Wednesday, April 14, 2010

County Council Provides More Details on Gaithersburg West

A County Council press release provides more details on the compromise Gaithersburg West Master Plan, now renamed the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan, that the council voted to support yesterday. Following is the release.

Montgomery Council Reaches Agreements on ‘Great Seneca Science Corridor’ Master Plan

Maximum Allowable Building Space Reduced, Critical Lane Volume Addressed, Community Engagement Encouraged For Plan Formerly Known as Gaithersburg West

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 14, 2010—The Montgomery County Council on April 13 voted 8-1 to tentatively approve key aspects of the newly renamed “Great Seneca Science Corridor” Master Plan. The agreements on the plan—formerly known as the Gaithersburg West Master Plan—should be formalized within the next few weeks and will allow the area near Shady Grove Road and Darnestown Road to develop into one of the nation’s premier areas for scientific research and development.

The Council has studied the proposal intently since fall. A major portion of the plan involves the former Belward Farm that was purchased by Johns Hopkins University. The university has sought to incorporate that land as part of the area’s development.

Key agreements reached by the Council include reduction of the maximum allowable buildable space in the plan from the proposed 20 million square feet to 17.5 million square feet. Another key agreement would maintain the “critical lane volume” that defines overcrowded roads at 1,450 vehicles per lane per hour (rather than allowing a proposed increase to 1,600). An amendment added will require the County’s Planning Board to work with existing neighborhoods to monitor evolving transportation issues of the plan. Another item approved by the Council requests that the Planning Board work to protect the profile of the remaining buildings of Belward Farm as development occurs around them.

Council President Nancy Floreen, Vice President Valerie Ervin and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Mike Knapp, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Duchy Trachtenberg voted to tentatively approve the amended plan. Councilmember Marc Elrich voted against the proposal.

“We have worked carefully to establish a plan that will guide Montgomery County’s future for decades as one of the world’s most prominent areas for science,” said Council President Floreen. “In working toward this goal, we have also listened to the concerns of residents and nearby local jurisdictions. We came out with a plan that would work for those who already live in this area and for the future residents and employees who will be attracted to the Great Seneca Corridor. The decisions we made will benefit all of Montgomery County.”

Included in the Great Seneca Science Corridor plan is the proposed creation of a 21st Century Life Sciences Center. The area will include housing and retail uses in the hope that many of those who work in the Life Sciences Center Zone would elect to live nearby and reduce regular use of automobiles.

The new community would be chiefly served by I-270 and the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway, which would be either a light rail or Bus Rapid Transit extension from the Shady Grove Metrorail Station.

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