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Annual Monitoring Report for Bethesda Downtown Plan presented to the Planning Board

July 27, 2023

cover of the bethesda downtown plan with photos from bethesda
Planners provide updates on Bethesda Overlay Zone, development, schools, and more

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), briefed the Montgomery County Planning Board on the update to the implementation of the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan at their meeting on July 27, 2023. The 2023 Annual Monitoring Report details the plan’s progress between May 2022 and May 2023 on development activity in downtown Bethesda and the status of the Bethesda Overlay Zone (BOZ), school capacity, parks and open spaces, and transportation improvements.  Beginning this year, the report also presents information on the amount of tree canopy and green cover.

View the 2023 Bethesda Monitoring Report.

This annual monitoring report is presented to the Planning Board in the spring/summer of each year and transmitted to the Montgomery County Council for review.

Highlights from the report

  • Development Applications & BOZ Density: Since April 2022, the Planning Board approved 2 Sketch Plans and 4 Site Plans.  As of May 2023, the amount of existing, approved and new development in the Bethesda Overlay Zone (BOZ) is 30,247,087 square feet.
  • Construction: The following projects are currently under construction: 8015 Old Georgetown Road, 4915 Auburn Avenue, 4922 St. Elmo Avenue, 7607 Old Georgetown Road, 7000 Wisconsin Avenue, and Metro Tower (7136 Wisconsin Avenue).
  • Schools: In the current academic year, schools in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster are experiencing the following capacity utilization rates: 86% at the elementary school, 82.5% at the middle school, and 94.3% at the high school.
  • Parks and Open Space: Since 2017, eighteen development sites have been approved with Park Impact Payments (PIPs) requirements totaling over $21 million. So far, ten PIPs have been submitted totaling $14,563,926.65, and the remaining approved PIPs are expected to be paid during the next few years.
  • Transportation: The design for the Cheltenham Drive Bikeway is underway and expected to be completed in 2024.
  • Implementation Committee: The Planning Board appointed one new member and reappointed three sitting members to the Bethesda Downtown Plan Implementation Advisory Committee (IAC).
  • Design: The Design Advisory Panel has reviewed six new projects since April 2022: 7126 Wisconsin Avenue, 4405 East West Highway, 7340 Wisconsin Avenue, Battery Lane District Site C, 4702 Chevy Chase Drive, and 7820 Wisconsin Avenue.
  • Greening the Downtown: The 2023 Annual Monitoring Report includes a new section, Greening the Downtown, which includes information on tree canopy and compliance with the green cover requirements in the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan.

About the Bethesda Overlay Zone (BOZ) 

The Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan recommended the creation of the Bethesda Overlay Zone. The Montgomery County Council, through Zoning Text Amendment 16-20, Ordinance No. 18-28, adopted the Bethesda Overlay Zone in July 2017 to implement the recommendations of the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan as it relates to density, building heights, affordable housing goals, parks and open space and design.

About the Bethesda Downtown Plan

The 2017 Approved and Adopted Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan is being implemented through focused coordination between public and private interests. The plan’s vision stems from the goals and recommendations within this Sector Plan to enhance downtown Bethesda over the next 20 years. The aim of the Plan is to achieve a truly sustainable downtown by focusing on components that will bolster the elements in most need of enhancement including increased parks and open space, affordable housing, environmental innovation, economic competitiveness and design excellence. The Plan’s vision will be implemented through various actions, including zoning, a park impact payment, and annual monitoring and reporting.