The Montgomery County Council's vote Tuesday to allow further development in Silver Spring closes one chapter in the long-running debate on how to shape the future of the downtown area, but it will take about 10 years before the renewal project is completed.
The council's approval of a plan to allow 11,250 new jobs for the redeveloping downtown paves the way for a major regional mall and other housing and office projects, similar to the building renaissance that has transformed downtown Bethesda. But county officials said yesterday that a lot has to happen, both in government and in the business world, before the Silver Spring landscape takes its final form.
"Something that I think was missed in all the debate and controversy is that a complete buildout will take between seven and 10 years," said County Executive Sidney Kramer.
"Don't look for change tomorrow," advised Jeff Zyontz, a member of the county Planning Board staff.
Playing direct roles in the next phase will be the executive in Rockville and the Planning Board in Silver Spring.
On a 4-to-3 vote, the council decided the basic policy question of how much growth is desirable for the downtown.
The legislation, including a host of technical documents still being drawn up by county officials, will be formally enacted next week.
If the council had not approved that number of jobs, only one or two major projects would have been allowed to move forward.
Among the projects on tap for Silver Spring are developer Lloyd Moore's proposal for a $250 million shopping mall with two department stores and six office and housing towers at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road; a proposal by Petrie, Dierman & Partners Inc. of McLean for a retail mall in and near the former Hecht Co. store at Colesville Road and Fenton Street, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's proposal to consolidate about 5,000 jobs in three buildings next to the Metro station at Colesville Road and East West Highway.
Some housing projects also are on the horizon, including plans for 500 units at East West Highway and Blair Mill Road and another residential proposal across Blair Mill Road near the CSX rail tracks.
All proposals will be reviewed by the Planning Board staff and must be approved by the five members of the board. That is where decisions such as a project's size and appearance are decided.
The project furthest along in the process is the Petrie's project; a formal application has been filed and is expected to go before the board before the end of the year. However, even if all goes without a hitch, Zyontz said construction is probably at least a year away with completion at least three years away.
Moore's plan, which has aroused the most controversy because of its scope and plans for a three-story pedestrian bridge spanning Georgia Avenue, has yet to be formally filed with the board. Moore said that he wants to meet with county officials as well as citizen groups, some of which have pilloried his proposal, to come up with a specific plan that meets all the community's concerns. Moore has said that his project will not be undertaken all at once but will take about 10 years to complete.
Both the council and Kramer have made clear that there will be some give and take between what Moore wants and what the county thinks is best. For example, Kramer said he is concerned about the proposed pedestrian mall, a plan that would also need state approval.
The county, in addition to controlling necessary government approvals, has other leverage it can use with Moore and other developers.
In addition to Kramer and the Planning Board, various citizen groups that came together to fight the renewal plans are expected to focus their energies on the specific projects. "Oh yes, we will be there. We will follow it every inch of the way," said Patricia Singer, president of the Silver Spring-Takoma Traffic Coalition, one of a number of groups that said the projects would create unwanted congestion in the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown.