Annual Monitoring Report for Bethesda Downtown Plan Presented to the Planning Board on June 11 at Virtual Meeting

June 11, 2020


$9.6 Million collected from developers for new parks following plan goal of a more sustainable downtown area.

SILVER SPRING, 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 June 11, 2020 about the results of the 2020 Annual Monitoring Report for the Bethesda Downtown Plan at a virtual meeting. The 55-page document details the plan’s progress between May 2019 and May 2020 on school capacity, new parks and open spaces and transportation adequacy. The report also presents information on recent development activity in downtown Bethesda and the status of remaining density in the Bethesda Overlay Zone (BOZ).

View the 2020 Bethesda Monitoring Report.

“It’s exciting to see so much progress in implementing the Bethesda Downtown Plan since its approval in 2017,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “This plan is an example of how to make the transition to a more prosperous, sustainable, and equitable future by building a more connected downtown with a focus on design excellence, great parks, and a wider variety of housing choices with an emphasis on transit, walking, and biking.”

Summary of Activity in Downtown Bethesda from May 2019 to May 2020

In recognition of the many complex elements of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, from the Bethesda Overlay Zone to the Park Impact Payment funds (PIP), the Annual Monitoring Report is a required part of the plan. View the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, which the County Council approved and adopted in 2017.

The following projects and programs have been accomplished in the plan area:

Construction: In addition to the Purple Line station, seven construction projects are underway, including Marriott Headquarters, The Wilson and The Elm, 7900 Wisconsin, Edgemont II, 7359 Wisconsin Avenue (Avocet Tower), ZOM Bethesda and Artery Plaza.

Design: Since May 2019,  The Bethesda Downtown Design Advisory Panel has reviewed 10 new projects.

Schools: The Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster is at 97.2 percent capacity at the elementary school level, 83.1 percent at the middle school level and 91.9 percent at the high school level.

Parks and open spaces: Since the Plan’s adoption in 2017, M-NCPPC has received approximately $9.6 million from the PIP fund, specifically for the acquisition and development of new parks in the Bethesda downtown area.  The M-NCPPC recently acquired the Union Hardware site, which is one of the three civic spaces identified in the Plan.

Transportation: The phase 1 design of the Capital Crescent Surface Trail is complete and permitting is underway. Phase 2 design is at 30 percent complete.

Implementation: The Planning Board appointed four new members to the Bethesda Downtown Plan Implementation Advisory Committee.

Each spring Planning staff presents the Annual Monitoring Report to the Planning Board and then transmits it to the County Council for review. Montgomery Planning staff is responsible for identifying issues and potential solutions during the Planning Board’s review.

Background on Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan

The 2017 approved and adopted Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan is being implemented through focused coordination between public and private interests. The plan’s goals and recommendations focus on enhancing downtown Bethesda over the next 20 years and achieving a truly sustainable downtown.
Parks and open space, affordable housing, environmental innovation, economic competitiveness and design excellence are the focus of the plan. The plan’s vision will be implemented through various actions, including zoning, a park impact payment and annual monitoring and reporting of development.

The process for the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan led to the creation of the Bethesda Overlay Zone, requiring developers to meet strict standards for density, building heights, affordable housing, parks and open spaces, and design quality, in addition to other plan recommendations. The County Council approved the BOZ in July 2017, which can be found in the Zoning Ordinance under Section 59.4.9.2.

To ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, BOZ and design guidelines, the Planning Department has been preparing numerous tools to aid the Planning Board, property owners, planning staff and the public in achieving the objectives. The monitoring and tracking program is one of those tools. Visit the website at montgomeryplanning.org/bethesdadowntowndev.

For more information about the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, contact Area 1 Master Planning Supervisor Leslye Howerton at leslye.howerton@montgomeryplanning.org or  301-495-4551.