Planning Board Approves Great Seneca Science Corridor Minor Master Plan Amendment Phase One Scope of Work

October 27, 2020

Amendment includes a phased approach to examine the staging requirements of the 2010 Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), presented the Great Seneca Science Corridor Minor Master Plan Amendment Phase One Scope of Work to the Montgomery County Planning Board at their October 22, 2020 virtual meeting. At the meeting, Planning staff outlined a two-phased approach to the Plan Amendment with the Scope of Work focused on the first phase: a technical amendment to evaluate the staging requirements of the 2010 Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan, which couples new development with investment in and delivery of infrastructure, public facilities and services to minimize impacts to existing communities. The Planning Board approved the Scope of Work.

View the Great Seneca Science Corridor Minor Master Plan Amendment Phase One Scope of Work.
View the Great Seneca Science Corridor Minor Master Plan Amendment webpage.
Watch the October 22, 2020 Planning Board meeting presentation.

“There is a critical need to support the life sciences industry both for the county’s economic growth and contributions to the advancement of health, including vaccines for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Planning Director Gwen Wright. “That is why we are pleased that the County Council encouraged Montgomery Planning to initiate an amendment to the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan.”

Through the 2010 Plan, Montgomery County made an investment in transforming the Life Sciences Center (LSC) into a dynamic live-work community while ensuring growth opportunities for research, medical and bioscience interests. The 2010 Plan also made a commitment, through the staging requirements, to maintain resident quality of life by ensuring that development does not overburden surrounding communities.

“The goal of this plan amendment is to evaluate the growth, development and infrastructure investment that has occurred in the Life Sciences Center over the past decade and to identify strategies to advance progress toward the dynamic live-work community envisioned in the 2010 Plan,” said Maren Hill, project manager.

The Plan Amendment will follow a two-phased approach:

  • Phase One will offer modernized staging recommendations allowing progress toward the 2010 Plan vision at this crucial time.
  • Phase Two, anticipated to commence in spring 2022, will provide a comprehensive amendment to align the vision, recommendations and overall staging requirements of the 2010 Plan with the county’s defined priorities. The second phase will also provide an opportunity to integrate policy guidance from countywide plans and initiatives, including Corridor Forward: The I-270 Transit Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050 and Vision Zero as well as employ a robust outreach and engagement strategy to create a plan that advances racial equity and social justice.

This first phase of the Plan Amendment process will include:

  • An up-to-date Progress Snapshot: The snapshot will summarize and analyze existing conditions, including development patterns, trends, public infrastructure, community amenities and pre-COVID-19 traffic conditions. The snapshot will also compare existing conditions to the 2010 Plan expectations and vision.
  • Evaluation of Staging Requirements: Staff will review the 2010 Plan’s Stage 1 and 2 requirements and evaluate the current needs of the LSC and surrounding area. This evaluation will incorporate data from the progress snapshot and consider the role of approved but not yet built development. It will also examine potential transportation benchmarks and services, integrating the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s work on short-term transit options for the LSC area.
  • Modernization of Staging Requirements: The amendment will include development of recommendations to update the Stage 1 and 2 requirements consistent with identified needs, current county transportation policy and modern tools as well as consider interim staging requirements to allow additional development during this crucial time for the life sciences industry.

Background

The County Council adopted the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan in 2010 with a vision of transforming the Life Sciences Center into a walkable, vibrant science center with a mixture of uses served by transit as well as an array of services and amenities for residents, workers and visitors. The 2010 Plan acknowledged that achieving the vision required periodic review of the Plan’s progress and implementation of recommendations.

While the county experienced sluggish job growth in most employment sectors over the last decade, the life sciences industry grew by over 30 percent between 2010 and 2018. As the county faces budget shortfalls, the ongoing demand for life science industry expansion in Montgomery County offers a source of revenue and employment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for life science development in the county has only increased. Several companies in the LSC have been involved in research, development and the production of vaccines, rapid testing and antibody testing. These biotech companies have received over $2 billion in federal funding for these efforts.

The county’s LSC continues to attract biomedical and technology companies as well as residential development. However, over the last decade, after achieving its first stage of development, the area reached the staging limits for new commercial development established in the 2010 Plan. The staging limitations do not allow any new commercial (non-residential) development, including expansion of existing properties, until the conditions of the Plan’s Stage 2 requirements are met, including funding the construction of the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) from the Shady Grove Metrorail Station to Metropolitan Grove.

The Maryland Department of Transportation recently declined to provide additional funding for the design and construction of the CCT, resulting in an uncertain future for this important transit project and milestone within the Plan’s Stage 2 requirements.

Planning staff  is currently evaluating the future of the CCT among other transit options along the I-270 Corridor in Corridor Forward: The I-270 Transit Plan, a parallel planning effort to this Plan Amendment. Based on these factors, staff proposes the two-phased approach to address an immediate need, followed by a comprehensive assessment of the long-term vision for the Plan area.

Plan timeline:

  • October 2020: Scope of Work
  • October 2020 – March 2021: Outreach, Analysis and Plan Development
  • April – July 2021: Planning Board Review: Public Hearing and Work Sessions
  • August – September 2021: County Executive Review of Planning Board Draft
  • October – December 2021: County Council Review: Public Hearing and Work Sessions
  • January – March 2022: Commission Adoption
  • July 2022: Initiation of Phase Two: Great Seneca Science Corridor Minor Master Plan – a comprehensive update

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