Perhaps the biggest story of the region is not getting much notice. Montgomery County planners have proposed doubling a small community right outside the District called the Westbard Sector, a mainly residential area mostly between River Road and Massachusetts Avenue one mile from the District line.
Spurred on by the purchase of almost the entire commercial footprint by Equity One, a New York-based major national developer (think Donald Trump for shopping centers), the Montgomery County Planning Board set about revising the zoning, building and population allowances for this small community that currently has about 1,100 residences. Westbard now is zoned for slightly more than 1,600 and is not yet at capacity, but the plan would triple that density in the same area and add dramatically scaled buildings to ensure the maximum number of people, all in townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings. The plan calls for more than 2,000 new residences and more retail, too.
The effects of this development on our roads and schools and the quality of life for people who bought into a suburban community and paid dearly for doing so were considered and heard at length by committees during hearings and debated throughout the community.
More than 1,000 people wrote against the scope of the proposed plan. Many spoke at a County Council hearing in December. While Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) secured the council’s support for a reduced scope of the master plan, the council still dismissed the will of the people, indicating last month that it will proceed with an affirmative vote of the urbanization plan for Westbard.
They arrogantly say that we need to be educated about how well high-rises and more people will fit into our community. Even Berliner said at a recent hearing that he believes the community is finally realizing things have to change.
This effort to placate a major developer is fraught with nonsense, government overreach and a “we know best” mentality.
We don’t need change for change’s sake.