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Planning Department Posts Staff Report on Sketch Plan for Equity One Development in Westbard Sector Plan Area

February 14, 2017

Westbard Staff Report Map

Sketch plan excludes proposals for area where possible African-American cemetery could be located; applicant will conduct archeological study before submitting sketch plan amendment

Silver Spring, MDThe Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), has completed a staff report about the Westwood Shopping Center Sketch Plan submitted by New York developer Equity One and will present its recommendations to the Planning Board on Thursday, February 23, 2017. The report is available online for public review.

Review the February 23 Westwood Shopping Center, Sketch Plan No. 320170010 Staff Report.

This sketch plan focuses on three major facilities that will support the new development: the naturalization of the Willett Branch stream; the realignment of Westbard Avenue and Ridgefield Road; and the provision of an interior community use space as well as other publicly accessible open spaces. These amenities were recommended in the approved and adopted Westbard Sector Plan to serve the entire Westbard community.

The community is invited to give comments at the February 23 Planning Board meeting. Sign up to testify by completing the online form on the Planning Board website.

Possible African-American Cemetery not part of sketch plan
The parcel, which includes the Housing Opportunities Commission/Westwood Towers buildings and the possible cemetery site behind it, is not part of the current sketch plan as recommended by Planning Department staff and agreed upon by the applicant. This area may contain an African-American cemetery, as first identified by the Planning Department as part of the work on the Westbard Sector Plan.

Review pages 63-67 in the approved and adopted Westbard Sector Plan to learn about the Planning Department’s recommendations for recognizing and preserving the African-American heritage of the community.

“We recognize the importance of this issue and will keep working to make sure the proper archeological investigation is done to determine the existence and extent of the burial site,” says Planning Director Gwen Wright. “No ground will be broken for this development until we know what exactly is there.”

Pending archeological investigation of possible cemetery
For the past several months, the Planning Department has worked with Equity One and the Macedonia Baptist Church to ensure an appropriate archaeological investigation of the site behind Westwood Towers is undertaken to ascertain whether or not there is a cemetery in this location.

This work is pending and will be completed prior to the submission of a sketch plan amendment and a preliminary plan for the development. The sketch plan amendment is required to determine the details and improvements planned for the area where the cemetery may be located.

Sketch plan first step in development review process
A sketch plan is an early stage, conceptual document required for developments of 10,000 square feet and larger. Once it is approved by the Planning Board, the developer must submit a preliminary plan and plat for Planning Board approval. In addition, Equity One is required to complete a sketch plan amendment. This regulatory process can take a year or more to be completed.

The review of the Westbard Shopping Center Sketch Plan has been delayed three times in order to resolve issues related to the archeological investigation of the possible cemetery on the site. During the application review process, the Planning Department has worked with the developer, Macedonia Baptist Church and Westbard stakeholders to uphold Maryland laws governing burial sites and honor the history of the River Road African-American community.

View the Planning Board work session on December 3, 2015 with a presentation by the Department of Parks staff featuring recommendations for the cemetery delineation in the Westbard Sector Plan area. Go to 10:53 on the video link to see the presentation. http://mncppc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=1447