to "Address" Gaithersburg West Issues

In the wake of a short but intense lobbying campaign waged by supporters and opponents of the Gaithersburg West Master Plan, the City of Gaithersburg (which borders the plan area) has sent an exceedingly skeptical resolution to the County Council. The resolution questions the fiscal and traffic data underlying the plan, urges further traffic mitigation strategies or reduced density and asks the County Council to either "address" a number of issues or send the plan back to the Planning Board. Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz's letter to the council and the resolution can be found on the city's website. The Gazette reports that the City of Rockville is about to pass a similar resolution. This plan is becoming a major political issue and we will have more on it shortly.

We reproduce the city's resolution below.



WHEREAS, Montgomery County Council is currently reviewing the Montgomery County Planning Board Draft of the Gaithersburg West Master Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Gaithersburg West planning area is immediately adjacent to the City of Gaithersburg; and

WHEREAS, the draft Gaithersburg West Master Plan envisions a Life Sciences Center and recommends zoning to accommodate for a very large amount of new office, residential and retail development, representing a significant increase over what is permitted under the plan currently in force; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor and City Council of Gaithersburg support the goals of the Life Sciences Center to leverage the County’s comparative advantages in biosciences as long as the impacts of increased development can be mitigated so that the benefits from a Life Science District are balanced to a proper, manageable scale of development; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor and City Council support economic development, creation of good jobs and smart growth, but reject the all or nothing approach to the Gaithersburg West Master Plan that is currently proposed; and

WHEREAS, the impacts of this large amount of new office, residential and retail uses will extend far beyond the planning area, and includes the City of Gaithersburg; and

WHEREAS, this large amount of new development could have detrimental impacts on the quality of life in existing nearby communities, including Gaithersburg; and

WHEREAS, the fiscal impact report commissioned by the County contains significant errors in the fundamental assumptions used to determine the County revenue potential, job creation potential, impacts on schools and other infrastructure and required affordable housing set-asides for Gaithersburg West; and

WHEREAS, key transportation corridors for the Gaithersburg West Master Plan, including roads and the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway, pass directly through the City of Gaithersburg; and

WHEREAS, the City maintains its strong support of the Corridor Cities Transitway, and construction of the CCT is vital to this development as well as other development in Gaithersburg and Montgomery County.

WHEREAS, traffic projections from Plan-generated growth, as conducted by County Planning staff, show key Gaithersburg intersections to be failing based on Gaithersburg’s standards; and

WHEREAS, many key intersections and corridors that will be heavily impacted by the plan have not been studied as part of the analysis; and

WHEREAS, the assumptions used to support the traffic analysis do not adequately account for planned and approved development within the City, such as Crown Farm and Watkins Mill; and

WHEREAS, there is no assurance that the Corridor Cities Transitway will be funded and built during the planning horizon of this Plan; and

WHEREAS, public services in the City of Gaithersburg, other than transportation, will also be affected by the development; and

WHEREAS, the City has received numerous emails and comments from concerned County residents, both inside and outside of Gaithersburg, expressing profound concern with the scope and density of the Gaithersburg West Plan; and

WHEREAS, other public agencies, such as the State Highway Administration, have raised concerns with the traffic analysis and other assumptions being used to support the Plan; and

WHEREAS, the City has been consistently advocating the above concerns, as well as request to change the name of the planning area to remove “Gaithersburg” which we maintain is misleading, to the County throughout the approval process for the Gaithersburg West Master Plan, by forwarding a March 2009 letter from the City’s Planning Commission to the County Planning Board, by conducting an August 2009 Work Session with County staff and by reiterating the comments raised in this Work Session in a January 2010 letter from the Mayor to the County, but the County has failed or refused to take action to address the City’s recommendations and concerns.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor and City Council of the City of Gaithersburg, that before the Montgomery County Council approves the Gaithersburg West Master Plan, the following items must be addressed by the County Council, or, if they cannot be addressed by the County Council, must be returned to the County Planning Board for further study:

1. The fiscal analysis that is the basis of the Plan must be re-evaluated to contain realistic assumptions, including the number of new jobs that will be created, the number of employees who will reside in the planning area and the proportion of families that will be contributing students to the public school system.

2. Traffic studies must be revised to include the traffic impact on all affected arterials within Gaithersburg and accurate data for alternative modes for commuting. For all intersections within Gaithersburg, the analysis must consider Gaithersburg’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) which uses a Critical Lane Volume (CLV) standard of 1450, lower than the 1600 CLV established for the Life Science Center. Using Gaithersburg’s CLV standard will show that the projected growth will make certain intersections exceed capacity and require mitigation. Gaithersburg’s specific requests regarding the Transportation Analysis must include, but not be limited to, the following intersections:

a. Muddy Branch Road and Great Seneca Highway/MD 119
b. Great Seneca Highway/MD 119 and Quince Orchard Road/MD124
c. Sam Eig Highway and Great Seneca Highway/MD 119
d. Sam Eig Highway and Fields Road
e. Sam Eig Highway and Diamondback Drive
f. Darnestown Road/MD 28 and Muddy Branch Road

3. The plan must include mitigation strategies in surrounding communities, including Gaithersburg and Rockville, and consider the existing development pipeline and where development is expected to create or exacerbate problems. Specifically, once further traffic studies are completed, a thorough analysis should be undertaken and recommendations should be made for infrastructure improvements necessary to mitigate the additional traffic in Gaithersburg that exceeds Gaithersburg’s standards. Any such infrastructure improvements must be included in the Staging Requirements.

4. If mitigation is not possible, or if the recommended mitigation is not consistent with maintaining a high quality of life within the planning area and in the surrounding communities, including Gaithersburg, development densities must be adjusted appropriately.

5. The proposed use of grade separated interchanges to mitigate traffic is not consistent with the City’s Master Plans or approved development and is detrimental to efforts to provide enhanced connectivity between communities and must be modified.

6. The staging requirements recommended in the Planning Board Draft must be strengthened to include appropriate infrastructure being built in advance of the approval of new residential as well as commercial development. Staging must be programmed in such a manner that the stages anticipate the impacts of new development, so as to mitigate those impacts before they occur. A mechanism must be developed to continuously monitor development progress and related impacts. Further, in the event that infrastructure improvements do not precede development of the Life Science Center, the staging /phasing plan must be revised to address these impacts.

7. Should the State of Maryland reject the Plan’s recommended alignment of the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), or decide not to fund the project, the Plan must consider alternative phasing and/or amount of development.

8. The plan must incorporate pedestrian-friendly design components to the infrastructure that ensure connectivity between the planning area and existing neighborhoods.

9. The Plan must include appropriate provisions for open space and parklands, to service the new residents and employees of the planning area, as well as existing communities, but also to lessen the impacts on the adjacent system of parks and open spaces in the City of Gaithersburg.

10. The Plan must not compromise the County’s standards and goals with respect to affordable housing, and must include, at a minimum, a full implementation of the Moderate Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program.

11. All public services and amenities must be planned and programmed to serve both the new residents and existing communities and to minimize the impacts on surrounding communities such as the Cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg.

12. Montgomery County Council members, staff, developers and institutions must coordinate continuously with the City of Gaithersburg, City of Rockville and all their residents as active participants throughout the decision-making process, during implementation of the plan if adopted, and in monitoring the impacts. The City of Gaithersburg stands ready to participate.

ADOPTED by the Mayor and City Council this 8th day of March, 2010.

SIDNEY A. KATZ, MAYOR and President of the Council

THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the foregoing Resolution was adopted by the City Council in public meeting assembled on the 8th day of March, 2010.

Angel L. Jones, City Manager