Gaithersburg Mayor Bruce A. Goldensohn this week intervened in the deadlocked annexation of a 148-acre Shady Grove tract, proposing an agreement that would cut back the number of houses planned for the site and would tie their sale to the completion of improvements to traffic-clogged Rte. 28.
He offered the plan as a last-minute compromise between developer Jay Alfandre, who has been seeking to build 743 houses and "clustered" dwelling units on what is currently part of the Washingtonian Country Club golf course, and area residents, who have fought the plan and attacked county policies that bring more houses to their area where road projects have been delayed.
If Alfandre and the many neighborhood organizations agree to the compromise, city officials are more likely to approve the annexation and county officials likely will grant the denser zoning. Until now, politicians have been reluctant to approve the project, which neighborhood organizations have argued would worsen traffic tie-ups for thousands of commuters who use Rte. 28, the only artery between their area and I-270.
It also could defuse attacks on county development policies, which have been spotlighted by the battle over the annexation request.
Under the compromise, no construction would be allowed--only engineering and surveying--until next year, according to Gaithersburg Planning Director Jennifer Russel. Between July 1984 and June 1985, no more than 50 houses could be built. In addition, Alfandre would have to build the two additional lanes he has promised on Muddy Branch Rd. and a new lane on Rte. 28 along the property before the 50th home could be sold. Alfandre has agreed to the road projects in earlier negotiations with the city and the county.
He could build another 100 units by the summer of 1986, but also would have to contribute to the city 22 acres of his site for public parkland, and give the city $50,000 for its development, Russel said.
In the following years, he could add 100 units a year, until he gets a total of 608. Russel said that no more than 150 units can be constructed in a single year should Alfandre not build to the limit during a previous year.
Also, no more than half of the entire project would be allowed until one of two east-west arteries--an expanded Rte. 28 or the proposed Great Seneca Highway--is complete, she said.
Russel said that, in reducing the total units, the mayor's plan would require Alfandre to retain the same percentage of single-family detached, multi-plex and town house units. She said the city planning commission must approve the design of the clustered housing "to make sure they give the visual impression of private homes and eliminate the 'look' of apartments."
Unlike any developer there before, Alfandre faces "a lot of up-front road costs before he even gets any units in the ground," Russel said.
Mayor Goldensohn said he felt the compromise was an even-handed approach to the disparate interests that have been clashing at each phase of the development's approval.
"I've lowered the proposal by 135 units," he said. "That's about 128 more than the citizen groups wanted. At the same time, it's 135 less than Mr. Alfandre wanted. That's about as even a compromise as you're going to get."
Goldensohn said he would stand on his proposal "hard and fast. At this point, I'm not compromising upward."
Alfandre could not be reached to comment on whether he would accept the compromise. The city council is scheduled to consider the annexation Monday night, but the County Council, which was scheduled to take it up the next day, is unlikely to do so until next week because the matter must first go through the council's planning committee. That presents a potential problem for Alfandre, because his financing deadline is Wednesday.
Representatives from the neighborhoods met last Wednesday and are undecided about the compromise. "Mayor Goldensohn's proposal is an olive branch, a compromise, but there are still too many houses," said Harvey Perry, president of Westleigh Citizens Association. He said they would present their position at the City Council meeting Monday. The tie of road construction to house construction was an arrangement residents always had hoped could be put into a contract.
A County Council committee balked earlier this month when the site's proposed increase in density came before it along with heavy citizen opposition that has followed the project throughout the development process.
The county planning board approved Alfandre's site in April with stipulations that he build a lane onto Muddy Branch Rd. and contribute to funding for improvements for Rte. 28. He also agreed to set up the subdivision so that single-family homes border those in abutting neighborhoods, and to offer 15 percent of the proposed houses at "moderate" prices, although it is unclear what that phrase means.