Montgomery County Council Unanimously Approves Westbard Sector Plan at May 3 Meeting

May 4, 2016

The plan recommends restoring natural features, revitalizing an aging strip shopping center and increasing affordable housing in the Westbard area

Silver Spring, MD –The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, participated in the County Council’s work session on the Westbard Sector Plan on Tuesday, May 3 and the Council voted 9 to 0 to approve the Sector Plan.

“This is a great step forward in ensuring a greener, more sustainable Westbard,” says Planning Director Gwen Wright. “The plan provides a blueprint for restoring the Willett Branch stream and providing more affordable housing, parks and a revitalized shopping center in keeping with the scale of the neighborhood.”

The latest version of the plan reflects revisions based on work sessions held with the County’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee and the full Council. These changes include:

– Maintaining the existing zoning and building heights of 35 to 40 feet along River Road.
-Allowing the potential for a floating zone to be requested for River Road properties currently occupied by the American Plant garden center, Roof Center and Talbert’s Ice and Beverage Service to allow future redevelopment of these sites.
-Increasing the affordable housing requirements for new optional method redevelopment projects within the entire planning area, from 12.5 percent moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs) to 15 percent MPDUs.
-Decreasing the floor area ratio (FAR) for proposed commercial development within the Westwood Shopping Center area from 1.25 FAR to .75 FAR.

This summer, the Planning Board will review a Sectional Map Amendment to establish the zoning of properties in the Westbard Sector Plan area.

Background on the Westbard Sector Plan
The Westbard Sector Plan covers an area of approximately 181 acres and was last updated in 1982, making it the oldest master plan in Montgomery County. The Plan builds on the assets of the community by offering ways to improve neighborhood retail and maintain the existing light industrial areas, while expanding housing options and recreational and open spaces over the next 20 years. It allows for redevelopment of the older retail centers and recommends the creation of new parks in the Sector Plan area, which does not have a single County park. Restoration of the Willett Branch stream would both improve water quality and provide a significant amenity for the residents of Westbard and surrounding communities.

Recommendations in the Westbard Sector Plan focus on:

-Encouraging more housing choices.
-Revitalizing older retail areas.
-Emphasizing low-scale development.
-Preserving local light industrial uses.
-Restoring the Willett Branch stream as a public amenity.
-Creating better access to the Capital Crescent Trail.
-Establishing new gathering spaces and parks.
-Enhancing walkability with sidewalks shaded by street trees.

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